Jaromir Jagr is not your typical hockey player. While most players are primarily focused on what takes place on the ice, Jagr is also deeply involved in the business side of the game as the owner of HC Kladno, a team in the Czech Extraliga.
Based on this business background, Jagr has a different opinion on the current NHL lockout and has voiced some strong opinions about how the NHL owners are handling the situation.
Jagr's comments initially appeared on the Czech site idnes.cz but were also discussed in the Edmonton Journal. His comments came at a time where several NHL players - Ovechkin, Kovalchuk, Krejci - have openly criticized the league and the league's owners for the current CBA negotiations. Jagr's honest comments were unique in the fact they came from someone that can see the situation from both sides of the table.
Jagr first commented on the idea that some NHL players (Ovechkin) believe the owners are "cheating" the players by trying to rollback existing contracts. While it's the belief of this blog to side with the players in this area (owners signed these deals, live with it), Jagr has a very different view. He won't label what the owners are trying to do as cheating, instead stating that the whole operation is "simply business". He understands that the owners are just trying to make as much money as possible. That same opinion - that owners just want to make money - has been expressed by other players. Where Jagr differs is that his comments were said out of understanding, not malice.
Next he commented on when he thinks the NHL will return, offering a somewhat optimistic view by stating the month of December is a decent bet. Jagr comments that the MLB playoffs and the NFL have a big impact on the NHL's first month, meaning the league won't be missing out on much financially if it's removed from the schedule.
The rest of Jagr's comments, which you can see here, deal with the fact he thinks Gary Bettman is closely listening to the owners and isn't trying to impose his own agenda on the negotiations. That point is pretty debatable as no one truly knows what is happening on that end of the table except for Gary Bettman, his henchmen and the owners involved.
Jagr's comments are refreshing. He eloquently expresses himself as a man that can see the situation from two different angles. His comments have cut through the PR clutter, the whining and the greed expressed from other players. Jagr understands that while hockey is the main revenue source for the players, it isn't for the owners. Most owners make their real money doing other things. It's because of this that he believes that the owners make the rules and the players, himself included, must abide by them.
What do you think about Jagr's comments? Is he accurate in his opinions or is he disillusioned due to his ownership of a Czech team?
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Jagr seems calm as a player/owner. Good for him. As a fan, all I feel is anger and resentment. The fan base is obviously meaningless. I'm from Minnesota. Hockey is important here, at all levels. I know several young players who have been drafted. I could not have been more thrilled for them and proud. Now all I feel is total disrespect for the NHL and all involved. No one was more excited with the signing of Parise and Suter. It was a huge deal here. Now it feels like nothing but a scam. Just business? Honestly, I don't know who to be more mad at. I vote for an organized fan "lockout".
I can certainly see where Jagr is coming from, and it's a lot more palatable in general than the statements coming from some of the other players, and from the league. The simple fact of the matter is, and I've been saying this since before the lockout actually went into effect, is that with roughly half the league losing money, this is going to go on until the players agree to set things up so that those teams are not losing money. Whether that's via contraction, which nobody (openly) wants, or via a combination of percentage alterations and revenue sharing (both will be necessary, either one by itself will not be sufficient), the situation for the portion of the league in the red financially will have to be successfully addressed for this lockout to end.
That said, I think his guess that the league could start up in December is wildly optimistic. If the two sides were going to work out their differences on the CBA in a timely manner, at the very least, they would be working from the same basic framework at this point. Setting aside the question of which side's proposals would better accomplish the goals of getting all teams on a sound financial footing, the fact that they haven't been able to even agree on a basic framework yet leads me to believe that the season has essentially been given up for lost by both sides. I'll be happy if they surprise me in the next couple of days, but I simply don't see it happening.
One point that I do think Jagr particularly misses on is this: "Simply, the first two months (of the season) aren’t as interesting for the owners as the rest. It doesn’t bother anybody that they’re going to lose the first month and a half." The truth of the matter is that, unlike teams with better national television contracts, the NHL is very much a gate-driven league. While maybe it's just the hard-core fans attending in those first weeks of the season, it's very much more important to teams bottom lines (such as they are) than his statement seems to imply. Well, unless the games are clearly cancelled and the league allows the owners to open up the venues for replacement events - under those circumstances, he could very well be right.
@miendiem I agree with your overall comment. I concur that Jagr does miss the mark with his statement on "no one missing" the first month or two. However, perhaps this is actually the view of the owners and perhaps even the players? It wouldn't be too much of a reach to think that it might be. Of course, as you stated, that's some pretty flawed logic.
I also wonder why Jagr is picking December given his other statements. If he's so sure the owners can and will do what they can to make more money as it's a business, why does he assume December is a safe bet? That correlation left me puzzled.
@David Rogers Well, plenty of people believe things that aren't necessarily true, both in the business world and otherwise. We do have the advantage of viewing this from outside of the negotiating room, after all. Perhaps the casual fan really doesn't start paying attention until the baseball season ends - but that misses the point that, if you can claim that the majority of the revenue increases since the lockout were based on increased casual entertainment dollars, and that ~2Bn base the year after the previous lockout was the result of the die-hards, the ones paying attention and getting annoyed/irritated/etc are those same die-hards, and while they may be counted on in general to forgive and forget once the puck finally drops, there are certainly a vocal minority out there already who aren't. While I know I'm preaching to the choir here, primarily, that situation isn't going to improve for the league collectively going forward.