NHL Must Reduce Or Refund Entry Fees To Quebec and Las Vegas

It is a loss of face. It is a deserved nemesis to uncontrolled naked greed, but if it is not done, it is an act of business blindness. The NHL has to reduce or refund the excessive $500 million entry fee they want to charge Quebec City and Las Vegas to join the league.

It is obviously not a policy the NHL wants to do. Bettman and the NHL owners had whipped themselves into a greedy frenzy about the possibility of getting as much as a quick $2 billion in expansion fee money which they would not have to share with the NHL Players Association, by accepting four new expansion teams.

As early as a year ago, there were published reports in almost all sports media and websites that Toronto and Seattle, along with Quebec City and Las Vegas were “done deals” for a possible NHL Centenary expansion in 2017, along with bids from many other hockey hungry cities like Hamilton, Portland, Milwaukee, Houston, Oklahoma City, etc.

Instead the excessive greed of the NHL threw cold water on the whole expansion process. In the end, after handing out applications for 16 bids, only the two most committed and fanatical cities, Quebec and Las Vegas agreed to go through the whole expansion process. Even the “done deals” of Toronto and Seattle backed off. The NHL was hoping to get Quebec and three western cities for expansion, realignment and balanced conferences. Now they have to settle for what they can get, realignment, and unbalanced conferences.

The truth is that the business world took one look at the expensive entry fee to join the NHL and said, “Much as we would like to join you, we’re not suckers. Go your own way. (Or ‘Go to hell’, the impolite phrase.)”

Bettman and the NHL can continue to go along their greedy path and collect the $1 billion from Las Vegas and Quebec, but if they do, it will be a long time before the NHL can expand again. The business world has flatly stated that unless they are obsessed or fanatical like Quebec and Las Vegas, they will not pay what they consider an excessive entry fee. This message should also be taken seriously by the NFL, the NBA, and MLB.

Bettman and the NHL owners can pretend to ignore this blunt statement but since only two bidders emerged, it proved that there are not many rich people out there who are obsessed enough and fanatical enough to want to join the NHL. In fact the excessive $500 million fee should make any would-be major professional hockey team owners to seriously consider banding together and start their own league, like the WHA in the 1970s. Money spent on excessive $500 million entry and “consideration” fees can be better spent on building or upgrading arenas and player salaries.

Bettman and the NHL have painted themselves into a corner. They can take the money now and pray that “obsessed, fanatical” expansion owners will appear in the not-to-distant future, so that they can get richer and “balance up” the NHL which is unlikely; or scale down their demands on Quebec and Las Vegas to meet the true market value of an NHL franchise.

Charging an excessive entry fee is not a smart policy in any case. If these new applicants are supposed to be your new partners for the long-term future, why do you want to burden them with an excessive entry fee? And particularly in Las Vegas’s case, an expansion city like so many chosen during Bettman’s time as Commissioner, a city with no hockey roots, chosen because it makes hockey seem like “America’s game” and therefore entitles the NHL to get American television contracts like the NFL, the NBA, and MLB, an excessive expansion fee could cause the franchise to take a nose-dive if the expected fan support does not materialize. One would think the NHL has had enough money-losing franchises like Phoenix, Atlanta, and Florida and will create expansion conditions suitable for making a profit.

So it would be smart business to reduce or refund some of the $500 million burden on Quebec and Las Vegas  to the true market value in a way that involves the least amount of loss of face and shame. Else it seems like it will be for a long time that the NHL will remain “unbalanced” because it cannot find expansion owners/suckers who want to join such an “exclusive” league.

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