Bettman Made Another League Feasible

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman set the price tag for admission into his exclusive club: $500 million big ones. Aside from another blatant example of taking professional sports away from the “common fan” (a topic that merits a separate article), his expensive price has had the opposite effect of what the league intends.

The NHL (and you can include the other professional big shots, the NFL, the NBA, and MLB, they are just as bad if not worse) by setting this price and all its other conditions of admission is saying that only the purest, the richest, the most well-bred of investors is worthy to join us. And only the two cities that were the most fanatical about joining, Las Vegas and Quebec City were willing to bite the expensive bullet.

Quebec City’s reaction is understandable. Ever since their old NHL team, the Quebec Nordiques left in 1995, Quebec has wanted its team back. There was never any problem with fan base, just the arena and ownership. Quebec was one of the mainstays of the old WHA.

Las Vegas is more debatable. They have never had any of the four professional sports leagues place a team in their city and at least for now, the prospect of doing it seems a fascinating novelty.

But most (wise) investors looked closely before they leapt. $500 million is quite a jump in price from the $80 million it took to enter the league during the last expansion in the late 1990s, especially to join a league that is probably ranked fourth among the “big four” professional sports leagues in the United States and only has one franchise (ironically the Canadian based Toronto Maple Leafs) listed in the top twenty richest, professional sports franchises.

Some potential investors like the Hunt family in Kansas City publicly backed off. An ex-NHL owner, Peter Pocklington denounced the expensive price.

When looked at closely, it is a highly questionable policy. If these applicants are going to be your new partners, why do you want to burden them with an excessive entry fee? And especially with the NHL, throughout Bettman’s reign as Commissioner, many of his existing franchises have been chronically losing money. An excessive entry fee increases the possibility for an unsuccessful franchise to function.

You won’t have any problem with Quebec City. Quebec City with a proper NHL arena and owner is a sure-fire winner. But Las Vegas is the type of franchise so often favored by Bettman in an attempt to get a rich American televison contract: An attempt to spread the game of hockey by introducing it into markets where it has no roots. One would think that the NHL has had enough Atlantas, Phoenixes, and Floridas. An excessive entry fee might be the lighted match that would eventually ruin a Las Vegas franchise.

But if new investors really want to operate a professional hockey team, it might be better to join together, scrap an expensive entry fee, and start their own league. Put the $500 million to something useful like player and management salaries and new arenas.

That’s what happened in the early 1970s when the WHA was formed. Owners who found they could not buy their way into the NHL set up their own league and while nobody wants a return to the “war years”, Gary Bettman’s excessive price makes the possibility of starting a new league feasible.

Furthermore, conditions are better for starting a new hockey league now than they were in 1972. Back then, most WHA teams played in small, old, run-down arenas, but that would not be the case if a new league made its franchise choices wisely. Back then only Cleveland (a disaster of a franchise) and Edmonton (which built its existing arena for its WHA team) played in modern arenas.

The best franchise choices for a new league would be Quebec, Hartford, Toronto, Hamilton, Saskatoon, Portland, Kansas City, Houston, Oklahoma City, and Milwaukee. Most of these cities have roots in hockey and all of them have arenas that seat at least 15,000. With proper ownership and investment, franchises with at least a half-decent arena and a fan base with roots in hockey have at least a 50% chance of survival. And except for a second Toronto team, none of them would be based in an existing NHL market.

One of the first things the WHA did was that its owners pooled their resources to pay the NHL’s second biggest star, Bobby Hull, to join the Winnipeg Jets. This gave the league instant credibility. They also prized Canadian franchises because they realized that Canadian fans were the ones most responsible for the league’s survival. At one time, there was even a Canadian division. The NHL should remember that.

There are other advantages. The new Toronto and Hamilton franchises would not have to pay any compensation to the Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres for infringing on their territory. Any new innovations and any reduction in ticket prices would be welcomed by “common” fans who can scarcely afford tickets or even sports merchandise and who are fed up with the arrogance of the “big four” leagues.

Most of all, the new league could wait for a merger, just like the WHA and AFL did. It may have taken longer to get into the NHL and NFL, but in the end, it was probably cheaper.

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Interview with Borna Rendulić!

Retrieved from: https://twitter.com/bornarendulic. Photo used with permission.

We recently caught up with Colorado Avalanche forward Borna Rendulić! For the readers that aren’t familiar with him, he’s the first Croatian born NHL player ever (Joel Prpic played in the NHL and the Croatian national team, but was born in Canada.). He’s played all over Europe before crossing the pond to join the Avalanche organization. Rendulić was able to play 26 games in the AHL and 11 games in the NHL before suffering an injury. Even though that’s a tough way to end your season, he’s been working hard in the gym to be better than ever. Make sure to follow him on Twitter @bornarendulic. Make sure to follow us on Twitter @hkyblogger and “like” us on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/NotYourAverageHockeyBlog. So without further to do, here’s our chat with Borna Rendulić!

As per usual, we are in bold.

Croatia isn’t the biggest hockey market in the world, generally known more for soccer. How did you end up playing hockey with most of the country crazy about soccer?
Although I was and still crazy about soccer, I started with hockey almost by coincidence. When I was a 6-year old, I went with my preschool group to skating a course and one of the Medvescak coaches saw me skating. He liked my style and called me to join a hockey team. I said yes and the rest is history haha, I mean, that’s how I started with hockey, although I trained in soccer, basketball and handball as well in my childhood.

How often do you get noticed in the streets of Zagreb?
I don’t get noticed in the streets of Zagreb very often. But it happens from time to time. I only get noticed very often in Zagreb when I come for a hockey game.

What is it like to be the first player born and raised in Croatia to play in the NHL? Do you feel that there is a certain amount of pressure knowing that you represent Croatia whenever you step on the ice?
Well it’s a really big thing, definitely a dream come true and absolutely a huge accomplishment for me. Of course, there’s a lot of pressure that comes with it. You know the proverb from Spiderman, “With great power comes the great responsibility” haha. So yeah, the pressure is always here, but I’m trying to give my best to represent Croatia the best as I can.

What was your first game in the NHL like? Take us through it, the butterflies and the excitement.
My first NHL game was pure excitement and enjoyment. However, it’s impossible to describe all the feelings and emotions with words. There is a big mess in your head, you are fascinated by the crowd and everything, but you are still 100% concentrated on the game and every shift you take. You want to give your best while you are in awe, so yeah, it’s really hard to explain everything that’s happening out there. I hope I managed to give you at least a bit of the atmosphere.

Where is the puck from your first ever goal? Is it something you show off to your friends, or is it something you put away as a keepsake?
The puck from my first goal is in my home. It has a special place in my room with all the other medals and awards I won during my career. That is one of the things that I put away as a keepsake more than I show it off. I don’t like to brag so these types of things are something I keep for myself.

What’s the best part of your game?
I believe the best part of my game is my shot, especially my slapshot. Also I’m a winger with a big frame, and I am always being told that I posses a promising combination of size and scoring ability. I think I’m an intelligent player, good in corners, who likes to play offensive, but smart. I am tactically very good and I have a finisher’s instinct both in strength and skill to power my way to the net. I have a good technique and tendency for finesse and attractive game.

What’s something you need to work on?
On the other hand, I often look passive off the puck and I could up my intensity and sharpness. Furthermore, I need to fine-tune all aspects of my play. I have to place special focus on skating and adding grit, in addition to improving my defense and realization skills. That are some things I definitely need to work on.

So the next part is more of a rapid fire section, it’s a get to know you. You ready?
You’ve played hockey all over Europe and now in North America, how many languages can you speak fluently?

I speak Croatian natively, Finnish and English fluently. I think my English is the best of all three languages I speak, and my friends often tease me that I speak Finnish and English better than Croatian haha. I also understand Serbian, Bosnian and Montenegrin because these languages are very similar to Croatian.

Who did you idolize growing up?
When I was growing up I idolized Wayne Gretzky, but I also liked Mario Lemieux and Joe Sakic. They are the best of all time but at the same time, they were one of the few players I had heard of since we couldn’t have watched any hockey in Croatia. However, I later started to like Ovechkin when he came up and got to the NHL. I idolized him during the most of my career so I can say he was and is my idol.

There’s a lot of pranksters in hockey, who’s the biggest prankster in the locker room and what’s the best story you have?

Well all the guys in the locker room are cool and funny. We have a lot of pranksters, and when I first came to Colorado I instantly liked Berra, Briere and Hejda. But I don’t want to single out anybody, I love them all, they are all kings! I have a lot of stories haha, don’t know if I could say some to you and what story would be best for you haha.

Who’s the roomie on the road?
My roomie on the road is Dennis Everberg and we get along quite well.

What’s fun to do in Zagreb?
There’s a lot of fun things to do in Zagreb, although not as much as the US. But Zagreb has a lot of sights, wonderful parks and promenades. The clubbing is ok and everyone can find something for themselves. It’s not such big city, but it’s beautiful and is definitely one of the best places to visit when in Croatia, together with Dubrovnik. Zagreb has lots of restaurants, bars, wine bars and tourist attraction that can leave anyone breathless.

Final questions:
Advice for aspiring hockey players?

I think the best advice for aspiring hockey players is just to believe in themselves and to work and train their asses off. That’s the best combination for success.

Who should we interview next?
If you want some interesting hockey stories from Croatia, you should interview Ivan Sijan.

This is a terrible pun, but I just have to ask this, how often do people ask if you’re “Borna” ready and on a scale of 1 to 10 how annoying is it?
People ask me many things and thus they ask how ready I am. But it’s not a problem to me to answer any questions, so I don’t find that question annoying at all. So the answer is 0.

Thank you for your time.