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The Future is Now...For the Game!!

by Bill Davidge / Columbus Blue Jackets

Economists are pleading gloom and doom in the world around us when it comes to the daily dollar and how it will be earned and how it will be spent.  Bailouts are more prevalent in the business sector today more than anytime since the Great Depression in the 30’s.  Money from corporations will undoubtedly dwindle as the next few years approach.  Sponsorships have already taken a big hit in some sports like golf and even the now the “suspended for a year” indoor arena football league.  What are we doing about it in the NHL to try and preserve a product that is a second tier sport in the USA and the number one entertainment sport commodity in Canada?....and what are we doing to ensure the financial future of our game?


The GM meetings were closed lipped to those of us in the industry about the future plans of how the league will handle this world wide dilemma.  It was suggested from our GM Scott Howson that the topic of the economy was obviously bantered, but the specifics were not to be approached.  Those of us in the business wait with baited breath to find some solace to the ever present “what happens next” answer to a lot of questions involving the financial future of our game.


The simple concerns coming out of the 2004 “lockout” allowed the game to spring forward in a manner the salary cap jumped from an approximate $39 million dollar cap to now a $56.7 million dollar window.  The players were assured of their due and the owners have collectively felt a distinct comfort level with their deal as well.  The arenas with the inscribed “thank you fans”, was inscribed on the ice in every arena in the NHL.  It was a tribute worth mentioning today. It was a gallant jesture from the players and the owners to let the fans know they appreciated their support for understanding the economic adjustment needed to make the game, the great game that it is today….but now what?  Times have certainly changed in the past 6 months that “square one” is back to front and center.


This is where the narration becomes a list of questions that all of us need to heed.  The entertainment and advertising dollars for the corporations will show, and have shown a substantial decline in the past few months.  The average fan is in a position today that the household income has taken a big hit and the secondary spending on entertainment is at and will continue to be at risk….so what do we do in the NHL to keep the game and the fans involved in the manner we have witnessed in the past 3-4 years?  What do we do to insure the game is affordable yet entertaining to the common man, woman and child?


The sooner the NHLPA and the owners revisit the CBA and attack these drastic measures on how the economy will affect the product, the better off our game can continue to produce excitement for the dollar. Discussions on dollar appropriations, salary refinement, staffing, marketing, especially ticketing affordability, concessions and parking to name a few will be under scrutiny once again.  Let the game return to people who support it should be enough of a cause to attract magnification for affordability.


It was a great night in Columbus last night as 18,402 stood and cheered as the CBJ downed the always favorite anywhere they go Philadelphia Flyers 3-0. It was the first sellout of the year, the 123rd of franchise history.  They did a few things right that dollars today cannot always buy and that is win....but that is a topic for another day…and if winning is not always in the cards, how can the game entice the audience to still come and be entertained?….and once they do come keep them there to stay….questions to be answered and hopefully soon!


Stay tuned!!



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