Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Lockout Talk: Money Talks


When it all comes down to it, AC/DC was right.


I think everyone understands that the National Hockey League and the NHL Players Association are going to have a new collective bargaining agreement when the money talks - when the financial interest of someone...anyone...is so strong as to dictate that a deal gets done.  It could be when the owners finally feel the pinch of no revenue coming in while financially distressed office staff and hockey operations folks slowly bleed enough franchises dry.  It could be when the October escrow checks to the players run out, and they realize that they still have to make mortgages or rent.

Or it could come when an outside financial interest - or enough outside financial interests (note the plural) - say, "ENOUGH."

I was hoping that was the case after the October 3rd meeting between the NHL's operations genius director, John Collins and six of the league's biggest advertisers and sponsors.  Sure, it was supposed to be an "update" for those valued members of the NHL family,  It also had to be a frank and honest listening session on Collins' part.  Kraft surely wasn't thrilled about having the marquee event of its Hockeyville promotion - an exhibition game between the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Toronto Maple Leafs - cancelled in the first round of NHL cancellations.  If Sirius XM's representative bit his lip during the meeting, it's on-air talent probably would pour sugar in his gas tank - those poor show hosts and producers are doing their darndest, but their content is regularly bordering on unlistenable to this diehard listener.  I'm sure the other sponsors had their opinions, too.  (Do Canadians drink more or less beer when there's no hockey, Mr. Molson?  Just curious.)

Then, somewhat surprisingly, the NHL and the NHLPA brass held a private, unscheduled meeting two days later.  The internet rumor mill was abuzz.  Is it possible that the roughly $100 million in combined sponsorship income present at that October 3rd meeting came down hard on Collins, sending him back to commissioner Gary Bettman with his tail between his legs and warning the commish of the sponsors' threats to put their marketing money elsewhere?  Did the money talk?  Could this scenario have put the collective bargaining agreement on a fast track at long last?

That was October 5th.  It's now October 10th.  Another meeting was held today, again not involving the dreaded "core economic issues" of hockey related revenue, salary cap size, revenue sharing, etc.  The headline says it all:

NHL lockout: No progress made during Wednesday's talks


No progress on the big issues.  No progress on the little issues.  No progress in general.

Guess the money hasn't talked loud enough yet.

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