Monday, July 13, 2009

What if the NHL instituted a luxury tax?

Stern: "Bettman's on the phone again? Aw, not again ... "

So, we are 99.99 percent sure that the CBA prohibits the institution of a luxury tax, but let's just dream for a minute that Gary Bettman could justify his massive salary by stumbling upon a magic loophole.

Seeing that marquee franchises in Chicago, Pittsburgh, New York, Detroit and even San Jose will feel a considerable pinch going into the 2010-11, the league declares a "state of emergency" for the cap with the solution of instituting a luxury tax so that teams could exceed the ceiling. (At a huge price, of course).

Now, instead of wondering who the Hawks would have to move to accomodate the re-signing of Kane, Toews and Keith, the hockey world would ask: are the Blackhawks willing to fork over the dough to make it happen? It would be a godsend for hockey bloggers/pundits/message board trolls and a great way to allow money making franchises to keep their rosters together.

The best part, though, is how the league could potentially use the extra cash to benefit everyone. Let's daydream for a moment:
  • The league creates a "luxury tax" pool each season. They pledge to use every dime to purchase high-end advertising spots during events such as the Super Bowl and American Idol. Also, more money could be spent to publicize the Stanley Cup Finals and Winter Classic.

  • Maybe the league could pump that money into moving the "NHL on the Fly" broadcasts from what seems to be a broom closet to ... what's that called again? Oh, right, a studio. It would also be nice if the NHL Network stopped playing the same Capitals-Rangers game on an endless loop, now that you mention it.
  • Since Bettman clearly will not take any egg on his face/acknowledge economic realities regarding the Phoenix Coyotes scenario, the league could use luxury tax money to take care of the 'Yotes debts and pay Wayne Gretzky buckets of money to exist/coach a team that has never made the playoffs under his tutleage.
  • Perhaps they could lend Versus a little money to get Brian Engblom a haircut* and produce a freakin' highlight show already.

  • Put the luxury tax money to good use by helping families who cannot afford hockey equipment. Or better yet, donate it to charity or to retired players' pension funds.
  • Use the money to revamp the city of Edmonton, so Dany Heatley can continue his pampered existence without any fear of bad weather, the ghosts of his past or backchecking.
  • Bribe Pierre McGuire to just go away. Please.
What would YOU want the league to do with extra cash if they could receive luxury tax money?

* - I think he actually DID get a slightly better hair cut this year, but are you going to complain about seeing this photo?


Mortimer Peacock said...

This is actually the best idea I've heard anywhere, ever.

jamestobrien said...


Joe said...

A luxury tax was what I was wanting before the lockout anyways. Sure, some teams (NYR) would still be able to buy talent, but it would become to expensive that it would pay everyone else's bills, so its cool. And then some teams can go over a bit when they feel their window is there (CHI), and others can operate in a normal manner.

Joe said...

Now that I've read it:

Spending the money on advertising would be pointless. Its not that people don't watch hockey because they aren't subjected to enough advertising for it. Its that they don't watch it because they don't give a shit, and in large part thats because of the limitations in terms of getting people playing the game. Hockey is an expensive hobby, because it requires so much more than say football or baseball or basketball.

As I mentioned in my draft preview here, the best way to grow hockey isn't to put it on ESPN or try to find new ways to put it in people's faces, but just to grow the game correctly. More rinks (even roller rinks!), more equipment, etc. etc. to get more kids into it. Then those kids make their parents take them to games. Those kids support and grow hockey on a grassroots level. Those kids grow up and get their kids into it.

As a business, obviously money from a luxury tax would have to go into the owner's pockets to some extent, especially to help prop up some markets that have trouble. But everything after that ought to go straight into putting more hockey sticks on the streets, rinks, and basements of children across North America.

Anaheim Calling said...

First, I just want to say that it's ludicrous that Versus has a Basketball highlight show. They pay to license film for a sport they don't air at any level, but won't air NHL highlights.

Second, I can't get behind a luxury tax. Not unless you still have to get under the cap or some number near the cap before the trade deadline. It just shuts the small markets out too much.

Third, to touch on what Joe is saying, I agree that hockey is a sport you learn to love by playing or watching live, not watching on TV. But I don't think breaking down the financial barrier for pee-wees is the problem.

Hockey isn't necessarily more expensive than football, though both are clearly more expensive than soccer or basketball. But if you want to grow the game amongst competitive players, set up college scholarships in the non-traditional markets. The East/Midwest programs are too competitive, and the West programs are basically glorified Weekend Warrior leagues with children. Set up the scholarships. The players will come, even if they're migrating west. Hey, no one thought female golfers would ever show up to claim that Title IX money, but they did. Let the warm weather football and basketball wash-outs know that there is an alternative sport that can get them an education.

If you want to grow the game with non-competitive kids, you have to get them out of the house first. But when you do, I don't think rinks are the answer in cold weather areas.

Rinks suck. We're forced to deal with them on the west coast, and it is awful compared to playing on a park rink, backyard rink, pond rink or even just roller hockey on a basketball court. Many kids sour on organized hockey just because of the rink experience. You just don't get to practice and have fun.

Bring back pond hockey in the cold weather areas. And where it's warm, I guess Joe's right, more street hockey rinks, which they have quite a few of in Orange County.

But I think that if the league's going to spend money to grow the game, then it should start some scholarships for these markets to which it claims to be committed.

jamestobrien said...

@ Joe: I don't think the NHL will really "convert" people but I think there are some latent hockey fans out there who GENUINELY DON'T KNOW when games are on. When you look at the disparity between normal playoff games and the Winter Classic/SCF game 7 (games that received mainstream publicity) I think you can see the advantages to getting the word out.

(But I'm in total agreement that the league seems too eager to please people who will never care about hockey.)

@ Arthur: Fascinating stuff. As you can see from my comment about making equipment affordable, we're on a similar "page" about this subject but I like your idea much better.

The possibility of more/stronger college hockey teams in nontraditional areas could produce some interesting Cinderella stories in the Final Four and make the tournament slightly more relevant nationwide which would be another good thing IMO.

Unknown said...

Nice idea, but I hope it doesn't happen. It would only serve to screw over small market teams, especially those with cheap bastards like B. Thomas Golissano as owners. This proposed luxury tax would facilitate the buying of talent by richer teams like NYR, TML, etc. And this cost outweighs the benefit to the league.