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Montreal Canadiens' goalie Carey Price scrapes up the ice in his goal crease before playing the Vancouver Canucks during an NHL game in Vancouver, B.C., on Saturday March 10, 2012. (DARRYL DYCK/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Montreal Canadiens' goalie Carey Price scrapes up the ice in his goal crease before playing the Vancouver Canucks during an NHL game in Vancouver, B.C., on Saturday March 10, 2012. (DARRYL DYCK/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

USUAL SUSPECTS

Canadian NHL clubs sacrificing revenue Add to ...

When it comes to how revenues are shared in the NHL, not all franchises are created equal. It’s estimated that Canada’s seven NHL clubs already contribute more than a third of the league’s total revenues. Five of the top six revenue-generating clubs are based in Canada. The New York Rangers are the only U.S. team.

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It also appears Canadian teams may be making a greater sacrifice than U.S. teams when sharing those revenues to help commissioner Gary Bettman’s problem franchises. Broadcasting numbers reveal that almost all Canadian teams contribute far more games to national packages – and see less revenue as a result – than do even the most profitable U.S. teams. Call it indirect revenue sharing.

When a team’s games are included on Hockey Night in Canada or NBC’s national package in the United States, the Canadian team receives an equal 1/30th share of the revenues from those games. Allowed to sell their games in regional packages, however, teams are able to collect almost all of the revenues from their games, a better deal.

The Toronto Maple Leafs regional games may be the most valuable single TV property in Canada (a main reason why Bell and Rogers leaped in to purchase Leafs owner Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment this year when it appeared they could lose those games). So when they contribute as many as 40 games a year to national packages, the Maple Leafs forgo considerable revenue to the league and its weak sisters.

The Vancouver Canucks, too, retain just 57 games this year after their contributions to Hockey Night in Canada and other national packages. That revenue lost to Vancouver acts as a form of revenue sharing from the Canucks that is not traditionally calculated in standard models of revenue sharing.

Meanwhile, U.S. teams contribute far fewer games to the shared pie, leaving them with more inventory to sell themselves. Profitable U.S. teams such as the Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers or Chicago Blackhawks might not surrender in three years the number of national games Toronto or Vancouver give up in a single season. They retain the bulk of their TV inventory and can sell it themselves to regional outlets.

It’s the same for Canadian teams under the league’s merchandising plan. Even though Toronto, Vancouver and the Montreal Canadiens logos are among the very top earners in the league, those teams only retain 1/30th of the league’s logo and merchandising pie. More revenue sharing.

Donald Fehr, the executive director of the National Hockey League Players’ Association, has made it clear that if players are to take less money to help these weak markets, then his membership expects prosperous owners to take a greater interest in sharing the wealth. (Currently, there is about $140-million in revenue shared among owners under the collective contract set to expire Sept. 15.)

Canadian teams have agreed to this division of revenues and will support the commissioner at the board of governors meeting next week when he asks for final permission to lock out players. But you can be sure that when Fehr presses his revenue-sharing point on the league, the Canadian teams will remind their colleagues that Canada is already a bank that they’ve drawn on liberally.

Fallen Eagle

The swamp always gives up its bodies eventually, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that convicted felon Alan Eagleson floated to the surface Wednesday on Prime Time Sports on Sportsnet 590 The Fan in Toronto. The Eagle was discussing his exclusion from the 40th anniversary celebrations of 1972 Team Canada. The disgraced former executive director of the NHLPA and organizer of the Summit Series has been told to stay home by most (not all) players on that team who think that a man who embezzled funds from them has no place at the festivities.

As always, Eagleson whined about his exile from the sport he embarrassed and exploited for a quarter century. Prime Time host Bob McCown has long indulged Eagleson in these attempts to rehabilitate his image. McCown’s rationale is that you can’t ignore Eagleson’s role in the sport and, as such, he should be given a public voice.

Wednesday, McCown and co-host Damien Cox seemed conflicted about the ethics of interviewing hockey’s version of Bernie Madoff. Perhaps they might have used Madoff as their pole star. The convicted investment guru, who bankrupted thousands and compromised charities around the world, has neither been extended the media spotlight by networks nor has he sought out such a platform.

It seems that, for once, Madoff has a sense of propriety, one that Eagleson, in delusions fostered by Bobby Clarke and others, should follow. And when he’s unable to do so, media outlets should help him by not returning his calls.

Bill Clinton who?

The NFL season opener Wednesday between the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants drew a record 23.9 million U.S. viewers. That more than doubled ABC and CBS’s combined coverage of former president Bill Clinton’s speech at the Democratic National Convention. Of course, Darrell Hammond never played the NFL on Saturday Night Live.

Left wondering

While watching Canadian Graham DeLaet stripe a 4-iron to the ninth green in the first round of the BMW Championship on Thursday, Frank Nobilo of NBC Golf Channel went all hockey on viewers. Hockey players make good golfers, Nobilo told a bewildered colleague Terry Gannon. It’s their similar core strength, noted the New Zealand golfer. “And did you know that 30 per cent of golfers in Canada golf left-handed?” Nobilo said to more stunned silence.

Nobilo must have read our book The Stick in which we discussed the gauche habits of Canadians. About 70 per cent of Canadians play hockey left-handed. Because right-handed Canadians put their dominant hand high on the hockey stick, they naturally do the same when they take up a golf club. So there.

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