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Does Habs’ property development fall under hockey-related revenue?

The Bell Center, home of the Montreal Canadiens, in Montreal, February 4, 2005.


It's not hockey-related revenue under the current definition, but it can certainly be argued it's revenue that's at least tangentially related to hockey.

How can a 48-floor condo tower not be if it sports a giant, backlit representation on the upper floors of the oldest and most famous team crest in the NHL?

If the NHLPA wants to argue that using the Montreal Canadiens brand on Canderel and Cadillac Fairview's Tour des Canadiens development constitutes an HRR source, well, good luck.

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The reaction when the prospect was jokingly brought up to Habs COO Kevin Gilmore, who is spearheading the team's (minority) involvement in the project: spontaneous, open-mouthed laughter.

Whether the team's cut of the profits from the tower – which is to be built on a plaza that currently hosts statues of Richard, Lafleur and Beliveau, in addition to thousands of commemorative bricks bought by fans – constitute an according-to-Hoyle shared revenue sourve is, in every way, beside the point.

But it does illustrate one of the quandaries about the NHL, one that has largely gone unaddressed in the labour talks.

High-revenue teams in big hockey markets will always have ways to maximize local revenues that simply aren't available to the rest of the league. Can anyone imagine a Phoenix Coyotes-themed condo tower? How about a Florida Panthers Acres?

The Habs aren't doing anything new by getting involved in the residential property game (and the development, which is part of a billion-dollar project, would have gone ahead had they passed on the opportunity to buy in), the Toronto Maple Leafs did it ages ago, and Gilmore's former employer AEG, which owns the L.A. Kings (for now) and the Lakers, has been involved in similar projects in Tinseltown.

But unlike the developments in L.A. and Toronto, this one is actually branded with the team logo – the developers consider that a major selling point, and say preview sales to season-ticket owners have been brisk (the 534-unit project's appartments start at $250,000).

There's even been interest from several current players.

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"I can tell you the answer is yes, but I can't tell you their names or how many," Canderel's Daniel Peritz said.

All well and good for the Habs, who will operate a sports bar in the new building and have purchased a two-bedroom unit on the 23rd floor to house call-ups from the minors or players acquired through trades.

Hey, hockey executives need something to do when there's no hockey on, it might as well be a property venture.

However, it also illustrates the distance between the NHL's haves and the have-nots, one that leagues like the NFL have managed to paper over with boffo revenue-generation by the league that is shared evenly among the teams.

Local revenues are also the name of the game for NFL and MLB teams (see the New York Yankees' and Texas Rangers' local tv deals), but they don't tend to have a large a distorting effect on their leagues.

The NHL, however, hasn't been able to command anything close to the same kind of national television money as its rival leagues, and generates only a fraction of the central revenues from its digital and merchandising wings that the other major sports do.

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