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Report: NHL owners tell NBA brethren losing season “worth it”

Jul 5, 2011, 8:44 AM EDT

There are six NBA teams that are owned by people who also own NHL teams (or at least did during that sport’s big lockout in 2004).

Those owners are telling their NBA brethren that the lockout that cost the NHL a full season was worth it to get a good financial deal, according to ESPN’s Ric Bucher (via the twitter account of ESPN’s Dan Toman).

Washington Wizards owner Ted Leonsis (who also owns the Capitals) already said he wanted an NHL-style hard-cap system in the NBA. He was then promptly fined heavily by David Stern and has not said a peep publicly since, but it’s hard to imagine he’s changed his mind.

How strong a group those six really are and how much they can sway opinions is in doubt. Three of the other five NHL/NBA combo owners are trying or have sold their NBA teams: Ed Snider (76ers and Flyers), Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment (Maple Leafs and Raptors) and the Atlanta Spirit (Hawks and recently sold Thrashers, now moving to Winnipeg). Those three do not carry a lot of weight in NBA owner circles.

Another is James Dolan, who runs the Rangers and Knicks — he is a big market owner with money to burn who is more likely to cut a deal then spend a year locked out. Then there is Stan Kroenke, who owns the Colorado Avalanch and Denver Nuggets, and whose son Josh runs the basketball team. Leonsis is the sixth.

This situation is different as well. Losing a whole season — or even a few games — would kill the momentum the NBA has built up this past 12 months, when popularity of the league got to the highest levels since Jordan retired. It’s a lot to sacrifice. And it would take at least a full season to get the NBA players to agree to an NHL-style hard cap.

  1. ac0117 - Jul 5, 2011 at 9:01 AM

    Risky game they are playing… the NBA financial model is completely broken if 23 out of 30 teams truly are losing money (as the owners are saying)… but this is easily the most popular the NBA has been in the last 10 years and a lockout now would kill all of that goodwill and interest.

  2. thegame1479 - Jul 5, 2011 at 9:38 AM

    Of course the NHL is going to say that. Because the NHL would have nothing to gain from the NBA missing a whole season, right? Of course they would. Like the full attention of sports fans with no other sport to turn to. Losing a season would be catastrophic for the NBA. There are no “Real” worries for the NFL cause they know they can resume football whenever they want… and the fans love it so much…. that they would be ready and waiting. That is not the case for the NBA. While the league had a great year numbers-wise this year…they would lose most if not all that momentum if they miss games. People like NFL stars more than they like NBA stars. That is just fact. Maybe it’s due to Fantasy Football’s popularity. Or maybe people just find NBA’s atheletes to be arrogant. But the three main stars in the NBA (Kobe, Wade and Lebron) are HATED by all teams outside of their perspective markets. Not the same with (Manning, Brady etc. etc.) If the NBA work stoppage is indeed for the struggling small-market teams losing money…How do you think NBA attendance in Toronto, New Orelans and Milwaukee would be after a year-long lockout? Not better I am guessing…

    • aclassyguyfromaclassytown - Jul 5, 2011 at 9:55 AM

      I was gonna comment, but realized you said everything I was thinking.

    • craigw24 - Jul 5, 2011 at 10:31 AM

      Football is more like playing a war game and basketball is more like hand-to-hand combat. In football the only way you can recognize the player is by the number on the jersey and in basketball you get to see individuals ‘up close and personal’. With football the one team is on offense for a while, then they change of and change players. It becomes all about team and individual responsibilities within that team. With basketball the same players are constantly shifting from offense to defense and, since there are so few of them, you get to see them individually succeed/fail throughout parts of the game.

      Basketball is inherently about the individual more than football, never-mind the highlight plays that are constantly being replayed much more in basketball.

      All this creates the love/hate relationship to players in basketball, rather than that same relationship to teams in football.

    • accfanto - Jul 5, 2011 at 1:24 PM

      Attendance in Toronto will do no worse after a lockout. Season ticket sales were largely locked up before the lockout. Ticket prices for 2011-12 were reduced and then frozen for two seasons. Right now, Toronto fans are watching their draft choice play for the Lithuanian U19 team and will be able to watch him in the European championships and the Euroleague. Toronto fans will also watch NCAA fortunes particularly closely with an eye on our 2012 draft pick.

      A team at the bottom of the standings does not have the same priorities as the big-market-big-spending teams.

      A lot of Toronto fans want a long walkout so we can skip a lot of losing and proceed directly to the 2012 draft.

      And frankly, as a season ticketholder, I’ll be getting 5% interest on my money and it will roll over to pay for my 2012-13 tickets.

      Can you get 5% at the bank for a CD?

      As for the NHL, anyone who follows hockey can tell you that league is doing better than ever financially, and parity makes it more exciting for mid-market teams. Small market teams may not prosper under any system, but it’s the mid-market teams that have a chance to do better under a hard cap regime.

  3. purdueman - Jul 5, 2011 at 10:51 AM

    If I were an NBA owner of any team other than the Heat or the Lakers, I’d be a hardliner and not budge without a fixed salary cap if for no other reason than to prevent the hellish replay that occurred down in Miami last offseason with “The Decision”.

    For those of you who may not fully understand the ramifications of a “hard cap”, what it means is the elimination of the “luxury tax” that allows big spending owners to simply thumb their noses at the salary cap and spend anything that they want. In other words, a hard cap is just that; you have no choice but to stay under it, even if it means having to cut a Le Bum James.

    With the self-anointed, narcissistic “Big 3″ all having back end loaded contracts, a likely big reduction in the current cap when coupled with the implementation of a hard cap would either leave Miami with little to no money for the other league required 10 additional players, or force them to trade of the “Big 3″. Frankly I’d love to see pompous ass greaser Pat Riley choke on that one! :-)

    Finally, as an owner I’d continue to issue all regular payroll checks to the players for the duration of the lockout, but I’d have a big old rubber stamp made up that says “VOID!” and have that stamped across the front of each and every one!

  4. savocabol1 - Jul 5, 2011 at 11:10 AM

    Fact: Fans will come back to the game no matter how many games are missed because of a lockout. To think any differently is laughable.

    • almzor - Jul 5, 2011 at 11:35 AM

      Die hard fans will come back. The casual fan has dozens of other options vying for their interest and may never find their way back.

    • purdueman - Jul 5, 2011 at 11:38 AM

      What the hell else is there to do in God forsaken places like Oklahoma City in the dead of winter? Heck, for that matter, what the hell else is there to do in Oklahoma City (unless you’re one of those Sooner Homers), any other time of the year either? -o

      • almzor - Jul 5, 2011 at 1:04 PM

        The day the NBA’s fortunes rest on the OKC fanbase will be a sad day for the league.

    • savocabol1 - Jul 5, 2011 at 11:45 AM

      Casual fans WILL be back. Nothing will change.

      • almzor - Jul 5, 2011 at 1:03 PM

        You did not do anything to dispute my point there. Claiming something as fact on the internet carries somewhere in the neighborhood of zero weight in the real world. If you have a point to make then make it, otherwise just be quiet.

      • cgbakerjr - Jul 5, 2011 at 3:10 PM

        Probably not. They lost me with the 98-99 lockout and I still haven’t come back.

  5. palakerfan - Jul 5, 2011 at 11:11 AM

    Two totally different sets of fans make this a poor comparison. The NHL needs parody to be successful because the only fans are those in an NHL city. Basketball fans, on the other hand, are everywhere and the league does best (ratings-wise) when the teams in Boston, Chicago, Dallas, LA, Miami, New York are at the top. Stern knows this and threw out a hard cap as a starting point in negotiations which he NEVER intends to implement. Imagine perfect parody in the NBA where the finals pit Indiana against Utah. Low ratings = less TV money = no hard cap.

    • almzor - Jul 5, 2011 at 11:31 AM

      Did you mean parity? For a minute there I had visions of hockey fistfights being the key to NHL success. I guess parody works too after all.

      • goforthanddie - Jul 5, 2011 at 1:31 PM

        You telling me there’s another reason to watch hockey?

      • purdueman - Jul 5, 2011 at 1:52 PM

        Personally I don’t bother supporting NHL games. If I want to watch hockey, I simply goes to watch a boxing fight card and then wait for a hockey game to break out! :-o

    • purdueman - Jul 5, 2011 at 11:36 AM

      I didn’t realize that the NHL was into writing songs ala Weird Al Yankovich (i.e., PARODY)! :-)

    • goforthanddie - Jul 5, 2011 at 1:30 PM

      “Imagine perfect parody in the NBA where the finals pit Indiana against Utah.”

      Imagine an Indiana team featuring Dwight Howard and CP3 versus a Utah team with Durant and DWill. Yeah, something tells me people would watch that, and that is exactly what the NBA wants: a system where every team has an equal chance to sign these types of players. Yes, TV money is nice, but if small-market teams fail because they’re financially screwed from the start, you start losing teams. You start losing teams, you start losing that precious TV money.

  6. Eyes Only - Jul 5, 2011 at 12:33 PM

    Most NBA teams aren’t making a profit because NBA fans have discovered there are better things to do with their money than to support teams that have no shot at winning. 90% of NBA teams have absolutely no chance of winning the NBA Title so again, why should fans invest money in supporting teams that have no shot to win? The Cavaliers, Hawks, Bucks, Bobcats, Hornets, Clippers, Raptors, Blazers, and other teams of that ilk won’t be winning a championship any time soon if at all, so for a fan of those teams what’s the point of supporting them? Just out of the kindness of your heart? Most people want a clear return on their investment financially and emotionally, and under the current system there will be no pay off for fans of most NBA teams only frustration.

    Yes the NBA’s televison ratings and popularity has been driven by superstars and that has worked to a point, but what good is that when you can’t sell out your arena unless one of those superstars happens to be playing at your arena on a given night? The NFL has atleast created a mindset for it’s fans that atleast your team has a chance to get to the Superbowl and maybe even win it. Historical losers like the Saints and the Cardinals have made recent appearances in the Superbowl and their fans have hope. Under the current system their NBA counterparts will never play for an NBA title and their fans know it.

  7. wiLQ - Jul 5, 2011 at 1:12 PM

    “Those owners are telling their NBA brethren that the lockout that cost the NHL a full season was worth it to get a good financial deal”
    It was worth it for owners because you can compare team’s values…
    before: http://www.forbes.com/2004/11/10/04nhland.html
    after: http://www.forbes.com/2008/10/29/nhl-team-values-biz-sports-nhl08_cz_mo_kb_1029nhl_land.html

    but when you check Stanley Cup’s TV Ratings…
    http://tvbythenumbers.zap2it.com/2009/05/22/nhl-stanley-cup-finals-tv-ratings-1995-2008/19333/
    it doesn’t look that good in terms of fans…

  8. trbowman - Jul 5, 2011 at 1:24 PM

    The NBA will take a hit in the short-term, but hopefully they’re thinking long-term – as they should. The NBA is broken right now, and will soon become the MLB. They need a hard cap and some sort of franchise tag. They need to fix the economic model of the league.

  9. goforthanddie - Jul 5, 2011 at 2:47 PM

    If they can’t solve this and give the fans a proper, non-condensed 82 game season, they should go ahead and cancel the season.

    • ac0117 - Jul 5, 2011 at 8:21 PM

      We’ve been over this before… some NBA is better than no NBA

      • goforthanddie - Jul 8, 2011 at 2:00 AM

        Yeah, a 50-game season, more back-to-back-to-back games, no summer league, reduced training camp…Oh boy, I can’t wait. On second thought, yeah I can. A whole year. I’d rather watch the D-League.

  10. harsh22 - Jul 5, 2011 at 11:57 PM

    The players have to make a deal. That’s all there is to it. They should agree to 60-40 deal and play ball. the players cannot win and they will not win.

  11. 1historian - Jul 6, 2011 at 6:12 AM

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few teams just go out of business.

    Nor would I care.

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