Wednesday, April 13, 2005

 

Media on Ice-Kevin Greenstein

Today's guest is the man I call respectfully, "The Hockey Scientist." Kevin is the founder of the best, IMO, hockey website on the internet...www.insidehockey.com...I have given him this nickname because he is the man who has thought the sport out more logically and precisely above all of us in the media. He also brings an interesting viewpoint because he works for himself and has to answer to no one. As a self made hockey man, this lockout, and the lack of the sport being played affects him more than any of the other Media in this series. Enjoy this interview, and bookmark his website...Even with the lack of hockey out there he has something for everyone...He deserves to be very succesful

EK: How did you end up covering hockey?
KG: Part of my decision to launch INSIDE HOCKEY was based upon my desire and interest in writing about hockey.  It is by far my favorite sport, and the one I know best.  It combines the physical force of football with the grace of ballet, and when played well, no sport provides comparable excitement.

EK: What has been the biggest frustration covering the lockout?
KG: I am frustrated that the owners and players have not found an acceptable method to share $2 billion-plus in revenue.  Like two children fighting over a precious toy, they've both decided they'd rather break the toy than let the other one have it.
I am frustrated that the NHL has demonstrated no inclination to compromise, instead taking the position that they want 100% of their demands met in the next CBA.  Those demands are based upon a lot of faulty logic. I am frustrated that the NHLPA walked away from what was clearly the owners' final offer back in February.  "Unfair" though it may have been, the long-term impact for the union will in all likelihood be disastrous, and so the ongoing damage to the sport will have been for naught.

EK: Do you feel the NHL and the PA have been honest with the press?
KG: The NHL has not been honest with the press.  They consistently tweak the same exact proposal, moving fiscal levers in either direction so that each proposal would generate the exact same desired result.  They claim that a luxury tax threshold would be useless, refusing to acknowledge the reality that the MLB luxury tax threshold is surpassed by only three teams. The NHL makes it sound like every team is struggling, but if you were to remove the following teams from the equation (Carolina, Florida, Anaheim, Nashville, Phoenix, and Atlanta) and/or move them to markets where large numbers of people actually care about hockey, the league's overall economic picture would look very different. The NHL refuses to share revenue in a meaningful way, yet claims that revenue sharing is an important part of each proposal.  In no proposal has the NHL proposed to share more than 5% of its aggregate income, while the NFL - supposedly the shining example of a successful sports league - shares 65%. The NHLPA should be doing a better job of representing its position.  I'd like to see the NHLPA come out with a proposal that actually involves the following:

1) Salary cap set at $40 million.  Minimum salary set at $35 million.  One franchise player exception, no salary restriction or tax.  Bonuses included.  Other "player-related costs" not included.

2) Revenue Sharing.  Each team would be assumed to earn at least $30 million.  Each team that earns over $50 million would share 20% of its income with teams that don't.

3) Ticket Price Reduction - A 20% reduction across the board for all seat sections not sold out in 2003-2004.

EK: How have your job responsibilities changed at the paper?
KG: Much less hockey coverage, as interest in hockey in New York City has waned considerably.

EK: With all the layoffs, do you fear for your job?
KG: I fear for the financial viability of the industry.

EK: Do you want to cover hockey when it returns or cover another sport?
KG: It depends upon the state of the sport when it returns.  If the NHL goes through a season-long period where UHL players are masquerading as NHLers, I want no part of it.  If a huge percentage (40%+) of the NHL's elite players are not participating, I want no part of it.  If the NHL and NHLPA can reach a reasonable compromise, I will give the league one final chance to make things right.  I do not believe that Gary Bettman and Bob Goodenow are the right men for this extremely difficult job.  In fact, I believe that they are both wrong for the job, and I'd cite the decimation of the NHL over the past ten years as the reason.

EK: Do you think the your relationship with the players or owners will be strained because of an anger you feel if/when hockey resumes?
KG: It's a difficult question to answer.  I cannot say how I will feel personally.  I have taken a somewhat moderate stance throughout this process.  Until December, I was of the belief that the owners were more correct.  From December to February, I felt that the players were the only ones making any meaningful concessions.  From February until today, I have been of the belief that both sides are wrong, and deserve what they get for running this great sport into the ground.

I am confident that there will be tremendous tensions across the board.  When the NHL inevitably starts using replacement players, those NHLPA members who cross the picket line will forever be blacklisted by those who didn't.  The divide will have a very negative impact on locker room dynamics and on-ice chemistry.  It's difficult to imagine that the media won't be similarly divided, receiving a higher level of cooperation from the side they supported in their lockout coverage.

Unless a deal is reached and the two sides begin mending their hurricane-ravaged fence (pardon the pun), the post-lockout NHL could actually be uglier than the locked out NHL.

Tomorrow's guest the one and only John Buccigross from ESPN.



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