Hockey Apocalypse: Road Warrior Style

BallHype: hype it up!

The following is not likely to happen but I want to preface it as such. Keep in mind, that there is no protecting of the innocent because there is no such thing as innocent in this case. One of the first things I learned when I started this little idea over the weekend and that is what it was at first is the following……

Literally you never know what can happen at any time or any place. Like I have said and will say it again. There is a potential that the following could occur. If you piss off too many people and burn too many bridges…it does come back to haunt you. Yet the NHL never seems to learn its lesson. Unlike the MLB and NFL, the NHL does not have the revenue streams to compensate for their misgivings and foul-ups.

Part one and Buddy probably did not know this but from the piles of rubble that are my brain. Here is Buddy’s classic in its entirety from Preds On The Glass and the Columbia Daily Herald:


After a couple of tweets with The Program’s Chris Wassel yesterday, I got to thinking a bit deeper about the worst case scenario that could result from the deepening rift between the NHL and the NHLPA in the upcoming labor negotiations.

Let’s say things continue their downward spiral in Phoenix and one way or the other Jim Ballsillie does not receive a franchise. This leaves Jim with a bruised ego, plenty of money to spend, and a serious desire for revenge against Gary Bettman and the NHL owners.

Ballsillie immediately appeals the initial ruling and files some type of anti-trust action against the NHL. While the case is moving at a snails pace, he decides to start a four team “Make It Seven” type league of his own with teams in Hamilton, Winnipeg, and a couple of other Canadian cities that will begin play next season (2010-2011). He overpays a few free agents (just like the KHL and WHA) and actually gets a product on the ice and makes it through the first season.

By the summer of 2011, the NHL and the NHLPA have stalemated and a lockout looms. Owners have decided not to sign players for a season that is unlikely to happen because they want to take advantage of a new “controlled cost certainty” system that they are willing to risk losing a season for as part of a new agreement.

At this point, the economy has made a turn for the better and credit has loosened. Big Jim sees the opportunity to expand his league and adds eight teams with four more in Canada and teams in New York, Boston, Chicago and Detroit. Many top unsigned NHL players with the urging of their agents, who see fresh money, decide to give it a go in the Jim league since the NHL arenas are dark for another season.

ESPN has been enamored with all the controversy and they never liked Bettman anyway. They pick up a few games in the new league that do better than expected in the ratings and then at mid-season sign a deal with Jim that gives him a few more dollars (American) to play with.

Meanwhile, Bettman, the NHL owners, and the other players are sitting on the sideline wondering what happened.

From here, you can let your own imagination run wild as to the eventual outcome, but I would imagine that Big Jim would own a team in the revamped/merged NHL and would carry a lot of weight in the circle of owners that survived the lockout and anti-trust meltdown/settlement.

And now Part Two of the hockey apocalypse….Road Warrior style.

So as the hockey bombs were tossed in midair. A thought came to my mind. Bettman sometime in 2012 (The Mayan end of the world) starts to think it might be time to talk merger turkey with Jim Balsillie. Imagine the thoughts running through Balsillie’s head as he remembers all the times the “gang of eight”, Bill Daly, Gary Bettman, and company ruined his chances to own an NHL franchise. All Balsillie really wanted was a team of his very own in Canada and maybe he was too brash for his own good but the bottom line is the Jim league is a runaway success with no shootouts or god awful gimmicks.

The league is officiated much more efficiently than the NHL. Less controversy and ESPN notices this quickly. It is like old style early 1990′s hockey and they love it. After the first fraction of a year, ESPN signs a 5 year extension with JB giving him some deep pockets to go after Bettman and the NHL. Slowly more players get ready to cross as the free agency period heats up for the upcoming 2011-12 season. Gary Bettman realizes he better get an agreement now before its too late.

The reality is it already is way too late. Players are looking to sign with the Big Jim league and the product is what entices them…not necessarily the money. By now one year into the lockout, the NHL has lost too much money and too much credibility to be able to rise from the ashes this time. The mushroom cloud appears poised to explode on what was the NHL. Just imagine the big red cloud in the sky and no its not from Russia with love but out of nowhere the Russian players who were too ticked off to play in the NHL come in droves to Big Jim’s league. Gary Bettman even now sees the writing on the wall and cowers in fear as Bill Daly tells him it is time to surrender.

From there all the anti-trust lawsuits and ugliness seem like a distant memory. What is left of the NHLPA and NHL comes crawling to Jim Balsillie. It really is like the dog that just got left out in the streets to fend for itself. Ragged and bruised and beaten…the NHL and NHLPA beg for a merger with the Big Jim league which now has expanded to 12 teams with 4 more slated for the 2012-13 season.

All Bettman can do is try and find a way to merge his 30 teams with this league. Unlike the WHA where there were only a few teams….this merger takes some time. However it does eventually happen and Bettman is basically forced out with Bill Daly as a temporary commissioner until a more suitable permanent can be found. By the 2013-14 season…the new NHL with 30 teams is on ESPN and the product looks circa 1993 with bigger, faster, and stronger players than ever before.

Ratings are through the roof…they easily surpass the NBA and compete toe to toe with even MLB on ESPN. Execs at Fox notice this and agree to a split regional lineup with ABC. ABC takes weekends and regional for the first half of the season and Fox takes over that coverage in the second half. They pay a pretty penny to the league who has to give a good portion to old Jim Balsillie who’s Hamilton Bulldogs play to sold out crowds at the renovated Copps Coll. which is now called Bulldog Palace.

The NHL then forms new antitrust agreements with the Canadian Parliament and the U.S. Congress. They finally get transfer agreements in with every major country in the world, even Russia. By 2014-15…the new NHL is raking in the dough and all owners see a revenue sharing package that works and a salary cap that though it seems high at 75 million with a floor of 57 million….it is something that all 30 owners can easily afford. Yes, one or two teams still struggle a bit but it is nowhere near as bad as it was just five years earlier.

So out of the ashes of the old NHL comes a new league not wrought with infighting and strife but with labor harmony and a different outlook on how to market itself and help all of its 30 teams. Sure it was a rough road and one that was very narrow. However, all the unnecessary drama and threats seem like distant memories from generations gone by as opposed to just a few short years.

Now this more than likely will not happen but if Gary Bettman and company keep going down their road while Paul Kelly and the players go down their road. It leaves the doors wide open for someone with very deep pockets to come swooping in and truly bring the fans what the NHL deserves….a profitable league with a product the fans can be proud of. You never know.

About Chris Wassel

Simply I am a hockey writer who is a jack of all trades. Whether it is draft, fantasy, NHL, KHL, AHL, etc...I probably can write about it. The challenge in hockey is to be able to step out of your comfort zone and write like you are still there. Hopefully you enjoy the humor in the writing on the site and tell your friends. Thanks for reading!

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