Sunday, September 30, 2012

Investments by Mike Ilitch

I've been debating the lockout with people all around the Intrawebs. There's one guy in particular who I go back and forth with. He supports the owners, and understand that the reason he supports the owners is because he thinks they have the upper hand when it comes to power, and he wants the players to fold quickly so the lockout will end quickly. While I share his goal, I think he's terribly misguided in his process.

One of the arguments we've had is whether or not the owners undertake any risk by operation their hockey teams. I submit that they do not. If you look at who owns the teams in the NHL, there is virtually no one whose livelihood depends on the success of their team. The only person whose money doesn't come from some multi-million or billion dollar enterprise is Mario Lemieux who co-owns the Pittsburgh Penguins. Otherwise, every team is owned by a multimillionaire or billionaire, or a conglomeration of them in some manner.

This caused me to start playing with some numbers, and I wanted to see the kind of money that Mike Ilitch has and has locked up in his Detroit Red Wings. And it started to get interesting. Check it out.

In 1982, Mike Ilitch bought the Detroit Red Wings for $8 million dollars. Good chunk of money. If we adjust that for inflation using a website that does all the hard work for me, we discover that $8 million dollars in 1982 is roughly the equivalent of roughly $17.8 million dollars. It ends up with a lot of numbers and a decimal so I'm rounding.

Forbes Magazine estimate the values of NHL teams. It's an estimate, since the NHL won't release the exact numbers. But seeing as that's one of our best guesses, we're going to use that. In 2010, Forbes estimated that the Detroit Red Wings were worth $300 million dollars. Mike Ilitch's worth is valued at somewhere around $1.7 Billion dollars, earning him the spot as the 238th richest person in the United States and thus allowing me to picture him as Scrooge McDuck.

This is why Josh Howard should do the photoshopping
He's not actually Scrooge McDuck, but he's got a lot of money. And to be fair, he's owned the team for 30 years, invested a ton of money into making it into a world class organization with a rich history of some of the best players to ever lace up the skates, including Oh Captain, My Captain Steve Yzerman and Nicklas Lidstrom. 4 Stanley Cups, a 20 year playoff streak. The man deserves a return on his investment. What kind of return?

Well, if we go with the number adjusted for inflation, $17.8 million, in 30 years Mike Ilitch has earned a return of 1,685% on his investment, an average of about 56% a year, or $10 million dollars. If you go with the non-adjusted number, it's about a 3,750% return on his investment, or an average of 125% a year. He didn't earn those exact numbers every year. I'm sure in years they won the Cup he made a shit ton of money, and in those Dead Things years, it was less prosperous. Plus the seasons cancelled in part or in total due to work stoppages or lockouts. 

But still. That is a ridiculous amount of money and a ridiculous return on his investment. But it still means that the Red Wings only account for about 18% of his total net worth. Assuming he sells the team for $300 million, and I'm betting he could get WAY more money than that for the Red Wings, he would have had to have lost $9.773 million dollars per year in order to just break even. As long as he only lost $8 million a year, he would still turn a profit from selling the Red Wings at $300 million.

And just how much money is $300 million dollars? I'll let The Triple Deke explain it:

The point is, to anyone who supports the owners and think they struggle more economically than the players do: no they don't.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The FSD Drinking Game: Red Wings Edition

During this lockout, we have to find things to make us happy. Lovingly thinking about the hockey we're missing brings bittersweet tears to our eyes. A big part of hockey as a Red Wings fan is getting to watch games on television with the best damned commentators in the business: Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond. Also, Larry Murphy and some other people at Fox Sports Detroit. I've partnered up with Kevin from over at Octopus Thrower and we've come up with a little something for you Wings fans out there for when we finally get our hockey back.

We give to you: 
The Fox Sports Detroit Sportscaster Drinking Game: 
Red Wings Edition

It's simple. As you're watching your favorite hockey team, keep an ear tuned to the guys in the booth and Larry between the benches. You'll notice motifs and colloquialisms that make the broadcast that much more fun and special. As you watch, follow the directions listed below. In true form, it's no so much of a "drinking game" as it is providing you with an excuse to get as trashed as you possibly can, as well as providing a system to facilitate that goal as quickly as possible.

We'll be surprised if you can even make it through the pre-game coverage. Possibly giving a whole new definition to "pre-gaming". Enjoy!

It is highly advised that you attempt this game on a full stomach
(Photo: Kevin Nannini)
Take One Drink:

-Anytime Larry Murphy uses the phrase "This is a guy" during his analysis of a player.
-Mickey Redmond chastises the referees for not dropping the puck fast enough on a face off
-Larry Murphy bungles his way through commentary that, while accurate, is embarrassingly bad and/or obvious
-When Shannon Hogan/Ryan Field talk and you actually listen to what they have to say
-Larry Murphy EMPHASIZES every OTHER word WHENEVER he TALKS.
-Mickey mentions wood sticks and not the composite sticks that always break.
-Mickey talks about a player that loses his "hat".
-Anytime Ken Daniels elongates his vowels during his play-by-play. Doesn't count when he yells "Scores!" after a Red Wing goal.
-If they try to show a highlight and either queue up the wrong highlight, don't show the section the commentators wanted to show, or the video sits there paused for a solid second or two before playing.
-Anytime that stupid BELLE TIRE tire with creepy arms and legs starts talking
-Ken Daniels references "old time hockey" to try to goad Mickey into reminiscing
-John Keating says "Ken Daniels, Mickey Redmond, Take it away!" before they cut back to Ken and Mickey.
-Mick refers to you, the viewer, as "gang".

Take Two Drinks:

-Anytime John Keating makes a terrible pun in the pregame show or intermission interview.
-Anytime Ken Daniels mentions someone who played in the CCHA
-Larry Murphy bungles his way through commentary that, while accurate, is embarrassingly bad and/or obvious AND Ken Daniels responds in a tone where you can tell he's obviously exasperated.
-Anytime Mickey uses the phrase "Ginger Ale"
-If Mickey Redmond cannot answer the Red Wings trivia question correctly
-If Larry Murphy interrupts Ken and Mick
-When the guys attempt to figure out what the fuck penalty is being called and why
-When they "throw it back to the guys in the Call Sam Studies" for an update about something that isn't Red Wings hockey
-Mickey mentions Glenn Hall painting his barn instead of going to training camp.

Take Three Drinks:

-If Mickey Redmond refers to a Red Wings player as "kid", "kiddo" or some other nickname indicating the player is young, and that player is over the age of 30. 
-When Mickey accidently drops a "hell", "damn", or other minor curse word.
-If Mickey Redmond answers the Red Wings trivia question correctly
-If you actually see Larry Murphy drinking from his "water bottle"
-Anytime someone compliments Mikael Samuelsson's hockey abilities (5 drinks for Kevin) 
-If Larry Murphy interrupts Ken and Mick and adds nothing of value to the conversation
-If you can tell that Mickey is having to physically restrain himself from calling bullshit on the referees. Also yell at the television.
-Whenever Ken, Mick and Larry get the reviewed call wrong, or if they refuse since the replay operators are high most of the time.

Special Dispensations:

-Whenever "1 Dollar Hot Dog Night" is mentioned, you take a drink and then make a movie reference that hasn't been relevant in the past 10 years. (Ex: Ace Ventura, The Mask...any Jim Carrey movie ever, really)
-When Mickey scribbles a John Madden-esque telestrator diagram, take a shot and then yell "BOOM!" as loud as you can.
-If Mickey says "Ay-yai-yai..." take a drink for every syllable
-Whenever anyone says something about Gustav Nyquist, smile and remind yourself how lucky you are to watch him play on the Wings.
-Anytime they show an old picture of Mickey Redmond, bask in the glory of the mutton chops.
-If they bring that guy who was apparently a goalie, but he's so forgettable that I can't remember his name, to give analysis during the period breaks, turn on something else.

And finally:
-If Mickey Redmond uses any of his patented catch phrases such as: "Bingo-Bango!", "OH BABY!", "Holy Jumpin'..." or "Holy Mackrel!" then pound the bottle because you just won the fucking game.
-If at any point you find yourself really missing the guys over at NHL on NBC, kill yourself.

So there you have it. Just like any good drinking game, you can feel free to add your own rules and addendum  Hopefully we'll all get a chance to try this out really soon.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Jim Devellano is a Diabolical Madman?

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Red Wings fans got some interesting news the past couple of days. Red Wings Senior Vice-President Jim Devellano gave an interview, in which he answered questions about the NHL's CBA talks. The response to that from the NHL was swift - they fined the Detroit Red Wings an undisclosed sum, however the figure thrown around the Twitterverse and Blagosphere was $250,000.

The reason for the fine as shared by the League was very explicit:
"The Detroit Red Wings' organization and the League agree that the comments made by Mr. Devellano are neither appropriate, nor authorized, nor permissible under the League's By-Laws," said NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly. "Such comments are neither constructive nor helpful to the negotiations."
Quick sidebar, Mr. Daly, "constructive" and "helpful" mean the same thing. But that's not the point. The point is I'm going to say something that might shock the collective minds of my readers: The NHL had every right to do what they did and given the situation, they were absolutely ethically right in their decision. Curious as to why? We'll get to that but first I want to address a complaint I've seen voiced on Twitter and elsewhere on the Internet. "What about freedom of speech, NHL!? You can't just go crushing Devellano's right to free speech!" Actually yes, yes they can.
"Congress shall make now law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press..." (Bold text mine)
The United States of America is a wonderful and free place to live. We have wonderful rights and liberties that a lot of people don't enjoy, and the freedom of speech is one of them. However, the 1st Amendment only truly protects us against the government infringing upon our right to free speech. It offers little to no protection against private companies or organizations from silencing free speech. And in general, our right to free speech isn't inalienable. You can't yell fire in a crowded theater, you can't have graphic violence, nudity, sexual content or vulgarity on television or the radio, and you can't threaten to kill the President of the United States. The National Hockey League has every right and authority to punish one of its employees for something they've said without violating that employees Constitutional rights, with a handful of exceptions.

"Right, Jefferson, a painting of us is going to be used on a hockey blog.
And women will be allowed to vote someday, too. Idiot."
Now that I got that civics lesson out of the way, I said that the NHL were right in their decision to fine the Red Wings for Devellano, and I stand by that comment. Because here's the thing: The NHL has By-laws preventing League or team officials from commenting on the Collective Bargain Agreement negotiations. The only two people who are allowed to speak to the media on the matter are Gary Bettman and Bill Daly, which is why they're the only two you've heard anything from. I'm guessing the most that anyone else could say on the matter would be "All I can say is I hope we come to an agreement soon. Beyond that, you'll have to direct your questions to either Gary Bettman or Bill Daly." And even then, that first part could get you in hot water.

It doesn't matter that what Devellano had to say were mostly supporting the NHL's position during the bargaining agreement. If you allow those comments to the media by team officials, then you open the door to all comments and the last thing the League wants to do is to have a GM or team owner come out and undermine the League's bargaining position. If they don't punish Devellano for his comments, then next week the owner of the Buffalo Sabres could come out to the press and say that he's willing to reduce the League's demands if it'll end the lockout.

In that regard, the League was absolutely correct to fine the Red Wings. I think people should be allowed to say what they want without reprisal, most notably criticizing the League, League officials and the referees. But if thems the rules, then thems the rules.

What about the content of Devellano's words? When asked about the huge contracts like, among others, Shea Weber's, Devellano confirmed the existence of something many have speculated actually existed. After mentioning the salary cap forces teams to make decisions about salaries, he goes on to say, "They (Philadelphia) operated within the CBA and it's totally legit to do. Having said that, I will tell you there is an unwritten rule that you don't do that, but they did..."

I'm not a legal scholar or expert, but I do know that there are federal laws preventing collusion within an industry. It came out of J.D. Rockafeller and others working with railroads and other major industries to artificially fix prices. Which is effectively what this unwritten rule among the owners is doing: by agreeing that they won't use offer sheets on restricted free agents you are preventing the player market from better determining the value of of that players' labor. Does Shea Weber get the contract he does if Philadelphia never makes an offer sheet? Certainly Nashville was negotiating from a position that was informed by that unwritten rule. They felt confident that nobody would make an offer for Weber and so there was no real sense of panic to negotiate or capitulate to Weber's demands. Conversely, would Weber have landed an even bigger deal had he been an unrestricted free agent on the open market? Probably. Does this meet the legal definition of "collusion" and have the NHL owners violated federal law? I don't know. But it seems like if Congress can spend time and energy investigating steroid use in MLB, they could have the Justice Department look into this.

Other of Devellano's have gotten a lot of attention and flak. He basically tells the players to shut up and take the League's offer of a 10% swap, with the players taking 43% of hockey-related revenue and the league taking 57%. But more upsetting to many were his comments about the fans' intelligence and the value of the players. "It's very complicated and way too much for the average Joe to understand", says Devellano about the negotiations and the details of the CBA, "...The owners can basically be viewed as the Ranch and the players, and me included, are the cattle. The owners own the ranch and allow the players to eat there."

I'm not the smartest hockey fan out there, but I'm a pretty bright guy. And I think if the League and the players were more forthcoming with unbiased information and financial data, the fans could make a much more informed decisions and comments about the situation. Furthermore, this is further evidence of the owners and League officials having a hard time connecting with fans.

I can't imagine the players are going to take kindly to being compared to cattle. Granted Devellano includes himself in that category, but there really isn't much of a comparison to be made there. For starters Devellano is still working and drawing a salary from the Detroit Red Wings, whereas none of the players are (save for Patrick Eaves). It also conjures up more negative images of greedy owners without humanity, who view the fans as walking dollar signs and the players as cattle being lead to slaughter. Next time Sidney Crosby is forced to play through concussions, maybe he'll just view it as being "tenderized".

Nicklas "The Tenderizer" Kronwall

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Gary Bettman is a Diabolical Madman Who Must be Stopped Part 3

The continuing story of a misfit turned commissioner of the Nationa Hockey League. If you haven't yet checked out Part 1 and Part 2 of this saga, you should do so.

Two days until the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires, we got more tough news from both the NHL and the NHLPA. In a way, it was more the same. Two sides pointing fingers at the other side, making small tweeks and concessions in their offers, standing strong and united against their foe, and largely engaging in hard line tactics designed to stall, bring us up to the deadline, and force the other side to break.

I haven't heard a whole lot in terms of details from other sides. I admit I may have missed them, but I'm not hearing the details. What I am hearing is the NHL hasn't moved at all off their unfair offer, if you believe the NHLPA, and that the NHLPA hasn't moved at all off their unfair offer, if you believe Gary Bettman.

As some of his comments came filtering in via the Twitsphere, I still feel like the NHL knows that it's in the wrong here. Or at the very least, that they're less right than the players. They're continuing a lot of the same messages as before: the players' are costing us too much money (while we continue to hand out record contracts), the teams need more money, and just like last time there were messages coming in that really stood out to me. 

This struck me as an odd thing to say, because this is the system that the NHL and its owners implemented. Why is it a bad thing that the players have become comfortable with the system that you designed, pushed upon the players during the last lockout, and have been operating under since the 2005 lockout? I would think that you would desperately want the players to be comfortable with it. It sounds to me like the owners and the NHL got exactly what it wanted. They're behaving like a spoiled child. 

Okay, that's crap. You gave the players an extra 1% of HRR with your last proposal. Granted, we're talking about millions of dollars here, but I wouldn't call a 1% change significant in this context. The unemployment rating dropping by 1% is much more significant than this. The United States' GDP increasing by 1% more would be dramatic. 

Granted, I think these negotiations can and ultimately will come down to a percent (or a fraction of one), but that's what happens when you're trying to divide up a financial pie. If the NHL went from offering the players less than 50% of the HRR to offering them more than 50% of the HRR, I would characterize that offer as dramatic. As it stands, they're acting like their offer is hot shit on a silver platter when in fact their offer is cold snot on a paper plate. 

I understand this perspective from the owners. And it's not entirely an unfair perspective to have. But the league is already making more money than the players. Current player salaries total to roughly $1.777 billion dollars across 658 signed players on the rosters of the 32 NHL teams. This means the average NHL player is making around $2.7 million dollars. That means that the league getting 43% of hockey related revenue is not enough to cover the $1.777 billion in player salaries, plus all other operation costs.

But this flies in the face of the NHL admitting on its own website that 2011 was the "Best-Ever Business Year" that was "Highlighted By Record Revenues". That's not a quote from some assistant accountant buried in the article, by the way. That's the headline of the article. Every year since 2006 has seen record revenues, including 2011. Every measurable area of growth (sponsorship, TV viewership, merchandising, etc) saw an increase.

So if record revenues for 5 straight years and 43% of the HRR is not enough to maintain the league and the teams, how could it possibly have been the "Best-Ever Business Year" ? Why are more teams not suckling on the teat of the NHL to stay alive, instead of only the Phoenix Coyotes? How can team owners be offering record contracts to restricted and unrestricted free agents when they know that their share of the money isn't going to be enough to satiate their lustful spending habits? And why do the players have to make sacrifices to curb the bad decisions of their bosses?

Comments? How about "Fuck you!"? How's that for a comment? Quick side note: I mean that at Bettman, not at Allan Walsh, who I have no quarrel with. Below is a comprehensive list of all the people who want to make a deal and play hockey more than Gary Bettman

  • Me
  • The players
  • The people who work at Joe Louis Arena and other hockey arenas 
  • The broadcasters, press and bloggers who cover hockey for a living and/or hobby
  • The owners, general managers and employees of the various team organizations
  • Bill Brasskey, a fictional character from early 90's Saturday Night Live skits
  • The fans
  • Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
  • Every man, woman and child who has existed, currently exists, or will sometime exist in the future in every conceivable and inconceivable world, galaxy, universe and reality who is not Gary Bettman
Because you know what is the really telling truth about responding to Bettman's comment? "No one wants to make a deal and play hockey more than I do" - except you never played hockey, Gary. You went to school, and got a law degree and became a lawyer, then worked for the NBA and then became the NHL commissioner. No where in there did you play hockey. And if you did, it obviously didn't have much of an impact on you. 

I admit that Bettman isn't the only guilty one here. He is the messenger for the Board of Governor's and represents the wishes of those who own the teams. He is largely doing their bidding and on top of that, the players could probably be more flexible in their demands without completely abdicating their bargaining position. That being said, when Bettman comes out and says he asked for a show of hands today as to who is willing to lockout the players, I imagined the meeting looked something like this.

You're all assholes. I want my Red Wings hockey, dammit. 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

What Chris Kluwe Means for Sports

We were treated to something special over the past few days. Chris Kluwe, the punter for the Minnesota Vikings, has been attracting a great deal of attention around the Internet and elsewhere. This isn't the first time he's gained notoriety. He's very active on Twitter with sharp, witty, funny comments about football. He's an avid video gamer, having sunk numerous hours into World of Warcraft and other games. Thus proving that if you're adept at time management, you can be an athlete and a gamer.

Future Olympians? No, I said if you're adept at time management. These three
are not adept at time management. Also, they're cartoon characters.
This most recent bout of awesomeness started when Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo had the audacity to do what Kluwe and scores of Americans do on a regular basis: voice his opinion. He spoke out in favor of a ballot initiative in Maryland that would legalize same-sex marriage. Maryland state legislator Emmett C. Burns Jr. penned a letter to the Ravens requesting that they punish Ayanbadejo for voicing opinions about a political topic.

Pictured: The smallest ball Kluwe has to deal with on a regular
basis. (Photo: Tom Dahlin: Getty Images)
Chris Kluwe wrote this to Burns. And that's when shit got real.

Kluwe's retort is scathing. There is just something utterly delicious about a football player having to give a lesson on the Constitution to an elected public official. It's even better when that black elected public official has to be reminded of the political activism ingrained in our sports history. And he didn't even give any mention to the pioneering women in sports fighting for equality in athletics. So obviously Chris Kluwe is a chauvinist. (He probably thinks all girls are noobs who are bad at video games.)

The whole thing was all kinds of awesome, but I think I appreciated it because I means something else as big as the message it conveyed:

Your profession does not, and should not, prevent a human being from contributing their opinions the debates of their time.

Kluwe's posts really force us to confront something that is true within this country. We claim to like it when our athletes and celebrities voice their support or condemnation for things. In fact we expect it. We want them to be "moral leaders" and "positive role models" for our children. However, when they come out and voice an opinion on something we disagree with, such as gay marriage, then we want them to shut up and not voice their opinion. We justify it by saying, "They're just a celebrity/athlete, and what do they know!?"

Even I am guilty of that at times, but I've come to understand a very important distinction. I don't mind when celebrities share their opinions, so long as they do so in a way that is intelligent, well argued and rational. Example: During the DNC, Lindsay Lohan said on Twitter to the Obama feed that, "We also need to cut them (taxes) for those that are listed on Forbes as 'millionaires' if they are not, you must consider that as well." Which is just stupid. She seems to be indicating that there are hundred thousand-aires who are wrongly characterized as millionaires. She also seems to believe that the U.S. Federal Government chooses which income tax bracket you belong in based on Forbes Magazine and not on the tax documents that Lindsay Lohan has apparently never seen.

See, it's stupid. It's the difference between intelligent, well-informed commentary and the dense yammering of someone who just wants our attention.

More after the break