Yesterday, Deadspin ran a long, alternate-1985-style piece on what the NHL might look like today had it agreed to be purchased by Bain Capital in 2005. The short answer? The MLS. One vision of a Bain Capital-owned league:
With contract offers artificially lowered, European stars and the cream of the domestic talent would presumably go off to Europe for more money. The league would fall back from its warm-weather beachheads and dreams of national appeal; perennial money-losers like the Islanders, Sabres, Blue Jackets—hell, a third of the league hasn’t been profitable in years—might be contracted out of existence. The game might have reverted to a regional pastime for the diehards of the North and Northeast, a feeder league drawing only enough for the league to pay off its debt.
How is this relevant to the NHL’s labor conflicts?
The unsentimental analysts at Bain had exposed the uncomfortable fact about NHL lockouts, then and now: They’re proxy wars between big markets and small markets in which the owners try to wring money out of the players instead of one another. Bain merely put a dollar figure on the divide, and its streamlined NHL would have done the dirty work that the league could never bring itself to do: eliminate those small markets altogether.
The full exploration is available here.
One other item. Although the contributors at this site are scattered across the country, all in different cities only one of which is Nashville, Music City is our historical center of gravity, so this factoid jumped out of the article’s discussion about the market for top players:
Take Shea Weber, who just signed a 14-year, $110 million contract to stay in Nashville. That’s $30 million more than it cost to start the Predators franchise in 1997.