It’s Over! NHL/NHLPA Reach Tentative Agreement

January 6, 2013

The NHL and the Players Association reached a tentative agreement.  While there are still details to hammer out, it looks like hockey fans will get a 48-50 game season starting in mid January.  The deal comes after a 16 hour mediation session where the two sides finally came to terms on the core items.  It is a ten year deal with a opt out option after eight.

Scott Burnside from ESPN has a great article on the damage done by the lockout.  I am not sure the “Bad News Bears Breaking Training” philosophy of “Let them play” is the best course of action, but that does seem to be the logical marketing strategy for a league that cannot seem to get out of its own way. Fans are very upset, I am not sure you can just drop the puck and let it be. Will the hardcore fans flock back to the game? Of course. The NHL has a lot of work to do in the coming months and years.


NHL Brand Suffering?

December 18, 2012

An interesting article in today’s The Globe and Mail concerning research done on the NHL at its brand.  According to the study done by Level5 Strategy Group, based out of Toronto, shows a very high number of NHL fans who have become disinterested in the sport.  Level5′s program creates “emotional maps called the emotisphere” to show favorable feelings, or dislike, toward a particular product.

There are some interesting findings in the survey.  First, Canadian passion toward hockey is diminishing.  Only one-third of Canadians would classify themselves as passionate hockey fans.  Second, researchers found those in the other two-thirds to be apathetic or angry towards their feeling toward the NHL.  The last bit of noteworthy information in the study is the emotional map created by the NHL brand was as bad or worse than BP after the oil spill in 2010.

It does seem like this lockout is completely different in the eyes of the fans.  I hold onto the notion that fans will come back to the game no matter how long this work stoppage endures. However, it may take a McGwire/Sosa type of race to get a lot of fans back.

There were a lot of rule changes last time to make the game more exciting i.e. shootouts, crackdown on obstruction.  What can the league offer this time?  One thing we do know, it will not be cheap tickets!


The greatest infographic ever?

December 5, 2012

Courtesy of Deadspin, this infographic shows the growth of tax subsidies for stadiums over time.

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9-3 Louisiana Tech not going to a bowl game

December 4, 2012

A quick repost of a blog post I wrote up for my students today on the blog project they are working on.

Yesterday was bowl selection day for the NCAA College Football teams across the United States.  Teams who won half their games (or others who receive special exemptions despite losing records) are all eligible to play in bowl games.  While much of America was screaming at the Orange Bowl for having Northern Illinois University (NIU) playing in a Bowl Championship Series (BCS) game, a few individuals were very unhappy that Louisiana Tech was not going to a bowl game.  It was not a matter of record (the team went 9-3) or that they didn’t get an invite to a game (the Independence Bowl offered), but that the athletic department was indecisive when trying to figure out whether to accept the invite.

The bowl business is tricky stuff, and La Tech was thinking they were going to some specific bowl games coming into the weekend.  Then Northern Illinois finished 16th in the BCS rankings and won an automatic bid to the Rose Bowl, kicking Oklahoma out of the BCS.  This shift cause other bowls to shift who they were inviting, and soon La Tech found themselves with only an invite from the Independence Bowl.  It is not that the Independence Bowl is a bad game to play in, but that the payout the athletic department would receive would be around $1,100,000.  While that seems to be a good chunk of change, the bowls that La Tech thought they were in the running for had payouts around $100,000 to $200,000 higher.  While this seems like a small amount in the age of athletic departments spending tens of millions of dollars on football, I think La Tech had good reason to hesitate.

The bowl game system is one which invites teams from across the country to travel long distances and stay many days (teams travel, practice, have some fun events, play the game, then go home).  Most schools also bring donors, alumni, students, the marching band, athletic department staff, and university staff and administrators to the game.  Think about the bill for hundreds of people having to travel, stay in hotels, food, drinks, banquets, tailgates, events, and all of the sudden you are running a pretty high bill.  Couple this with the fact that some bowl games require schools to make a revenue guarantee in regards to the amount of revenue generated by fans purchasing tickets, and bowl games can quickly become a losing situation for many athletic departments.  In other words, bowl games are a “winners curse” for some.

So did La Tech do the right thing?  I think so.  It is better, in my opinion, for an athletic department to take their time and make the right decision, than make a poor one which would put them in the red.  La Tech’s most famous alumni Karl Malone, a former NBA superstar, was not happy.  Mr. Malone took to twitter and lambasted the school and its athletic department for not landing in a bowl game.  I can understand Malone’s anger as those who are punished by this are the student-athletes who earned the chance to a bowl game, but are now not going anywhere.  Malone suggested that not going to a bowl game is “exactly what is wrong with our university”.

I disagree Mr. Malone.  The athletic department was weighing their options carefully.  Is it a disappointment? Yes it is, but it does not hint at a bigger systematic issue with the university and the athletic department.


NHL Update

November 21, 2012

The NHLPA has submitted a new proposal in hopes of ending the current lockout.  The NHL is set to respond later today to the union’s newest offer.  Details of the deal include a 50/50 split of hockey related revenue beginning in year one and asking for an additional $180 million towards the league’s “Make Whole” provision ($211 million) to cover existing contracts.  The union’s proposal has been reported as a five year deal.


NHL Expansion as a way to end Lockout?

October 30, 2012

The hope I was feeling a few weeks ago regarding the NHL Lockout has been replaced by apathy.  Neither side seems to be in a rush to solve anything.  Both sides seem willing to let sand flow through the hourglass as they sit and wait for the other to make a “realistic” offer.  The NHL cancelled game through November and news came down yesterday the league is thinking about shutting down the Winter Classic.  This seems to be nothing more than an attempt to scare the Players Association by taking the Winter Classic out of the equation.  Doing so will take away some of the leverage the union has since it is believed that NHL will not risk its premier event.  Cancelling the Winter Classic does not seem to be in the best interest considering all the dollars associated with the event.  However, I stopped thinking rational thought between the two sides was an option a long time ago.

Paul Kelly thinks he has found a way for the union and NHL to end this lockout, expand the league.  According to the article written by Ken Campbell for The Hockey News, the former executive director of the player’s union thinks expanding the league to north Toronto and Quebec City is the perfect solution to this stalemate.  He believes expansion will bring in “at the very least 600 million” in fees for the owners.  That money, in his view, will help the owners and players narrow the gap between the two sides.  To promote stability between the two sides, he also proposes a longer agreement around nine years with an option for a tenth.  Decent article, but I see little that either side would agree to.

Is expansion the best course of action? Is Canada the only logical place to expand? Would expansion prohibit growth as it would water down the talent pool?  If there is one certainty with the NHL and NHLPA, when it seems they take a step forward they always find a way to turn around and run in the other direction.


NHL’s newest proposal

October 17, 2012

While the past few weeks have gone with no real movement between the two sides, the National Hockey League sent a new proposal to the NHL Players Association today. The new proposal calls for a 50/50 split of hockey related revenue and may address some concerns players have regarding current contracts.  It would also allow the league to play a full 82 game schedule beginning November 2.  NHL players were to take part in a conference call Tuesday afternoon to discuss the terms.

The latest proposal seems to be an olive branch from the league in what was becoming a very stagnant process.  The two sides have been meeting the past few weeks.  However, talks never seemed to wade into the meat of the dispute only discussing secondary issues.

A few details from the NHL’s proposal include an increase to around 200 Million in revenue sharing, player contracts being capped at five years in length, all entry level contracts be two years and unrestricted free-agency beginning after eight years of service.  One of the major sticking points for players is getting money from their current contracts.  The NHL does seem to address this issue, but the particulars are not known at this time.

Did the NHL’s newest proposal shift public perception in favor of the League?  Is this the beginning of true negotiations between the two parties? Don Fehr, you and the Players Association are now on the clock.  At the very least, there is hope we see a light at the end of the tunnel.


NHL Labor News – Lockout Supported

September 14, 2012

Well, it is looking more likely the NHL will endure a second lockout in eight seasons.  News came out today that the NHL owners support the decision to lockout the players assuming a new labor agreement is not worked out by Saturday at midnight.

Wednesday, the owners and players met and exchanged proposals.  However, there seems to be very little movement in the two groups.  The latest league proposal does show minimal progress, but not enough to really move the needle.  The league’s newest offer is a six year deal and starts the players at 49 percent of hockey related income.  The player’s percentage of hockey related income reduces to 47 percent during the course of the agreement.  This is an increase from the first two proposals which were 43 and 46 percent.

If things continue down this path, this would be NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman’s third work stoppage during his tenure.  Should the NHL examine Bettman’s future with the league?   Admittedly, he is doing the owner’s bidding and as long as he continues to get them a fair deal I doubt any changes will be made.


NHL Collective Bargaining Update

September 2, 2012

The NHL and NHLPA have a little less than two weeks to figure out a deal.  The current collective bargaining agreement is set to expire on September 15th.  According to the article, the sides are not close to deal.  The possibility of a lockout is greater with each passing day.  Little progress has been made regarding any of the major issues between the two parties.  The league, among other things, wants the players to take a reduction in their share of revenue from 56 percent to 46. Some of the quotes from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman in the article do not give one hope that the league will avoid another work stoppage.  Of course, most of the rhetoric is the two sides posturing.

While the possibility of losing an entire season seems small at this point, can the NHL afford another prolonged work stoppage?  Stay tuned.


Great New Data Opportunity

August 17, 2012

At 5pm UK time today (we’re 5 hours ahead of East Coast US), Manchester City will be releasing OPTA data for the 2011-12 season freely to those who join their analytics community at www.mcfc.co.uk/mcfcanalytics. This won’t be a trifling amount of data, either; as this OPTA blog article reveals:

Those that register their interest in this project will be sent our Opta data set for every ‘on the ball’ event for every Premier League player in every match in the entire 2011-12 Premier League season FOR FREE.

This is something in the region of half a million events per season, well over a thousand per match, and provides an excellent opportunity not just for the football (soccer) analytics amongst us, but also for academics interested in research. I’ve just had a paper published (working paper version here) which uses OPTA data for two seasons (2006 to 2008) and we find field evidence for implicit discrimination by Premiership referees against players of oppositional identity.

I’m very excited…


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