After finishing the '94 season with a sell-out crowd for Game 3 of the League's championship series, the CISL announced its happiness with their progress as a league. ATTENDANCE: More than 1M fans attended CISL games during the '94 regular season for an average of 5,203 fans per game. The CISL had 12 crowds of more than 10,000, a 600% increase over the '93 season. The Detroit Neon led the way, averaging 9,379 a game. EXPANSION: The CISL feels they established a national presence with the addition of teams in markets such as Charlotte, Detroit, Houston, Las Vegas, Pittsburgh, San Jose and Washington, DC. Seattle and Mexico City are expected to join the league next year. NHL/NBA AFFILIATIONS: The league continued to add to its ownership with the addition of the following NBA and NHL partners during the past year: Pistons, Penguins, Sharks, Supersonics, Bullets and Capitals. SPONSORSHIP MONEY: The Detroit Neon, besides leading the league in attendance, also led in corporate sponsorships with nearly $1M generated. Chrysler was the team's title sponsor, providing the nickname "Neon" (THE DAILY).
Leagues Governing Bodies
Central Hockey League founder and president Ray Miron attributes the success of his "very minor league outfit" to the fact that there are no local team owners. The league owns all seven CHL teams and, at $7-10 a ticket, keeps all gate revenues allowing the arenas to keep nearly all concession revenues. Last year, The CHL netted more than $1M off of revenues of $10.6M, drawing an average attendance of 5,900/game. Miron claims that several investors have approached him and have offered him more than $1M for a new CHL franchise, but Miron has declined such offers because he firmly believes that new owners will drive up salaries and drive down profits: "It's more profitable this way. And it's a lot fewer headaches" (Lee Sullivan, FORBES, 10/24).
FORBES examines the "supply and demand" potential of the CFL. After losing money, Commissioner Larry Smith decided to "improve management." He recruited new owners for five teams, imposed a salary cap of $2M per team and brought "smart management and smart marketing" to the league. While further U.S. expansion (10 or 12 U.S. teams by '97) is planned, Smith won't move into "cities that have an NFL team, games are mostly played on Friday nights to avoid college and NFL schedules, and the season begins and ends two months before the NFL's." Smith has doubled entry fees from $3M to $6M (Randall Lane, FORBES, 10/24 issue). BALTIMORE NAME GAME: Baltimore's CFL owner Jim Speros "has initiated talks with the NFL aimed a producing an out-of-court settlement" over the Colts name. Speros does not want an expensive trial against the NFL and did acknowledge a settlement "may leave his team unable to use the cherished Colts name" (Jon Morgan, BALTIMORE SUN, 10/12).
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman "indefinitely delayed the start of the season ... calling the last proposal by the players union 'a step backward' and questioning its good faith." NHLPA Exec Dir Bob Goodenow "contended that Bettman's interpretation 'just highlights our differences,' adding, 'It looks awfully difficult for us to be making progress in the near future. We've always told the players that this could be a long situation. Long could be months or a year" (Helene Elliott, L.A. TIMES, 10/12). FROM BETTMAN: "Until the union is willing to address our needs, and come back to us with a system that is sensible and allows us to grow, there seems to be little common ground" (THE DAILY). FROM GOODENOW: "Until the owners appreciate that the players are completely opposed to the NHL's take-away demands, we will have little to discuss" (THE DAILY). WHAT NOW? In Tampa, Roy Cummings writes that neither side has made its best offer. One league source "admitted as much Tuesday when he said the NHL eventually could drop its 122 percent tax proposal to around 50 percent" (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 10/12). But NHLPA President Mike Gartner says: "We've got nothing more to bring to the table" (Lance Hornby, TORONTO SUN, 10/12). Bettman: "Mike Gartner said to me yesterday that he knows their last offer didn't address our needs. There still a way to go in this process" ("Sports Tonight," CNN, 10/11). ESPN's Al Morganti: "Not only was there unanimity in that board meeting today, but I talked to several owners who are convinced the NHL has already gone too far in what they offered the players" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 10/11). That leaves open the possibility the league "could withdraw the proposal or alter it in a direction away from the union's proposal" (Murray Chass, N.Y. TIMES, 10/12). TORONTO SUN's Al Strachan raises the idea that limits on arbitration and a rookie salary cap may be the owners' "hidden agenda," an idea echoed by Toronto GLOBE & MAIL's David Shoalts. EYES ON THE "I": Goodenow said the IHL and other leagues "may very well be an option" for players locked-out of the NHL. "And we will now look at those issues as they arise." Bettman addressed the notion of players jumping leagues: "If players are prepared to play for $1,000 a game in the IHL and risk their careers in injury, I'm not sure why they don't want to come to play in the NHL under a system that makes sense and treats them fairly" (THE DAILY). IHL Chicago Wolves President & GM Grant Mulvey: "I don't know what they're doing and I don't think as of right now they even know what they're going to do." Mulvey held open the option of signing some NHLers (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 10/12). OTHER MINOR ALTERNATIVES: AHL President of Hockey Operations Gordie Anziano noted the AHL is a developmental league for the NHL: "So if players under contracts to NHL teams wanted to come sign a contract with an AHL club, I don't think that we'd do that" (ST. PETE TIMES, 10/12). TV REAX: ESPN's Jimmy Roberts: "The national pastime of a North American country's national sport grinds to a halt. Sound familiar?" ("SportsCenter," 10/11). CNN's Mark Morgan compared hockey to baseball: "No common ground, no talks are scheduled, and -- unfortunately for hockey fans across North America -- the end appears to be no where in sight" ("Sports Tonight," 10/11). ESPN's Al Morganti: "Very seriously, we're looking at if not a 40-game season, no season" ("SportsCenter," 10/11).
ANAHEIM: Mighty Ducks President Tony Tavares: "We have a very, very high incentive to play this season. But that incentive is a short-term incentive versus a need for systemic change." Ducks Player Rep Bob Corkum: "We just want a solid marketplace to shop our skills" (Helene Elliott, L.A. TIMES, 10/12). BOSTON: Bruins President & GM Harry Sinden, at the press conference: "The progress has been meaningless and fruitless" (THE DAILY). EDMONTON: Oilers President & GM Glen Sather: "What you have today is not a partnership. It's being dominated by one side and the other side isn't having enough to survive on" ("Sports Tonight," CNN, 10/11). In Toronto, Al Strachan writes if Sather were commissioner, the NHL "wouldn't be in the mess it's in today" (TORONTO SUN, 10/12). MIAMI: Panthers Player Rep John Vanbiesbrouk: "We know whatever [Bettman] says about us is not true because he does not speak for us. He speaks for his interpretations of us which comes from his lack of respect for the players and that he thinks we're stupid." Panthers President Bill Torrey: "The 30% increases every year have got to come to a stop, unless the players feel our fans should have to spend $40 or $50 a game" (David Neal, MIAMI HERALD, 10/12). NEW YORK: Joe LaPointe writes, "Surely a commissioner as smart as Gary Bettman had to know that no union would capitulate to his demands. Certainly the owners who employed him had to know had to know that this agenda was a collision course in a game of chicken that is dangerous from both sides. His efforts amount to simple union-busting, strength against strength" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/12). Rangers President & GM Neil Smith: "I'm hoping there will be hockey at the end of October, but it certainly doesn't look good today" ("Sports Tonight," CNN, 10/11). OTTAWA: Roy MacGregor writes that the owners came off as "a bunch of thugs, grumpy old men in suits who gathered -- in a setting not unlike a Politburo -- to shift the blame and squeeze a little harder. ... The players came off as, well, naive" (OTTAWA CITIZEN, 10/12). PHILADELPHIA: Flyers Owner Ed Snider: "We're ready to stay out the entire season. We're fighting for the survival of the [NHL]" (Gary Miles, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 10/12). SAN JOSE: The "uncertainty" surrounding the NHL season is causing city officials and civic leaders to fear that the All- Star Game might be lost. San Jose Sports Authority Exec Dir Dean Munro: "Everyone still has their fingers crossed that it will still be played. But if it isn't, our hope is that we'd have the next available year." The San Jose Convention and Visitor's Bureau conservatively expects a $1.3M boost from the All-Star game. Boston hosts the '96 game (Scott Herhold, SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 10/12). ST. LOUIS: "It should have been a glorious day in Blues history. They were to have played their first game in their spiffy new home, the $135 million Kiel Center. Instead, Tuesday will go down as a dark day, not only in franchise history but also in National Hockey League history" (Dave Luecking, ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 10/12). TAMPA BAY: Lightning Governor David LeFevre, noting the NHLPA's proposal would have a top tax of $3 million: "That's one player. Do you think $3 million is going to deter a Stanley Cup contender from signing a player? It's not a big deal." Lightning Player Rep Brian Bradley: "I read our proposal for an hour last night and I think it was very fair" (Cammy Clark, ST. PETE TIMES, 10/12). TORONTO: Mike Gartner: "Maybe we're getting close to a situation like baseball" (Lance Hornby, TORONTO SUN, 10/12). Bob McKenzie reports that, according to those at the Board of Governors meeting, Bettman asked the following: "Are there any teams that can't make it through a season with no games? ... Are there any teams not willing to go through a season with no games?" McKenzie: "The silence spoke volumes." One NHL owner: "We are in this for the long haul" (TORONTO STAR, 10/12). Maple Leaf President Cliff Fletcher: "It is not inconceivable that there could be no hockey played this year" (TORONTO STAR, 10/12). VANCOUVER: Jim Taylor writes that Bettman's hard-line was his way of "pouring water over the player's association dam to see if there were any cracks." According to one source "highly placed" in TV marketing for the NHL: "The league is convinced that the association isn't as unified as it likes to let on, that if Goodenow can't get a deal, some of the higher-profile players will put the pressure on and either force a deal or lead a revolt. So Bettman will delay the opening to give the unrest time to work" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 10/12). Canucks Player Rep Trevor Linden: "We are prepared for the long haul and we are prepared for the worst" (Ellliott Pap, VANCOUVER SUN, 10/12). WASHINGTON: Capitals/Bullets Owner Abe Pollin: "We can never stop the overspending on our own. In the NBA, we offered the players 53 percent of our profits. The average salary then was $250,000. Now it's $1.6 million. How have the players suffered? They haven't, and the owners have done well" (Sandra McKee, Baltimore SUN, 10/12). NHLPA VP Kelly Miller: "They want it all. ... It's just a huge money grab on their part" (Dave Fay, WASHINGTON TIMES, 10/12).