Full steam ahead for Raps

BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:58 AM ET

Richard Peddie insists the Raptors' budget will not be impacted by the cancellation of the NHL season.

Presumably, if hockey's labour impasse went on for years and years, it might be a different story.

But for the foreseeable future, according to Peddie, the economics of the Raptors and the Maple Leafs will be kept separate, despite the fact the two clubs are owned by the same company.

"Right from the start, when we merged our two organizations, there was a recognition the NBA and the NHL had different economics," said Peddie, the president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, Ltd., prior to the Raptors' home game against the Chicago Bulls last night.

Earlier yesterday, the NHL announced the 2004-05 season has been scrapped because of a labour dispute.

"It's all different, the average price of a player, the average amount a team spends," Peddie said of the two leagues. "For instance, in basketball it's like $52 million (US per team in annual player salaries) while in hockey it's like $42 million. And as far as individual player salaries go, in hockey it's $1.8 million versus $4.8 million in basketball.

"The number of players, the importance of stars, it's all completely different. Subsequently, the general managers (Rob Babcock of the Raptors and John Ferguson, of the Maple Leafs) recommend their strategies and their objectives according to competing successfully in their leagues."

Peddie claims the organization never has robbed Peter to pay Paul, or vice versa.

"Our owners never have transferred money back and forth," Peddie said. "You can see our budget this year in basketball -- do you see any sign we've cut back? Yet we're losing a lot of money on hockey."

Of course, the NBA's collective-bargaining agreement with its players runs out this summer, too. Even though the contentious issues in the NBA talks will be straight-forward economic ones rather than deep-rooted philosophical ones, a lockout is a possibility.

In several cities, the pro hockey and basketball teams are owned by the same entity. It would be an unprecedented scenario to have both sports shut down at the same time.

Former Raptor and current Bull Antonio Davis, who is the first vice-president of the National Basketball Players Association, was asked last night if the hockey shutdown might give the NBA players extra leverage in their negotiations.

"I don't know if it hurts or helps," Davis said. "We might have some owners in the (negotiating) room who are involved (in the hockey lockout, too). They might be a little ticked off. So maybe we'll have to weed out the guys who are both hockey owners and basketball owners."

Because the hockey owners might be in crappy moods?

"Wouldn't you be?" Davis asked. "I would be, too."

Whether the hockey owners are in crappy moods or not, Peddie said the Raptors will not get the crap beaten out of them from a budgetary point of view.

"In the context of the 70-plus years of the Maple Leafs, this will be a blip," Peddie said. "So why would you let something that happens to one franchise affect the other franchise that also is really important to you?

"Now, does it impact other things? We've cut back on capital spending in our arena. We've frozen staff salaries. We have a hiring freeze. But no, I don't see it affecting the Raptors on the court."

In other words, as far as the Raptors are concerned, it's business as usual.

Given the Raptors' record, that obviously is better news monetarily than it is competitively.


Photos