SUN Hockey Pool

Former Sens owner sees no quick end to NHL lockout

GEOFF MATTHEWS -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 6:33 AM ET

NHL players are likely to be out of work for a long time, says the former owner of the Ottawa Senators -- who, if he had his way, would have continued a 1994 lockout until the league was able to bring payrolls into line. Small-market teams would be killing themselves if they caved in to a deal that continues to pour all revenues into player salaries, said Rod Bryden, who owned the Senators until early 2003 when a mountain of debt forced him out.

In the early 1990s, a lot of American teams had arenas built for them by government, said Bryden. That allowed them to boost what they paid their players, "but that money's all gone now."

Other incomes in Canada and the U.S. have gone up in the past decade, he said, "but not even a fraction of what has happened with players. We have a society where entertainers are paid a ton of money and ... as long as the players bring in the cash to pay the bills, then there's no reason they shouldn't make as much money as (Jerry) Seinfeld."

HUGE ARENA COSTS

But maintaining a $200-million arena costs a lot of money, said Bryden -- perhaps as much as $20 million a year. "That should come out of what is generated by the activity rather than expecting taxpayers to pay for the building so that people can make $5 million (a year) instead of $3 million."

There are enough teams that cannot succeed without a salary restructuring that it will be impossible for teams like Toronto, with its huge fan base, to force the league to cave in, he said. "I don't think they can do it without the votes of the small teams, and I don't know why the small teams would vote to commit suicide. So my guess is they'll be out until the players smarten up."

geoff.matthews@ott.sunpub.com


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