SUN Hockey Pool

Cuban: NHLers 'out of their minds'

BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:10 AM ET

Mark Cuban believes NHL players are living in an economic fantasy world if they think they can avoid a salary cap.

"All I know is what I read in the papers, but the (NHL) players have to stop being religious about the cap," said Cuban, the outspoken owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks, whose club defeated the Raptors 122-113 at the Air Canada Centre yesterday.

"I think the players are a little out of their minds."

The NBA, of course, has had a salary cap for decades. NHL owners have locked out their players, and the two sides are stuck in a cap-or-no-cap stalemate.

Cuban was asked if the hockey lockout is bad for sports in general.

"Actually, it could be very good for sports if people come to their senses on what the reality of the business of sport is today," Cuban said. "Hockey could set the tone. If it's handled correctly, it could be the best thing that ever happened to hockey.

"When sports rights fees for TV were booming every year, and they went up every time there was a new deal, and there was a bull market for them, then that covered our mistakes. But those days are gone. So now you have to run it like a business. No one is going to come in and rescue us and say, 'Okay, we're going to pay five times more for TV rights than what we paid before.' That covered our mistakes. But it won't happen again."

The NBA's collective bargaining agreement with its players runs out at the end of this season. Both sides have expressed a desire to avoid a labour disruption.

Hockey-wise, however, Cuban said the players have to realize what year this is.

"The players need a bit of a reality check," Cuban said. "This isn't 1995. I think hockey has a great future with high-definition television, but the economics have changed, and that's just reality.

"Not only are the economics not growing for hockey, but they actually lost a television deal. If the players don't realize that, and if the owners give in, then hockey could disappear."


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