SUN Hockey Pool

A reward for incompetence

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:15 AM ET

If the Maple Leafs either miss the playoffs or go out early, their fans can then switch their allegiance to the team they help the most -- the Nashville Predators.

In Gary's Game, the idea is that if you build a strong team, you get penalized. The effects already have been seen in Colorado and Philadelphia, and are showing signs of having their impact in Detroit.

Thanks to the salary cap and the revenue-sharing, the National Hockey League's successful teams are penalized.

And from a financial point of view, no team is stronger than the Maple Leafs. So the Leafs got dinged the most under the revenue sharing -- something in the neighbourhood of $10 million US. The Red Wings were hit for approximately $6 million. The Flyers and Avalanche were high on the list as well.

REVENUE SHARING

The team that took the most from the revenue-sharing program was Nashville. The Predators, it seems, are to the NHL what Quebec is to Canada.

League officials insist that the precise numbers have to be kept secret. Presumably, this is a decision made out of embarrassment,

In the new NHL, the economic considerations are far more important than the hockey considerations. Trades are based on contracts, not ability, and rosters are determined not by the players you can attract but by the players the league allows you to pay.

So the details of the revenue sharing, which is an integral part of the economics, should also be shared with the fans.

But the league won't do it. Requests for the figures are turned down.

In simple terms, the revenue-sharing is a reward for incompetence, and the awards are based on three primary factors: The money a team makes; the money it spends; and the size of its market.

That last one was put in there to prevent that bunch of dysfunctional bumblers in Chicago from collecting. Even in a league that rewards incompetence, the Hawks go beyond the pale.

If your team is in a city the size of Chicago, you're simply excluded on the grounds that if your revenues are in the lower third, it's your own fault.

To collect on the revenue sharing, the team has to be in the bottom half of the league in revenue. The Leafs, conversely, are No. 1.

The number of television households in your market has to be below 2 1/2 million (another anti-Chicago rule). Also, you have to be in the bottom half of the team-payroll list.

The numbers are collated and the top third pays out and the bottom third collects. The middle third drools with envy and tries to figure out a way to cut payrolls.

To that end, some of the general managers, who are in town today for one of their regular meetings, may already be trying to cut costs and therefore may be talking trade.

But for the most part, they'll probably be talking about the schedule and a few rule refinements.

The rule that penalizes a team for clearing the puck over the glass from the defensive zone will come under some fire. But don't expect it to be changed.

Diving and interference always are matters for discussion, but again, any changes to these rules will be minor and mostly technical.

The GMs don't have the authority to change the schedule, but they can certainly impact the process. Many GMs want to play every team at least once a year and a reduction in divisional games from eight per opponent to six.

But in the long run, the governors will do what they want -- and probably cater to the weakest kinks.


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