LOS ANGELES -- Hockey during this millennium is a perfect fit for a businessman like Quebecor president and CEO Pierre-Karl Peladeau, players' agent Pat Brisson believes.
"This businessman is the ideal candidate to acquire a team," said Brisson, considered one of the top 10 most influential agents in sports.
Calling him a "giant in the communications world", Brisson said that Peladeau would know how to manage the content that would come with a new team and exactly how to distribute it properly.
While a pro franchise is still a source of revenue for owners, the franchise itself also brings in plenty of cash for other businesses.
"The (LA) Kings and the Lakers understood (the concept) and set up shop in downtown Los Angeles," said Brisson. "It created a neighbourhood full of activity around the Staples Centre."
Thanks to advances in technology, a sports club is not confined to just its own market.
Cable channels, the internet, phones and other platforms allows clubs to reach fans all over.
"Someone living in Alabama can become a Canadiens or Bruins fan and follow the activity of their favourites on a daily basis, as if they live in the city," said Brisson, adding that someone like Peladeau has what it takes to make such a system thrive.
It is also a good opportunity for Peladeau to bring hockey back to other Canadian cities.
"There still aren't many cities in Canada that could (have an NHL club)," said Brisson, explaining that the league must instead re-visit cities that once had pro hockey clubs, like Winnipeg and Quebec City. "(The league) can't count on having 10 teams north of the border, but it would be comfortable with eight."
Canadian teams account for 33% of NHL revenue, said Brisson, and the agent explained that new teams in Quebec City and Winnipeg would have an impact on those numbers. It is those numbers that help set the maximum and minimum salary caps, because 57% of the money goes to the players.
Being able to control salaries has completely changed the look of the NHL, which is why former Quebec Nordiques President and CEO Marcel Aubut pushed for a salary cap during negotiations in 1994.
"In 1995, the Nordiques could no longer rival the big markets that spent a ton of money on their players," said Brisson. "Not anymore. Nashville is at the same level as New York."
Brisson said that the salary minimums and maximums have created a balance that team brass must know how to manage.
"The Chicago Blackhawks just won the Stanley Cup and are trading players to create salary space," said Brisson. "They will still keep the core of the team in place."
In hockey over the last 20 years, Brisson points out the strength of the Canadian dollar as something that could help bring hockey back to Winnipeg and Quebec City, while recognizing that that could change suddenly.
Brisson also said that hockey players have a different mindset than they did a decade ago. "It is flattering to gain recognition from sports fans from your city. No doubt that Quebec City meets that criteria."
"The new National League is focused on young, talented players that have an immediate impact," said Brisson. "They don't choose their destination as much as their predecessors did. In the end, no matter the city, they know that (location) won't affect the financial side."
Brisson said he also hears more players complain about playing to half-empty arenas.
"They appreciate welcoming markets, full houses and enthusiastic fans," he said.
When the Nordiques and Jet were still in the league, there were times when players refused to play in a colder climate or a location with higher taxes. In Quebec's case, the language barrier was an issue. However, Brisson believes this would be less of an issue today.
Another agent, however, said that there will always be players who won't want to play in certain markets, like Quebec and Winnipeg.
"It is already hard to convince them to go to Edmonton, Calgary and even Ottawa," said the agent, who did not want to be named. "Some would never want to play in Montreal. Toronto and Vancouver have it easier. Generally, those are athletes that have years of seniority ... and sometimes are able to choose.
The agent added that nothing will ever eliminate the influence of a player's wife.
"When the wife doesn't want, the man isn't going," he said. "Look at the case of Chris Pronger. It was because of his wife that he left Edmonton for Anaheim and then to Philadelphia. Some don't want their anglophone kids living in a francophone environment. But they will still accept to accompany their husband for one or two seasons in Germany."
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