As we draw near two full months of a locked out NHL season we continue to hear interesting developments regarding the Collective Bargaining Agreement, (CBA), currently under negotiation. Amongst the news is a piece that might come as a surprise to Anaheim Ducks fans: the Ducks owners, (the Samueli’s), are reportedly amongst the owners being called the “hardliners”.
Hardliners is in reference to owners unwilling to budge on key issues before beginning a season, and while it is for the most part speculative, it has been assumed by many that the Samueli’s are in fact amongst the hardline owners who would rather have a CBA more to their liking then get a new season underway.
Surely, any Ducks fan, (or hockey fan for that matter), is angry with owners and players alike when it comes to the lockout. Most infuriating are those who keep the negotiations from perhaps making progress, like rocks damming up a stream. Some fans have begun proposing that when the new season does begin that fans protest and not attend games for the first week of the season. While that would allow the fans presence to be made known, is that the correct way for fans to make their voices heard? And more specifically, should Ducks fans be angry at the Samueli’s for being hardliners during this lockout?
Let’s take a step back and look at some history real quick.
Henry Samueli is a highly intelligent, self-made man. He co-founded the Broadcom Corporation, helping create a multi-million dollar company that in turn would allow he and his wife Susan to buy the then Mighty Ducks of Anaheim from the Walt Disney Company in 2005. The Samueli’s renamed the team to the Anaheim Ducks and would help steer the Ducks toward a Stanley Cup in 2007; the first Stanley Cup to come to California.
“The point in sharing this is…” you ask? Answer: The Samueli’s proved they were willing and ready to do what it takes to win, something that Ducks fans should love. Sure, there are good business reasons to do so, (specifically that by building a winning team you assumedly strengthen your fan base), but despite winning a cup the Ducks have continued to have struggles both on and off the ice.
Last season, (according to ESPN.com), the Anaheim Ducks were 26th in league attendance. True, the Ducks had a terrible season but the Montreal Canadiens were worse then the Ducks yet were 2nd in attendance. Now it’s probably not fair to compare the Ducks to the Canadiens so let’s compare them to say, the Minnesota Wild. The Wild won one more game then the Ducks last season and were 16th in attendance; a full ten rankings better then the Ducks in terms of attendance. The point here is that it’s difficult to make money when you’re 4th to last in the league for attendance.
Even so the Samueli’s continue to invest and prove they are in it for the long haul, (or so it seems at least), as they actively seeking to build up the game of hockey in southern California. Under the Samueli’s the Ducks organization has created the Rinks development program, (helping to build and refurbish ice hockey rinks), they created the first High School ice hockey league in Orange County, and they have sought after and drafted California players, (i.e. Emerson Etem and Nic Kerdiles). In short, the Samueli’s are investing in Southern California hockey for the long term.
So although we are in the midst of a lockout, Ducks fans, (and all hockey fans for that matter), may want to take a step back and see some of the ways that owners are investing in the game of hockey outside of their players, coaches, staff, venue, etc. The fact of the matter is the Samueli’s built up a multi-million dollar business from something that quite literally started out of a guy’s garage and became Broadcom Corporation. They are attempting to build up hockey in a similar fashion, and that should have southern California hockey fans excited.
Are there reasons to be mad at the owners for the lockout? Absolutely. It is truly terrible if certain owners signed players to absurd contracts with the hope that under the new CBA they wouldn’t have to completely fulfill those contracts, but the Samueli’s aren’t owners who fall into that category. The Samueli’s are some of the few owners out there who haven’t gone and signed players to large and absurdly long contracts, and they certainly didn’t do any shady signings just before the past CBA expired. Which makes one think, if the Samueli’s seem to think that in order to do good business a better CBA needs to be negotiated, shouldn’t we give that some credence?
Like many owners, the Samueli’s know how to build up a successful business. Players might be smart to recognize that after the last lockout, (under which players gave up quite a bit), the league underwent the greatest growth it has ever seen. Even so, there are still many expenses to be paid, and many owners who are losing money.
Yes, players have suggested profit sharing for those teams losing money, but that sounds like a simple answer that really isn’t a long-term solution. Hockey franchises, (like the Ducks), that lose money don’t want other franchises supporting them but would much rather find ways to make money on their own.
This isn’t to say that players should give owners everything they want, but give them some credit. Owners are, after all, paying players salaries, the salaries of the coaches and management, not to mention travel, equipment, venue expenses and the list goes on, (check out this article from Yahoo, which lists some of the players current demands). The Samueli’s for example are paying those expenses plus they’re attempting to build the Rinks program, High School programs and more.
So yes, maybe it’s true the Samueli’s are hardliners in the lockout but maybe, (just maybe), the Samueli’s, (like everything else they do for the Ducks organization), are looking at the long term. Perhaps they are looking at a CBA deal that they feel helps better serve the game of hockey in the long run and that will allow the game to prosper. One thing is certain: when it comes to hockey, the Samueli’s don’t really seem to be all that stingy with the checkbook.
So should Ducks fans be angry with the Samueli’s in regards to the lockout? That’s up to Ducks fans to decide, but this much can be said: there’s a long list of people to be angry with in regards to the lockout that come long before the Samueli’s.
You tell us then, should fans boycott the first week of the season? Am I dead wrong about the Samueli’s, or owners in general? And what is to be said about the players in all of this? Let us know by sharing your comments below.