The NFL Lockout, NBA & the NHL: An Opportunity For Hockey To Step Up?

Editor's Note: This story was written by DBD reader Russell Davis. He's written a few FanPosts over the past few weeks and we wanted to highlight a very good and timely article on how the labor unrest in other leagues affects the NHL and the Dallas Stars. Enjoy.

Opportunity Knocks 

Tuesday will mark the eighth day of talks monitored by a federal moderator between the NFL owners and the NFL Players Association as they try to hash out their new collective bargaining agreement, the old one of which is set to expire March 3rd. It is speculated that immediately after the expiration, the owners will lock out the players. It is also speculated that the union will decertify the CBA in advance of the expiration and take it to court.

Will the owners lock out the players? Will the players strike? Will the revenue indeed be split 50/50?

The end of the 2010-2011 NBA season may be the beginning of an NHL-type lockout with the owners demanding an NHL style hard salary cap. Though most speculate some of the more, let's say admired, teams will be able to get around certain cap numbers with grandfather clauses and will be able to keep their teams intact and not be forced to let walk their top-paid players via free agency (a la Bill Guerin from Dallas, though he was one of the few).

What does that leave? Other than baseball now dipping its October Classic toes into September's water and those few Americans who also share with me a certain romance with the English Premier League, that leaves no winter sports save the true winter sport, hockey.

There is no doubt whatsoever what the news will be from now until the NFL deadlock is resolved and even CBA talks concerning the NBA will garner more attention that would a Columbus-Florida game. But come weekday nights and weekends and even the coveted Monday night, the only sport on TV will be hockey.

Much more after the jump...

Will the NHL Play Their Cards Right?

This is something undoubtedly the NHL are attempting to resolve right this second if they have any business sense within them. This is their chance to put on the forefront of the casual fan's mind their local hockey teams and the NHL's national faces and favorites.

Might this mean yet another onslaught of Alex Ovechkin's sloped brow and exuberant gap-toothed smile or Sidney Crosby's fresh face and painted-on prepubescent mustache? Most definitely. And it will all go according to whatever plan NBC, ESPN and/or Versus can come up with and offer Gary Bettman and company.

Imagine a plan, however, fraught with hedges and backdoors and limited years because should either of the more popular sports resolve their labor issues, you can be sure that hockey will take a back seat once again. Bettman and company need to realize the prime position they are in, however, and may never be again; they can actually bargain with networks for a change instead of taking whatever meager leavings someone else decides. The NHL might at last be able to say, we'll just take our sport to another network!

Then again, World Championship Poker might make another comeback on ESPN and they have the ratings numbers to prove it.

Cool Story, Bro!

But what does that have to do with the Dallas Stars? I think Stars fans would look at the entire picture as I did and find in this some hope for resolving the ownership issue here in Dallas.

Imagine being the owner of a team in a top five major media market of the only sport playing in America.

Until the NHL decides to play its season from July through February (think about it) or January through September to directly compete with only baseball for half or most of the baseball season, right now may be the only opportunity to have everything and not have to be Jerry Jones to get it.

Is it too much to expect some potential buyer out there might see the same thing? It may indeed be too much.

The Gambler

Daniel Kaplan is a writer for Sport Business Journal and is the author of an exceptional article written in August of 2010 on the sale of the Texas Rangers; Tom Hicks' other former Dallas sports franchise. In it he details the $70 million gamble Sal Galatioto and his group, Galatioto Sports Partners, took in blocking the original $315 million winning bid made by Chuck Greenberg and the popular Nolan Ryan for the franchise.

If this sounds familiar, it's because it caused quite a stir here in Dallas and the sports world. Here we were all set to hear about the new owners who'd toured the facilities, met the players, shook the hands and out of nowhere comes Mark Cuban and his deep pockets to up the ante.

Galatioto in Kaplan's article admits, "I love taking huge risks to enrich them," he said speaking of the other lenders in the deal. Galatioto was willing to suffer litigation from the same people over $70 million. All told, $340 million went to the lenders.

Why is this important? As some may know and what Kaplan details in his article is the entire $525 million loan on which Hicks defaulted was up around, with interest, about $600 million last August and for the sale of the Stars, Galatioto is the investment banker.

$600 million less $340 million leaves quite the large red mark.

Does Sal Galatioto expect to make up the entire potentially $300 million with the sale of the Stars? We know Hicks has tried in the past to sell the Stars for about the same amount. Kaplan says that Galatioto is likely to lose millions on the sale of the Stars and mentions specifically that in sworn court testimony Sal hopes to get around $140 million for the Stars.

With the mired purchase of the Phoenix Coyotes projected to be around $170 million and the $189 million sale of the Buffalo Sabres it might be pretty safe to assume that the Stanley Cup winning Stars in the fifth largest media market in the U.S. might be worth more than $140 million.

I had the pleasure of a brief interview with Daniel Kaplan and I asked him what, if any, comment he might have on any potential sale of the Dallas Stars. He admitted that though he'd not been watching very closely his, "sense is it going very slowly and the market is depressed for hockey teams in the South and Southwest right now."

What about the potential exclusivity of the sport on television sweetening the pot? "Labor disturbances are short term," he said, "You don't buy a team because another league might lockout and you might have a few games whose ratings are up a bit."

So what exactly is depressing the hockey market? Daniel answered simply, "Just not a great market for hockey in the South."

I know your reaction and it's the same bristling as any Stars, Lightning and Hurricanes fan would have as well as Nashville and Florida. Some Anaheim fans may have something to say about it, too.

However, when you look around and see the difficulty there seems to be with selling this team, and when looking at the financial players, the price of small market teams, is it possible the Stars are too valuable to sell?

Or maybe Daniel is putting simply what we and possibly Sal Galatioto and the lenders don't want to hear.

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