Just over a year ago, I asked NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman if the League would ever create its own Cap Geek (or, today, General Fanager) site that officially listed the salaries and cap hits of its teams. In fact, I wondered if such a site could create revenue for the NHL and the NHLPA by being subscription-based.
His answer: “I don’t think it’s a resource we need to provide because I’m not sure fans are as focused on what players make as they are about their performance on the ice.”
Now, this has always been false, both demonstrably and logically.
Demonstrably, sites like General Fanager have become indispensable resources for fans, and get crushed under the traffic waves on trade deadline and free-agent frenzy days.
Logically, fans are focused on what players make because the NHL adopted a salary cap 11 years ago that MANDATED that we pay attention to what they make. It affects trade scenarios and team construction and every aspect of player personnel decisions. It’s nonsensical to think that fans aren’t focused on, say, Dan Girardi’s cap hit as they are his performance on the ice.
The topic came up again on Friday at an Economic Club of Canada meeting featuring Bettman and NHLPA chef Donald Fehr. From John Matisz:
I asked Gary Bettman about fan interest in player salaries, the cap. (He famously said he's not sure if fans care.) pic.twitter.com/SQmMGS1HYU
— John Matisz (@MatiszJohn) September 16, 2016
Now, there are some interesting things to glean from this comment, but let’s get the obvious out of the way first:
What a [expletive] move, openly questioning the validity of the sources and reporting of a site like General Fanager or, before it, Cap Geek.
GeneralFanager.com was purchased this week by the Nation Network, a well-backed collection of hockey blogs in Canada. Tom Poraszka, creator of General Fanager, was asked about sourcing:
I’ve done product launches and site launches before. It’s incredibly hard to get people to come to something that they don’t know. But it was easy to see how much people missed CapGeek. The hockey community took to our efforts quickly and people in the industry were quickly willing to support our efforts because they saw the value in it. I still have moments where I’m surprised at the source of a text message, call or email. It’s still very surreal that they have any interest in talking to me. But people in hockey are really great, and I’m very thankful for all the people that have appreciated the work that’s went into the site and pushed it along in any way they can.
It’s not speculation on these sites. It’s a combination of using publish reports from other media and good, solid sourcing; and hard work being poured into building relationships that gain that trust. It’s good enough sourcing for TSN and Sportsnet and Comcast and Yahoo Sports and countless others.
But look at the other part of the comment: “We don’t think we should be the authoritative source on what our clubs are doing with their player contracts. That’s a club decision.”
Last year, NHL COO John Collins told us that there hare been a “back and forth” with the teams regarding the creation of an NHL “Cap Geek” site. One gets the sense, based on Bettman’s comments, that the NHL might have some enthusiasm for creating one while the teams – at least the ones that aren’t already releasing their salary information to the public – are the ones stonewalling here.
So maybe we give Bettman the benefit of the doubt here that the NHL would create a cap site if its member franchises were on board.
At least one year later, he acknowledges the possibility that fans actually have an appetite for it. Baby steps.
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