Monday, August 2, 2010

Chicago Blackhawks Decline Arbitration Award for Antti Niemi

The Stanley Cup winners, the Chicago Blackhawks, have demonstrated that common sense is trumped by financial considerations in today's sports world. Capital availability, budgets, salary caps and shareholder pressures are more important than trying to turn a once-in-fifty-years championship into a sports dynasty. This is obviously a very conservative approach to sports management. The Blackhawks are thankful that they won this year, but they are assuming that they are not likely to repeat, so they are being fiscally conservative and hoping for the best.

The salary cap restriction made them release or trade a bunch of players who were central to their phenomenal season, but given the fact that they had already conceded that they could stay under the salary cap with Niemi's arbitration award, their action baffles me. In playoff hockey, a reliable goalie is essential. The Blackhawks are disregarding the adage that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Not only that, but they are turning their backs on a young goalie with many years of future playing potential in favor of a good but older goalie who would be only a temporary solution.

The other Blackhawks news item that throws me is their statement that they lost money this year. They had bigger crowds than ever; they had TV revenues that they didn't have in the past; they had all of the souvenir sales and other benefits of a championship; and they lost money. Next year they will have higher salaries and a low probability of repeating as champions. Will they make more money than this year? I doubt it, but good luck to them.

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