Last week’s news that hockey will resume – albeit in a season-shortened fashion – was surely good news for hockey fans and lots of people who worked for the Carolina Hurricanes and PNC Arena.
But they aren’t the only ones who will benefit from the sport’s return.
Dozens of businesses will likely see their revenues increase as the players return to the ice.
Restaurants that fill with hockey fans before or after a game should expect to see the crowds return, finally. Sporting goods stores that sell Canes jerseys, sweatshirts, pucks and just about anything else on which the Carolina Hurricanes logo can be reprinted, should also see a renewed interest among shoppers for buying that kind of thing.
More than anything, recent labor disputes in professional sports should remind us that, no matter how much we think everyone’s involved because of their love of the game, professional sports is very much a business. Even referees and umpires stand up at times and refuse to work until labor concessions are made. Players are commodities to be gotten rid of when their productivity declines or traded away for something more valuable when their value warrants it.
Revenue streams in for teams from a great many places, from ticket sales and licensing agreements to radio and television contracts.
If you didn’t notice, just about everyone of the recent college football bowl games was on cable television in December and January. Spectators sitting at home even spend money just to watch those games from their living room sofa.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said in a recent television interview that the regular season was the time when a player earns his paycheck. The postseason is a time for legacy building, he said.
The Hurricanes, I’m sure, hope they can start to rebuild their legacy this year, six years removed from their Stanley Cup run that produced a number of players with a grand legacy in Hurricanes lore.
But first they had to get on the ice. That involved settling a dispute between the players and the owners over, essentially, how much of the revenue pie players would get and how much the owners could keep.
We often hear, in such labor disputes, that it’s a battle of millionaires versus billionaires and for those who’s income doesn’t even reach six figures, it may seem hard to understand the need to quibble over such tripe.
Of course, hockey players know their careers will be relatively short. A teacher can spend 30 years in a classroom. A hockey player may spend 10 years on the ice, so there’s a sense they need to make as much money as they can before they have to return to a normal day in an office somewhere once the game has passed them by.
Then, there’s NASCAR. Though the sport has been diluted somewhat in recent years as it tries to expand beyond its traditional market, NASCAR has never really had to deal with labor issues. Maybe that’s a function of its southern, anti-labor roots. But it’s also attributable to the fact that the athletes - the racers - don’t earn salaries. They get paid what they win. The best race car drivers make more money not because their agents won them larger contracts, but because they won more races or finished high in the field more consistently.
So the sound of slapshots will soon be heard again in PNC Arena and fans will scream and shout for their team.
But in some back room somewhere, business people are busy getting ready for the next game of brinksmanship off the ice.