Friday, January 11, 2013

No, The US Federal Government Should NOT Take Over The NHL

Over on the SBNation blog, Battle for California the author Megladon makes the case for the government to take over the National Hockey League. Anyone who believes and supports actual free market economics knows that the state has the reverse midas touch when it comes to running a business, running a sports league wouldn't be much different. I will address several parts of the article;

This kind of action would not be without precedent in U.S. history. In the past, to serve the public interest, the U.S. government has taken over banks, railroads, airport security, and power companies.

Just because the government took over these types of business doesn't mean it's worked well for them. The bank bailout of 2008 has been viewed as a huge failure. One popular phrase coined by those of us who thought the bank bailout was a bad idea was "Privatize the profits while socializing the losses". Amtrak for years has been operation at a loss and are only kept afloat via government subsidies. As for running the power industry, you can ask Sandy hurricane victims how they enjoy having a legalized monopoly being the only ones who control their electricity.

Just think: run properly, by people who actually care about the fans and the product more than short-term profit, the Nationalized Hockey League could actually make a lot of money for the country, in the future. Rather than lining the pockets of plutocrat billionaires, every dime from ticket sales would either go back into making hockey the best it could possibly be or it would be used to pay down the national debt.

This is just silly. If anything a government run sports league would make a great product like the NHL into something much worse. Instead of individual clubs building their teams to compete for a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, you have the potential of winners and losers being picked based on what may be politically popular not on actual athletic ability. With the NHL being 4th in terms of popularity compared to the NFL, MLB and NBA such tainted results does have the potential to turn off casual fans which the league has spent years trying to attract. Losses of fans would result in the tax payer having to subsidize the league even further to keep it afloat.

As for not lining the pockets of billionaires, I can understand the sentiment. There are owners not just in the NHL but also in MLB, NFL and NBA who have no desire to make their teams better, only to pocket the profits from their teams fans. Whos to say that problem would be resolved if the government took over ownership duties? Bad ownership and ownership groups are already more difficult to weed out now a days than in the past via fan boycots.

First, it is important to remember exactly who saved the NHL from this last lockout. It wasn't Wayne Gretzky, or Sidney Crosby, or your fearsome Moose King. It was Scot L. Beckenbaugh, a U.S. federal mediator. Scot is an American. He went to American schools, and his salary is paid by American taxpayers. When the NHL needed a hero, it was an American federal government employee who saved the day. Sure we still lost half the season, but it's thanks to Scot, the government that employs him, and the country that raised him, that we are getting any hockey this year at all.

That's what we do, after all. We're Americans. We may be late to the party, but when we show up we kick ass.

The second reason why it should be the U.S., and not Canada, that runs the NHL is the simple fact that the National Hockey league, as a business, is an American enterprise, not a Canadian one. The vast majority of NHL teams are based in the United States, just as the vast majority of team owners are Americans:
There is no economic or logical basis in this argument other than an appeal to nationalist sentiment. Your average fan cares less where an owner, player, coach is from but only if they produce the results that help their team win. However it should be noted that when the Atlanta Thrashers were moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada the team did turn a profit which is unusual for expansion/relocated teams which typically for the first few years operate at a loss.

In the end Mr. Megladon does not make a very compelling case to prove that a government takeover of the NHL would be a positive for the league and their fans. When in fact there is overwhelming evidence that shows that government takeovers of business never turn out the way they hope for.

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