Canada had better address its problem, because it can't expect the NHL to do so. "This league always has operated on the principle of grab whatever you can," one hockey executive says. While all teams share equally in the $86 million in national TV contracts (Canada's national television rights bring in $55 million a year for the league) and the $1.1 billion in gross retail licensing sales last year—that's about $3.5 million in TV and $810,000 in licensing royalties per club—the primary revenue source, the gate, is not shared. While the NFL has a 60-40 home-visitor split during the regular season, the NHL is unlikely ever to directly compensate the Winnipegs of the world. "I thought communism died," says Bruin president Harry Sinden. "You won't see it revived in the NHL."
Things can't get much worse for Canada, but things probably won't get much better. Crowds are down, taxpayers might have to build high-income-producing hockey arenas, the Canadian buck can't bench-press Gretzky's stick, and some owners won't help small markets come hell or frozen water. Karl Marx is out. Charles Darwin is in. The 1980 move of the Atlanta Flames to Calgary, a city that bleeds hockey, was an anomaly. In the future any traffic will be headed the other way. The national anthem for the next millennium will be Go Canada.
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