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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Coming Soon: Gary's Spin City

I'm well aware of Herr Bettman's "State of the NHL" speech he made yesterday and there will be much laughter and criticism to be made of it soon enough but let's face it, the Finals come first and I really want to soak in all of his spin-meistering to pick and blow it up to my best.

In the meantime, let me point you to Aaron Portzline's story from the Columbus Dispatch today and let this set the table for what's to come:

At least eight of the NHL's 30 franchises are thought to be suffering significant annual losses.

Phoenix currently is in bankruptcy court. Atlanta, Florida, Nashville, the New York Islanders, St. Louis, Tampa Bay and Columbus are claiming big losses.

Also, owners in Dallas and Montreal are so overwhelmed with personal debt that rumors persist their clubs could be sold.

"No club is in jeopardy," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said yesterday before Game 1 of the Finals. "We are in a recession, and there are a variety of issues affecting businesses and owners.

"It's happening in all sports. We are no stranger in dealing with harsh economic realities."

But of the 24 U.S. clubs, as many as 15 expect to finish the 2008-09 fiscal year with financial losses.

The clouds on the horizon are as black as vulcanized rubber, and they closed in on central Ohio last week.

"The Columbus team is just one of many in the U.S. that are in very difficult financial situations," said Andrew Zimbalist, a sports economics professor at Smith College in Northampton, Mass.

"I can't tell you if (the club's) claim of $80 million in losses the last seven years is entirely accurate or not. But it's certainly credible. It is certainly in line with what you hear and see from other NHL franchises in a similar situation."

Don't worry Herr Bettman, your time is coming.

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