The crux of the problem comes down to disagreements between the league and the Rangers owners, Madison Square Garden, Inc., over licensing agreements for things like memorabilia, merchandise, and the team's website. The NHL is trying to copy the successful template of the MLB in seizing control of all its team's websites and merchandise so that they can pool the money more effectively.
The Rangers want to keep all this money for themselves, especially because they are in an extremely lucrative market. This whole ordeal started when the Rangers first sued the NHL in November so that they could keep the rights to their website, which sells much of its merchandise. A judge ruled in favor of the NHL, saying the league was within it rights to seize the website. The NHL responded by suing the Rangers yesterday, and threatening to kick out its owners via a three-quarters majority vote by the rest of the owners of the league. It also said the league's bylaws prohibit a team from suing the league, making November's proceedings illegal — hence wanting to throw the owners out altogether.
Clearly it's complicated and this could get ugly considering MSG's principal owner is James Dolan. Yeah the same James Dolan who employed Isiah Thomas for about two years too long. The same James Dolan who is willing to go to court even if it's pretty obvious his most famous and ridiculed employee definitely sexual harassed another employee. I'm not sure why the league is doing this so publicly, though, because having a successful and happy New York City team is absolutely essential for the league's continued surge after the post-lockout malaise.
Jimmy D and Isiah
In the NY Sun, today, Kevin Greenstein, has a similar take:
Reality is what it is, and it's difficult to see how the concerns of the Rangers can possibly supersede the NHL's in this debate over Web site control.
That all said, it's even more difficult to see how the NHL would benefit in any way from taking punitive action against the owners of the Rangers. Madison Square Garden is the NHL's most high-profile venue, and the Rangers are arguably its most important franchise: Forcing a sale and relocation — the team's owners also own the building in which they play — hardly seems like a desirable result.
The sooner the sides work together to reach a mutually beneficial solution, the better. After a lockout wiped out the 2004-05 season, the NHL has done a fine job of getting back on track. For it to lose any of that precious momentum by engaging in an ill-advised donnybrook with the Rangers would be an inexcusable mistake.
This dispute has affected me on a personal level as well. It would seem obvious that I might be conflicted because Graham now works for the NHL — and gets lots of free shit from the NHL, too. The real reason behind my despair — and subsequent blog post — is that what's included in the free shit realm of things. Specifically, I'm talking about Graham's ability to apply for tickets to any concert at Madison Square Garden, whether said concert is sold out or not, because the NHL and MSG used to be buddies.
Well, this coming Tuesday and Wednesday, the mighty Pearl Jam (Roche reference) will be performing at MSG. As many know, Pearl Jam is one of my all time favorite bands and I have never, ever seen them live in concert Of course, I realized these shows were going to take place about a week ago, which is about two months too late to actually get tickets. Both shows are sold out already. But last weekend I realized I might have a loophole with Graham and his NHL, MSG connection. Now that this story about the lawsuit broke, though, I'm not really counting on those tickets coming through.
To solve this predicament, I suggest something so ridiculous, so absurd that it might just make sense. What if we were to put Gary Bettman, James Dolan, Eddie Vedder in an eliminations chamber, which looks a little something like this:
Obviously my idea involved pro wrestling
They would then fight in a no holds barred submission match. Bettman and Dolan are both pretty small dude, but I'm guessing they are feisty fellas considering they've made it all the way up the corporate ladder, so to speak. But I would still put my money on Vedder, because everyone knows he would just rampage at the prospect of striking a blow against corporate America. Then I could get my tickets! Maybe we could throw Kimbo Slice in there to spice up the ratings a little bit. Not sure how good he is at submissions, but we'll make it work.