In the 1979 edition of the Hockey News Yearbook, Norm MacLean signs an article entitled Want to Own Your Own Hockey Team? Better Be Prepared. It's High Finances And The Profits Are Small Whether It's The NHL Or The WHA. Or, if you prefer the short version: Loom & Gloom - Salaries Must Come Down!.
The feature starts by highlighting financial issues with the NY Islanders following a string of events that included loaning money to the New Jersey Nets basketball team, losing a lawsuit initiated by Cablevision, and lost revenues after an early playoff exit. The article then broadens into the general financial situation of NHL teams. The average salary of NHLers was $US 92,000, compared to $US 42,000, before the arrival of the WHA seven years earlier (equivalent to 2007 salaries of about $263,000 and 208,000, respectively, according to www.measuringworth.com).
While different than most other industries in pretty much all respects, the sport-industry is no different than others when it comes to ownership talking about salaries. Loom and gloom news about the company and industry.
"Salaries have dropped a bit, but they must come down if the weaker franchises are to stabilized," says former NHL President Clarence Campbell in the 1979 article. "Player salaries must come down - and long multi-year guaranteed contracts have to become few and far between."
"The other owners in the NHL don't help their partners who are in trouble," said Jack Vickers, owners of the Colorado Rockies that were subsequently moved to New Jersey, "Football is better organized than hockey. It may be true the owners had an advantage over the players at one time, but that is long gone. If salaries don't come down, along with other overhead factors such as arena rental, then we may see an eventual shrinkage of the hockey map in the United States."Thirty years later, there are 12 more NHL teams in the United States and the average salary is estimated at $US 2,215,000, more than 8 times more that 30 years ago in today's value. Shrinkage?