Friday, October 26, 2007


The problem with Planned Economies, Pt. 874,917

They say that when the only tool you have is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail, but forgive me nonetheless for seeing the Reebok uniform problems as something that could have been avoided entirely with more entrepreneurship and less central planning.
According to sources in the B’s dressing room, Reebok has been unable to correct problems with the new jerseys introduced this season across the NHL and will replace them at the company’s expense with new uniforms made of the old materials. (ÞMirtle)

I left this comment on a thread early this month at TB's blog about the Rangers' lawsuit (re: central vs. franchise control of websites etc.):
- The jersey problem is actually a pretty decent illustration of the whole issue. If individual teams were responsible for their own gear (and the attendant marketing deals etc.), this wouldn't have happened. Instead, you'd have had (for example) Reebok cutting a deal with the Penguins on a new Uniform System; Pens players complaining about various elements of the alpha release; Reebok fixing those problems (or abandoning the whole project); and other teams copying the Pens and signing with Reebok once the much-vaunted advantages of the new System became apparent.

I understand the problem here, as it is commonly argued: the Leafs and Flyers could earn a lot more money from "uniform rights" than the small-market Predators and Panthers and Oilers, and it would further exacerbate the revenue difference between the haves and the have-nots. But surely it's worth stopping for a moment to acknowledge what it lost -- surrendered, really -- by centralizing the whole thing.

ONE: It brings uniform innovation to a near-screeching halt. There is a lot less incentive for everybody besides Reebok to develop new & better jerseys, because they won't be able to put them on an NHL team to promote them. There's also less incentive for Reebok to keep pushing to innovate, because all they really have to do is make them good enough that most players stop complaining. (Compare to, say, visors: companies that make helmet visors are constantly trying to improve their product, and building on the strong points of each other's design and technology, to get their plastic onto the faces of as many NHLers as possible.)

And a variety of jersey manufacturers is a marketing opportunity in and of itself. I don't think it's a huge stretch to say that there's plenty of people -- most of whom lie within the NHL's wet-dream demographic -- that might be first turned on to hockey by some team's unique, supercool jersey design.

Come to think of it, didn't Nike just bail out of the hockey business? Do they make uniforms, and use pro teams to promote them? Surely the timing is a coincidence, but...

TWO: The assumption that the small-market teams would get boned if the uniform deal wasn't league-wide and pooled is reasonable, but not necessarily true. It's a fool's game to predict exactly how the market will respond to specific opportunities A/B/C (if I could do it I'd be a better capitalist myself), but try telling me a scenario like the following is unthinkable (all $ figures pulled from my rear end):
Upstart Edmonton company 2010Sweaterz thinks they've designed a great hockey jersey. The Oilers check them out and like them a lot, but they don't want to forsake the $100k/year that Russell pays them to wear Russell gear, and 2010Sweaterz has no cash to match that figure. So 2010Sweaterz, in desperate need of some exposure, makes the Oilers an offer: wear them for a year, and at the end you have the option of buying 25% of our company for a buck. Oilers say, OK deal.

Oiler players love them, word spreads. By February, 2010Sweaterz has deals to fit two more NHL teams the following season, and are talking to others, as well as some junior leagues and clothing distributors. The Oilers exercise their option to buy, and suddenly have $1M/yr (and growing) pouring in from their new jersey business.

Again, that's not a prediction, or even a guess: it's just a scenario that is 100% impossible when the NHL marketing department is telling the Oilers what brand of jersey to wear, and handing out 1/30th of the sponsorship deal in return.
When a man is impressed by the effect that is seen and has not yet learned to discern the effects that are not seen, he indulges in deplorable habits, not only through natural inclination, but deliberately. - Frederic Bastiat

What he said.

[P.S. Anonymous comment of the month at Mirtle's post: "Any truth to the rumour the new uniforms contain lead?"]


+1 to me for the anon comment of the month and +2 to you for dropping a Bastiat reference in a hockey blog.
One could argue that competition from a rival league would make pro hockey better. The WHA (and leading up to its formation, the mere threat of an upstart league) initiated, prompted or experimented with, among other things: expansion beyond the Moribund Six, the first Euro invasion, wide-open hockey, the shootout (killed off after a very brief trial in season 1), and the "underage" draft.
Is there a scenario wherein the NHL, after contracting a half-dozen weak links, could find itself fending off a rival league comprised of teams in those abandoned cities, plus Winnipeg, Quebec, Hamilton/K-W, Seattle, Houston, etc.? Rule No. 1: 4x4 hockey the whole game.

My guess is that the first real competition is going to be a Euro/Russian league that pays young pups millions more Euros to live in nicer places than Pittsburgh with shorter travel schedules and nearby beaches.

The other night, while the Oilers-Avs game was still a few minutes away from starting, I flipped through the channels and started watching 'House' on another channel.

I don't know why, I find that show unsettling. A lot of people feel that there's a bit too much honesty in the writing, and not enough in the characters. Or maybe it's something else, I dunno. Still, I ended up only flipping back to the Oilers during commercial breaks for that hour. My Oiler fandom is slipping away, it's still there a bit, just fading. I mean it's nearly a year since I swore off even putting a dime into the pocket of the EIG. Still, my fandom of the Oilogosphere has never been stronger.

There is a point to this, I mean sure, it seems like a senseless self indulgent ramble (because it is). It is also a segue.

Two questions for Matt:

1. Do you work in the branch office of a large company.

2. Are you frustrated that head office, or 'corporate', are sending you directives that run counter-current to the direction you feel you should be going in your market?

Let me know if I'm wrong, and by how much. And if I'm wrong (likely) let me know. And if anyone breaks into your house next week, but doesn't steal anything. All I can tell you is that it sure as hell wasn't me and Showerhead.

Vic, the answers are No and N/A, I'm self- (or if you prefer, un-) employed. Back when the answer to #1 was Yes though, #2 was a huge Yes as well... I don't think that's unusual.

Vic...honest question...I remember posting that you were formerly a Flames fan...was it management that soured you there as well?


No, I lived abroad for several years and when I came back I moved to Toronto and found I wasn't really a fan of any NHL team. I moved from to Edmonton in '97 just before the upset of Dallas. Wonderful series and a fun team to watch, got season tickets the next year. That's when I became an Oiler fan.

Clearly it's well before your time, but the Flames had solid ownership, management and coaching through the heart of the Battle of Alberta heydays. Pocklington, on the other hand, was starting to seem like a questionable character, as much for his non-Oiler business activities as anything else, though he was adored by the Edmonton sports media. Go back and look at Matheson and Jones articles that relate to Pocklington from that era. Yowza!


I swung and missed, ah well.

I still need you to sign the consent form though. The one allowing me to surgically separate the two halves of Grabia's brain.

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