Antitrust


New York Rangers vs. NHL

So I’ve been meaning to write about this silly ongoing saga between the New York Rangers and the National Hockey League. I finally got around to it this morning and I have a feeling this isn’t going to be a one and done issue, so I have started a series for it, in anticipation for future posts being devoted to the issue.

It has been centered around who actually owns the rights to the team’s website and how to run its promotions. The NHL is considering to kick the owners of the New York Rangers out of the NHL or force them the owners to sell their team as punishment for accusing the league and its officials of violating antitrust laws. Madison Square Garden (the owners of the Rangers) sued the NHL last fall saying that it violated antitrust laws by monopolizing control of team promotions. A judge ruled this past November that the league was within its rights to seize control of the team’s website.

This all seems much ado over nothing as the 29 teams in the league do not seem to have a problem having over access to the NHL to control promotions but the Rangers seem to be making a big deal. On one hand, NHL should have the rights to control their website considering they run the league but I think threating to kick a team out of the league is a little excessive. As the MSG spokesman said, “The NHL shouldn’t be afraid of the judicial system. We will pursue our case vigorously and will not be intimidated by the NHL’s bullying tactics.”

If the NHL is willing to kick a team out of the league for not listening, is it because they don’t think they have as solid of a case as they are leading us to believe or are they afraid there is a possibility that the law might rule in favor of the New York Rangers.

MSG first went to the courts just as the league was preparing to fine the organization US$100,000 per day if the company did not give the hockey league complete control over the Rangers’ website and other promotions.

Madison Square Garden had accused the hockey league of having “veered into unlawful behavior” by seeking to control the licensing of teams for all commercial purposes and to stop teams from marketing apparel, merchandise and memorabilia.

I wonder if this is the NHL’s way of generating hockey interest in the tri-state area. Even though hockey ratings have steadily increased across the hockey, New York has been one of the most lagging markets in terms of television viewership and certainly with the owners of Cablevision at the head of this problem – that might not bode well for the games being broadcasted in this area.

Maybe it is time for the NHL in this New York region to wake up and make their voice heard on the issue for or against either side. Although it is bound to make very little to no difference in the overall outcome of the case, I think it time the fans stopped being dormant and woke up a little bit. Spark a little life into the team and the league in the off season.

Personally I wouldn’t mind the MSG being removed as owners of the Rangers and there have been interesting rumors that there is an expansion team in Manhattan waiting to jump into the league if given the opportunity. There is a small logistical problem of where they would play but I am sure the rest of the league owners wouldn’t mind kicking the Rangers out, splitting the massive expansion fee from an owner in Manhattan and just split it amongst themselves. But maybe I’m getting a little bit ahead of myself. There are still plenty of hoops for the NHL to jump through before that could happen and one ruling from the courts could change everything.