Most Americans consider the NFL to be the dominant sports league and view the NHL as a fringe organization. Unfortunately for puckheads, this is a pretty accurate assessment as hockey lacks anything close to the national television deal that the NFL enjoys. However, one area where the NHL has it all over the NFL is its financial transparency. Incidents of the past week illustrate my point perfectly...
On Monday, October 19th the Patriots released LB Tully Banta-Cain, the team leader in sacks who was making only $620K on his one-year deal. There was no reason given for the surprise release and all media outlets were dumbfounded by the move and struggled to explain any possible motivation. The following day, Banta-Cain re-signed with the Patriots for more money and more years and the best explanation ESPN could come up with was essentially a best guess and nothing definite. They THINK it was due to the player being signed to a cap-friendly contract type that could not be altered until its conclusion, and thus the release was necessary to get an extension.
The same week, the Bruins lost Marc Savard, their first line center and leading scorer, for 4 to 6 weeks to a broken foot. For a team that was pushing up against the cap, such an injury has major cap implications as replacements must be called up or signed. Curious as to the cap ramification of placing Savard on the LTIR, I took it upon myself to examine their current cap situation and determine just what impact Savard would have upon it going forwards. It took me 3-4 hours of slacking at work to work out the cap situations well enough to come up with the financial impact mentioned in my previous post.
In other words, the media 'insiders' required over 24 hours to analyze the Banta-Cain move and come up with the possible reasoning for it... if an embedded reporter needs that much time, what hope does the average fan have of understanding the complexities of the NFL salary cap? Meanwhile, an average NHL fan was able to determine just what impact a major move would have upon the teams salary cap after just 3-4 hours. It took me, the average fan, 20% less time to learn the ins and outs of the NHL's cap in my spare time than it took for a veteran, knowledgeable reporter to determine the motivation behind one simple NFL move.
In the NFL, only the extremely passionate and intelligent fans have a chance at understanding the intricacies of the financial side of the game. This can definitely be a turn-off for the average fan as FA and trade discussions will always remain incomplete. The NHL fosters their fans interest in organizations and their possibilities by making their financial structure so accessible and simplified. In my mind, that is a major win for the NHL as it will only serve to strengthen an already loyal fanbase.