Posts Tagged ‘Europe’

Unless you’ve been living under a rock. the NHL has been locked out. AGAIN! Since I’ve been following the sport from an early age from the 80s, this is now the third lockout of the league. There has been a lot of talk about who is to blame for the lockout, whether it’s the owners/NHL or whether it is the players. In my humble opinion, it takes two to tango and there has to be blame placed on both parties. If the NHL and the NHLPA knew that the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) was coming to its end, why did they not start negotiating about it sooner? There was talk on the likes of TSN that the CBA issue would have been discussed at the annual GM’s meeting in Florida, but alas it was not something that was featured heavily on the agenda.


However, rather than ponder the causes and the colossal failure on getting the season started in the NHL, I wanted to focus on something that has fans anticipating and holding their breath over: “Which NHL players will play in Europe?”


While the KHL has been a big draw, specially to the Russian born NHL players, there are players heading out to Switzerland and other leagues, like the Swedish second tier, Allesvenskan, the Finnish SM-Liiga and so on.


But what is the biggest hold up or, barrier for NHL players on coming over to Europe? The answer can come down to six letters: TTD and ITC



Apart from players’ salaries during the lockout, there is one thing that can often be a barrier to players playing in Europe or other leagues, and that is Temporary Total Disability Insurance. Each locked out NHL player needs to have a TTD-Insurance in case their career comes to an abrupt end during the lockout.  During the last lockout, the cost of the TTD insurance was in the tens of thousands of Euros.


According to TSN, the costs of the TTD insurance can range between $2,500 to $20,000 per month. Basically, the better the player, the higher the cost. Obviously the cost of the insurance depends on the contract wage and the offer that teams/players receive from the insurance companies. It was reported in Savon Sanomat (24/09/2012) that NHL’s top scoring talent, Steven Stamkos, had been offered to SM-Liiga team Porin Assat. Not once but twice, but the team had to turn it down with speculation of Stamkos’ insurance costing the team €40,000 per month. Usually, though, players have been known to contribute towards their own insurances. 


Imagine if a player like Sidney Crosby went to an European league. The cost of his insurance could be astronomical.



Another thing that can hold up any transfer is that NHL players moving to an European league under the IIHF is the International Transfer Card (ITC). The ITC is needed for any player wishing to play in an European league, and as far as I know, all NHL players wishing to play in the IIHF events such as the Olympics or the World Championships need an ITC card. I know from personal experience that the ITC can be a pain as I had to obtain one to play higher than rec hockey.


The ITC cost, for an unlimited card, can be in the region of €1,000/$1,295. Sure it’s not as much as the insurance, but for a piece of paper that doesn’t take more than a few clicks to sort out, it is a lot of money for a team/player to shell out. With the influx of NHL players heading to Europe, the IIHF has struggled a little bit to get everything sorted out and there has been a backlog of transfers that the IIHF has had to shift through.


The other thing that players need to consider is the taxation. For example, if a player signs in the Finnish league and stays in the country for over six months out of the year, he will be taxed in accordance with the Finnish taxation system. I personally would not be at all surprised if we would see an influx of North American players signing in countries where the tax regulations aren’t as strict as they are in some other countries. For the Russian players, I can understand why the KHL is the number one choice. It is a chance to spend a prolonged period in their native, which I can’t fault. I can’t comment on the Russian taxation system and how it all works in the KHL in terms of tax and whether it still is as wild as back in the days when some players picked up their salaries in cash and carried it away in their hockey kit bag.


So there, that’s some insight to take into consideration into when players are looking to sign in Europe. Sure it would be great to have Brad Richards playing in the UK (seriously someone made this claim), but when you think about it with all the factors included, there might be only a handful of teams that can justifiably recruit NHL players on to their rosters.  In addition, considering the fact that some teams in Europe are not turning a profit, so as big as the temptation might be, financially it might not make sense


After speaking to a source working within ESPN about the hockey situation and the broadcast mess, I learnt an interesting fact about the coverage deal for the UK. For understandable reasons I cannot name the source, but the source does work for ESPN and is credible.

It appears that for the UK ESPN America actually bid more for the rights to broadcast NHL than Premier Sports did, but what clinched the deal for Premier Sports was that they promised the NHL and the rights holders that they would be doing more promotional work around the game and that they would make a hard push to get more people interested in the game.

ESPN America was really interested and wanted to carry on showing the NHL in the UK, but as MarkUKLeaf mentioned on his blog: “Commissioner Bettman said to me on the phone that they didn’t want to deal with ESPN America as hockey had to compete with other US sports like baseball and basketball.”

Where I am sure Premier Sports is doing its best to do this, there are people out there who feel disappointed by the coverage so far. There has been numerous calls for half time analysis shows instead of adverts or the interview segments (I’m sorry I forget what it’s called as I automatically change channels for the break). After tweeting Premier Sports about this during their first Hockey Night In Canada broadcast, which I eagerly anticipated with pre-game and the stunning intro videos that CBC is renowned for, I was disappointed to learn that these will not be shown.

The tweet from Premier Sports read: “we are only allowed to take the games at the moment not studio as the rights for that are separate. We are trying for CBC.” Encouraging, but not really ideal. Though please do bear in mind that there was a similar issue with NASN/ESPN America a few years ago where they couldn’t show the CBC feed of the games.

Now here is the real kicker in all of this. According to my source, the deal was in place WEEKS before the games went on air with Premier Sports. So a deal was in place weeks before the season even started and Europe was left in the dark for nearly A MONTH into the season. I can’t help but feel a little bit cheated by the all parties involved. Surely it would’ve been beneficial for both the league and Premier Sports to get off to a better start with the new programme.

I can’t help but feel that the NHL wanted to have the Nordic region deal in place before allowing other media partners to release the fact they carried the sport.

Just a shame that us fans were cheated with this.

The puck drops tomorrow and fans across the world are waiting with bated breath to watch the games. None more than the European NHL fans as the situation over broadcast rights is still up in the air. Fans have been campaigning across social media platforms to raise the issue to NHL and those involved. Even Brent Burns from the San Jose Sharks re-tweeted one of the #NHLTV4Europe tweets last night.


The last few days has seen Puck Daddy put a story together on the issue and even quoted the open letter I put together. I was just trawling twitter and I saw one of my followers Teemu Tammilehto (@tammarii) tweet that there is a TV agreement in place and that Game Centre Live has been blocked.


A thread on HF boards has users in Nordic countries saying that Game Centre Live is blocked and many other users from countries such as Germany are reporting similar problems. It would transpire that there is a broacast agreement in place for the Nordic countries (Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland and Denmark) would have a TV deal in place with Viasat. But reading the comments on HF Boards, it would seem that the decision has enraged many fans (read the thread here:


To me this is an encouraging step, but still a double edged sword situation. In my initial blog and the follow up I said that the NHL needs a TV deal in Europe and a presence online, but with the broadcast agreement now in place, it would appear that the online broadcasting rights are up in the air.



Users who subscribed to Game Centre Live have received the following message:


“Unfortunately, NHL GameCenter Live is no longer available in Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland. The NHL is now being broadcast in your region through Viasat.

A refund has been applied to your account. Please allow 7-10 business days to see this reflected back on your credit card statement.

NHL Web Support”



I’ve been critical of the Game Centre Live route, but don’t get me wrong, the GCL is a great product but with most internet providers failing to deliver the promised speeds, users would have hugely differing experiences with watching games. For me personally GCL would’ve been a painstaking experience, much like watching the World Championships through


However, as Viasat now has rights to broadcast games, there is no indication whether there will be online broadcasts and to what degree. The NHL needs to have both televised and online presence globally to really market the sport. TV will provide fans like me an outlet to watch games and the Internet provides the option of giving fans the option of what games they will watch.


Further to the point, there seems to be some sort of light at the end of the tunnel on getting the debacle sorted out, though there are many more markets that need to be covered and Medge and AMI are running out of time.


Apologies for the rambling nature of the post, but I wanted to get the information up ASAP. I will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as and when they happen.


Let’s hope that we will all be able to watch games in time for the opening face off, whether it is on TV or online. Or who knows, both.

Dear Medge Consulting, AMI Partners and the NHL


I, like many of my peers in Europe are anxiously waiting for the new NHL season to begin. I’ve missed the long sleepless, Friday and Saturday nights that I’ve spent in front of my TV, watching the coolest game on earth. At the time of writing this, there are ten days to go till the puck drops for the 2011-2012 regular season. I would normally write how excited I am of this time of the year, but now I’m nothing but confused, concerned and angry.


However, like you may have guessed the current situation with the NHL broadcasting rights has left myself, and many others confused. I can understand that there are many broadcasters that you are speaking to, but seeing as the season is drawing closer, it is looking less and less likely that we will have the games on TV here in Europe. (I sincerely hope that this is not the case).


I know NHL is trying to push the sport here in Europe, but the current situation is doing little to help the leagues visibility on the ‘old-continent’. There is a huge number of fans that are tuning in to watch the games night in night out and many have subscribed to channels such as ESPN America or equivalent depending on their respective region.


What really annoys me, and I’m sure many of the fans in Europe, is that there seems to be a visible disconnect between the rights holders, the NHL and the fans. As many of us fans have had subscriptions to paid for channels, we have gone and cancelled our subscriptions, because a) the broadcaster cannot comment, b) the NHL is not commenting and c) Medge Consulting/AMI Partners have done little except issued a press release about the acquisition of the rights. How difficult is it to give some sort of guidance on the situation. The few articles I’ve read have Medge saying the “chances of having NHL on the TV in Europe is 100%”, and broadcasters saying that “at the moment I don’t think it is viable.” You can obviously see where the confusion comes from, can’t you.


I know there have been rumours of making the Game Centre Live available to Europe, but I ask you NHL, is this the right way forward? I know that we live in a digital age, where the internet presents countless opportunities. Call me old-school, but I sure like to watch my sports on my TV, in High-Definition without having to rely on internet connectivity.


Further to the point, if you really are looking to push the sport in Europe, please remember that not all countries are developed to the point that they could afford 20Mbps connections at every house. Heck, I’m lucky to get a 1Mbps connection and none of the providers can do much better. Am I to assume that I’m going to have to watch games, from game centre, with grainy image quality and with a connection that cuts out every 5 seconds? Hardly the experience one would want from the game of hockey. What about the price for the Game Centre then? In the past I have paid £10 for ESPN America per month and looking at the Game Centre prices for the USA, it does not look that attractive. Do you really want to start having fans flock to ‘illegal’ streaming links? At the moment it would seem that we have no other option.


Rather ironically, the games in Europe have sold tens of thousands of tickets, but you are losing out on a FAR GREATER audience by not having an agreement in place. I do actually sympathise with ESPN America as they have been backed into a corner and have undoubtedly lost a huge amount of revenue due to the loss of the games as many fans have cancelled their subscriptions to the channel. Surely this situation is not ideal.


Many of the articles I have read about the rights, quote broadcasters saying that the price Medge Consulting and AMI Partners have on the games is so extortionate that it makes little business sense to take on the games. The NHL has said on many occasions that it wants to expand the visibility and the league in the Europe, but I can’t help but wonder that the old adage of ‘money talks and BS walks’ is the true motive behind the sale of the rights.


This really isn’t the way to push a sport further into Europe and keep avid fans in tune with the best sports league in the world. At the moment, even the KHL looks like a more competent league in terms of broadcasting than the NHL does. Whatever the outcome of this mess is, I fear that the NHL has shot itself in the foot BIG TIME for the next five years.


I’d like to think that I’ve highlighted some of the feelings of the fans in Europe regarding the broadcasting rights.




Janne Virtanen