WINNIPEG – Winnipeg Jets governor Mark Chipman says the new NHL contract should make his team more profitable, but likely not for a year or two.
“It will increase,” he said Thursday of the team’s earning potential.
“I wouldn’t use the word significantly and certainly not in the early stages, that is to say this season and perhaps next, until we are truly at 50-50 and the make-whole (provision) is washed through the system.”
Besides lower than expected revenues for a half season of hockey, and perhaps an expected hangover next season, there are additional costs before a true 50-50 revenue split is achieved.
The make-whole provision is designed to ensure players receive at least most of the current salaries they were promised, said Chipman.
“It’s basically an additional amount of money that is going to be paid outside of the system, that is to say outside the calculation of hockey-related revenue and the players share,” he said.
Winnipeg spent in the bottom half of the league and missed the playoffs last season. But it was still in the black when the books closed as the Jets banner made a triumphant return in 2011-12 to the city it left in 1996.
The new downtown arena is sold out for years to come. Another 8,000 people are paying just to keep their names on a waiting list for season tickets.
But Chipman says the new deal with players puts small-market teams like his in an even better position to compete on a level playing field.
“I’m satisfied that it ought to make our business, particularly in Winnipeg, more viable,” he said.
He says the extra money can be invested in players and facilities.
But what the deal will do for those teams that are deeply in the red remains uncertain and only time will tell, he admitted.
“Like the last agreement, it’s going to take some time for those matters to be determined,” he said.
“I’m satisfied that it has a chance to do that (help the true have-not teams). . .
“I believe we’re very much in a better place and very much in a better position to be in a better place eight years from now.”
He also said he didn’t know whether the deal was good enough to stop some of those teams—Phoenix being the leading contender—from relocating to another city where the market for hockey is stronger.
When Winnipeg landed the former Atlanta Thrashers, it raised hopes in cities like Hamilton and Quebec City that they might be able to grab a sagging sunbelt franchise.
Does the new deal make that less likely?
“I honestly can’t give you an answer to that, I’d have to think that through,” said Chipman, chairman of True North Sports and Entertainment, which owns both the Jets and MTS Centre.
Players continue to arrive in Winnipeg for the start of a compressed training camp Sunday or Monday, with the latest coming from the St. John’s IceCaps, Winnipeg’s AHL farm team.
They include right-winger Spencer Machacek and defenceman Paul Postma, the IceCaps top scorers this season. It likely won’t help St. John’s, which has struggled of late and sits in 13th spot in the 15-team Eastern Conference.
Also for the first time Thursday, players were in full uniform and on the newly decorated ice surface at the MTS Centre for their informal practice. It looked a lot more businesslike than the skates they’ve used to stay in shape during the lockout.
Chipman says he has some unfinished business with goaltender Ondrej Pavelec over his impaired driving conviction in his native Czech Republic last summer.
Pavelec disclosed the charge only to his parents and the Jets were caught off guard when they learned of his conviction after signing him to a new five-year, $19.5-million deal.
Pavelec has already apologized publicly and Chipman says he will be expected to do a little more, although he didn’t go into any detail Thursday.
“Until I have a chance to meet with him face to face, I’d prefer not to discuss what those consequences might be,” he said.