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TUC's friend Steve Ladurantaye over at The Globe And Mail tackled the business of post-season puck in his column, Five Things. Check it out below.


It's spring, and many will be staring at our television sets in the hope a Canadian team will hoist the Stanley Cup. Five Things takes a look at the business of playoff hockey.



Last season's run all the way to the Stanley Cup final helped the Ottawa Senators post a $10.4-million profit, even though they lost in the end to the Anaheim Ducks. Still, the team said it needed to clear at least the second round of the playoffs to generate a profit. A National Hockey League team by most estimates gets as much as $2-million for a home playoff game from ticket sales, merchandise, parking, and concessions. But a team doesn't need to be among the league's elite to reap the benefits of the postseason – under a revenue-sharing program surviving teams must fork over half their playoff cash so it can be redistributed to bottom-feeders.



According to news reports, the Toronto Maple Leafs' habit of missing the playoffs will mean a $10-million hit to the CBC's revenue this year as viewers from southern Ontario switch to baseball. The loss of that revenue has been blamed in some circles for the network's decision to cancel a show called MVP, which was about amorous hockey wives. French-language sports channel RDS is expecting to draw up to 1.2 million viewers for each Canadiens-Bruins game in the first round, up from a regular-season average of 720,000. TSN will have coverage of the first three rounds, and Versus and NBC will once again try and woo U.S. viewers. That audience is never an easy draw – last year NBC switched from overtime in a Senators-Sabres game to pre-race coverage of the Preakness Stakes because ratings were so low.



With American viewers more interested in poker tournaments than hockey, the NHL is hoping a beefed up Internet offering will attract younger fans. The site – loaded with ads from Bud Light, Cisco, Dodge and Verizon Wireless – offers free highlights and behind-the-scenes footage. Next season, teams will be allowed to create their own content and sell ad space to sponsors. The NHL's website is the 30th most popular site in Canada, the country which accounts for 40 per cent of its visitors. Its next highest ranking is in Slovakia, where it is the 187th most popular site. It doesn't fare quite as well in the U.S., where it ranks 410th, according to Web traffic monitor Alexa.com.



The NHL is also hoping to cash in by putting ads on the glass above the boards during U.S. broadcasts of playoff games. People at the game wouldn't be bothered, since the ads will be digitally imposed and visible only to those watching on TV. Advertisers who buy regular spots during games would be offered space on the glass, and if the pilot program is successful it could be rolled out across the league next year. Dollar amounts haven't been determined but a pair of regular ads along the boards can sell for as much as $600,000 a season. The technology is in use at Major League Baseball games, with ads behind home plate.



When the regular season ends, it also means an end to regular paycheques for NHL players. Mind you, they're not playing for pride alone. An elaborate system of shares exists to ensure those who carry their teams deep into the postseason are rewarded. This year, after the Cup winner is determined, $6.5-million will be split among the 16 teams that made the playoffs. While the exact method of distribution hasn't been determined by the NHL Players Association, last year the Ducks were given 25 shares worth $75,000 each, for a total of $1,875,000. It was then left to team management to determine which players should receive how many shares, based on performances. The eight losing teams in the first round each received 200 shares, worth $5,000 each, to distribute among their players. By contrast, three players – Flyer Daniel Briere, Ranger Scott Gomez and Sabre Thomas Vanek – shared the honour of earning the most in the regular season, at $10-million each.