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Jets 3rd Anniversary means what?

June 1, 2014, 11:34 AM ET [24 Comments]
Peter Tessier
Winnipeg Jets Blogger •Winnipeg Jets Writer • RSSArchiveCONTACT
The 3rd anniversary in marriage is referred to as the ‘Leather’ anniversary and that is the style or type gift that is to be provided to one another. Leather as a representation or symbol is fitting as Jets have just celebrated their third anniversary yesterday, May 31st.

There were no fireworks and hardly a noise about the day came across the city, one now celebrating the joys of springs after a long, harsh winter. But ‘leather’ it is and if one had to provide the management of the Jets a gift of leather what should it be. More appropriately what should David Thomson and Mark Chipman, the couple who own the Jets, give each other?
For management it should be boots, tough leatherwork boots. As for the owners, we’ll revisit that further down.

After three seasons in Winnipeg the organization that was the Atlanta Thrashers is no closer to the post season than it was in 2011. Cleary there is a lot more work to do for this franchise to make step towards post-season play and financial reward. It’s time to grab the bootstraps and pull them up.

Rather than look at what must or should be done perhaps it’s worth looking at what has been done. Past behaviour is the best predictor of future events as my wife likes say, and more often than not she’s right, as loath as I am to admit it.

What we do know is that the Jets have never been trying to hide anything from the fans about what they are as an organization. Let’s revisit this: a small market team that will depend on drafting and development and operate within the budget realities of their particular market. It’s a proper and astute business philosophy for those investors, (season ticket licence holders and all the sponsors) who support the team. In fact there was a great piece written about business philosophy and risk in regards to the Jets right HERE.

After being directed to this piece by Mike Fraser I had some questions about risk management as it pertains to the Jets. Most are aware my regular job is within the insurance industry, the pioneers of risk management. I like risk, I enjoy understanding it and learning about it so that piece really spoke to me.

So let’s ask a few questions about the past. What was the risk profile on: a 5-year deal for Ondrej Pavelec, allowing a prime asset in Burmistrov to leave the team with no measurable replacement, signing Olli Jokinen to a 2 year 9 million deal, locking up an injury prone yet promising defenseman for 7 years? There are other questions but those are some big ones. It seems at times money is no object for the Jets as they hand out contracts of close to 55 million in two players who may never reach their salary in value while clinging to an aging centre paid like a 2nd line in their prime who struggles to keep up on the third line. Then there is a young, top 10 draft pick who is left in ambiguity due to unknown circumstances but the party line is that the team and player are far apart in contract dollars.

The theme here is money and the Jets organization, like the on-ice performance of the team seems very inconsistent. Almost as if proper risk profiling and alternative solutions and options are not being given the proper weighting. Go read that article about risk if you haven’t, as this kind of talk will make more sense to you.

The Chipman family is not some destitute group, clinging to make payroll like cover costs like the Oilers once had to in their dark days. David Thomson once joked during the lockout that he ‘could buy the entire league’ if he wanted to, and as the 25th richest man in the world with an estimated worth of approximately 25 Billion he could, if those assets were liquid and everyone was selling. Having Thomson as a partner was supposed to guarantee Winnipeg a fighting chance to compete financially in the lop-sided economic world of the NHL, an extreme of have and have-nots.

That’s not the case, at least to date, as 3 years into this relationship of NHL franchise ownership the Jets are no closer to tapping into Thomson’s vast wealth than they were in May of 2011. Speaking with a source close to the Jets front office the cold hard realities of a small market NHL franchise are alive and present for the Jets and their fans. “This team will not buy-out players, it can’t afford to,” said the person. “The budget is internal and matches the market size and revenue”. All you Pavelec haters better come to terms with him real fast.
In fact when pressed for more information about the finances all that was said was, “the Jets don’t really make any money”. Period, dot, the end.

The reality after 3 years of marriage is that David Thomson is not the rich ‘sugar daddy’ to Jets fans many hoped he would be. In some ways the relationship between Chipman and Thomson appears to be similar to that of the Griffiths family and McCaws of the 1990’s Canucks. For anyone who wants to understand that relationship history I’d be happy to tell you about it some time. It’s not what you think it was.

As for the Jets, at least Chipman and Thomson, learning from that un-balanced relationship could be a good experience, but it’s not what Jets fans really want. They want the money, the ability to compete with anyone just like the team should on the ice. It’s an inherent inferiroty complex with Winnipeg that dates back long ago. Once a key city in Canada and gateway to the west it was the biggest urban place between Toronto and Vancouver. Now it’s often an oversight and the only real rival is that of neighbouring Regina. When the city reclaimed it’s ‘right to be in the NHL’ for many fans things were supposed to change, especially with David Thomson on board, yet after three years nothing has changed, on the ice or off.

Winnipeg is still a small market. It still has to operate within it’s geographic economic realities and it has to have fans accept those same realities. Two of the three have happened.
David Thomson is not a part owner of the Winnipeg Jets so the team can indiscriminatle spend money. Although some examples above would suggest that type of spending is happening regardless. He’s here for his own altruistic reasons, a love of hockey and business. It’s not about him.

I conferred with another party who is very close to Mark Chipman, some one who has been involved with TNSE since the very early days and he said, “David is insurance and Pete you of all people know insurance is used for emergencies not as an operational tool”. He’s right.

So when you go back to understanding risk, you inevitably come to insurance- it’s the last step in the risk management process. It’s what you use when all else fails and it usually costs a lot to have and to use, especially at a large-scale corporate level.
The Jets and TNSE are not richer than you think.

As for that 3rd anniversary gift… For Mark I hope you get hand crafted leather strings to keep the not tight on the TNSE expense purse. For David a new finely crafted leather cheque book holder so that perhaps you might just want give it a try.

Other than that after three years it’s business as usual for TNSE, draft and develop, draft and develop.
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