With the NHL owners meetings scheduled for next month in Pebble Beach (and why is it never in Iqaluit, Nunavut, I ask), one of the topics will be conference realignment, which barely concerns you, since the Sharks are about as west as it gets and ain't getting any westier.
But it is reasonable to assume that next years CBA negotiations will come up as a topic as well, and there the Sharks will be in the middle of it, and heres how.
The people at Forbes Magazine, who apparently have copyrighted the concept of The List, have just issued its list of National Hockey League billionaires, doubtless in anticipation of the upcoming collective bargaining negotiations with the NHL Players Association.
The 10 they listed, though, omitted two, including one that could buy Nos. 2 through 10. And because the upcoming CBA fight is not just about owner vs. player but owner vs. owner, this is fairly vital stuff. Because the true throw weight of owner power is not market size, but money that can be brought to bear to an argument.
The fight will be not just over reducing the players share of HRI (hockey related income) but over closing all the loopholes in a system that is a hard cap with plenty of holes in it.
And the reason why it should matter to you is because the third name on the list that should be, rather than the one that is, is the biggest player in the Sharks.
And no, we dont mean Kevin Compton, the front man. We mean Hasso Plattner, the retired 67-year-old German software magnate who is worth, by Forbes latest valuation, 6.9 billion. He has a serious piece of the action, but like anyone with that kind of jack, he can speak up when he wants and be confident that the only other noise in the room will be the air conditioner.
But the other omitted billionaire, Canadian David Thomson, who just bought and brought the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg, beats em all, with a net worth of 23 billion. And when he sits down to make the case for the semi-disenfranchised 22 teams, he will be heard.
Of the men on the list, only Ilitch and Jacobs can be considered part of the sports traditional power base -- with Toronto, Philadelphia, Montreal, Chicago, Vancouver and Washington. Burkle could be, though he has Mario Lemieux for the nuts and bolts work.
But the Sharks, who have been get-along-go-long types unwilling to buck the status quo, likely intend to be dung disturbers when the next rich-on-rich crime is discussed, and even if Plattner wont be in the room when the issues are hassled out, his wallet will be.
And lets be frank here -- the room is defined only partly by who shows up. It is defined far more clearly by who can buy whom.
The NBA has been contentious because the richest owners are outnumbered by the hardliners, and the hardliners want more than just an amicable agreement. They want the players under their thumbs again, or as much as they can in a multi-billion industry. This is not about money but about the more nebulous but more important matter of control.
In the NHL, its about changing the balance of power. The players union was dealt a two-hander across the wrist in 2004, but the economy has been kinder to the league because of the increased strength of the Canadian dollar. And with the money rising, some of the teams with thinner margins have been taking more of a squeezing while the big-money clubs dance cheerfully around the leagues hard cap.
Thus, the presence of Thomson, Anschutz and Plattner becomes compelling -- as long as the rest of the franchises adhere to their stance that the system has to change. This becomes a matter of having an important majority whip to keep the membership in line, something the owners never before thought was important because they routinely acquiesced to the powers that were.
How this impacts the negotiations with the players is anyones guess, but without a firm position the owners will be reduced to splitting into disgruntled groups and signing a deal theyll love for about 15 minutes until teams start figuring how to work around it and rendering it useless.
Toward that end, Don Fehr too will be paying close attention to the owners meeting. As the head of the NHLPA, hell want to know if hes dealing with smart people who like the doors open with people coming through them holding fistfuls of cash, or whether hes dealing with the ideologues, greedfaces and dullards who have turned the NBA into the Missouri Valley Conference.
For the moment, though, there are games. But if I were a Sharks fan, Id come to want to know a little more about the second-line veteran Plattner. He looks like the type you dont want to go into a corner with unless you have a helmet, a visor, a mouthguard and a well-buckled chinstrap.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.