An Audience With Darth Quinn

by Ryan

So I saw Larry Quinn yesterday.

You have no idea how hard it was not to ask him about his “commitment to winning.” I did remain silent, however, and listened as he talked about the current state of the Collective Bargaining Agreement at Canisius College. (Hey, when it says “open to the Canisius community”, you bet I’m showing up.)

It will be hard for me to ever forget that first glimpse of Quinn in the flesh. When I walked into the presentation room and saw him I got very… cold… like there is no love left in the world. After a few seconds it faded, but I was still weary of his “Force Grip” throughout.

In all seriousness, the speech was very, very interesting. Quinn was open with his opinions on the CBA, as well as the state of the game in general. Some interesting things he had to say:

– “We have a relationship with Rochester which, quite frankly, we are going to change.”

No big surprise, really. Based on this and the other problems the Amerks have had recently, a change in affiliation wouldn’t be a shocking move.

– In general, Quinn isn’t happy with the CBA at all. The cap growth that has happened since the CBA went into affect has not matched up with the majority of the league’s average income. Teams like the Sabres make much less at the gate than other markets, and so bigger market teams are making the money necessary to spend to the cap (as well as pushing that average higher), while the majority would operate at a loss to do so. Quinn said coming into the season they knew they could not spend more than $43 million.

– To fix the CBA, he proposed an elimination of the arbitration system, and a reduction in individual player salary limits. The current CBA allows a player’s salary to be 20% of a team’s total cap. ($10 mill this year) Quinn believes that number should be more like 10%, saying, “No hockey player wouldn’t be satisfied with $6 million a year.” (Well… except the three making max salary now…)

– He also wants to make nets bigger, citing that skaters have a 30% smaller target to shoot on net. (A goofy way to say goalies are bigger now)

– One interesting thing Quinn talked about was the ability for a major sports franchise to survive here. He strongly believes both the Bills and the Sabres can survive in Buffalo, and feels the issue is not making money now, but being a good investment down the road.

He used the Bills as an example. If the Bills are hypothetically making $50 million a year, then Ralph Wilson’s current ownership is successful. But how appealing is it to a prospective owner if a team in Buffalo makes that $50 million, but a team elsewhere can make double that? Buying the Bills for $800 million with the help of financing is a lot more manageable when you can make that investment back in half the time.

This is something I feel most fans don’t consider. These franchises don’t need to be marketable right now, but they need to stay competitive and look attractive for the next ownership group that comes in. Otherwise, they won’t stay around for long.

– The compensation for Vanek’s contract would have been a 1st, two 2nd, and a 3rd round pick, not the four 1st round picks from the old model.

After listening to Quinn talk, I can understand why he takes all the flack he does for his job. He is not a fan, plain and simple. He looks at numbers and makes them work, with no personal bias attached other than doing the job right. He sees Chris Drury as an asset, not a player, and while that is is something we will never be able to do, you have to at least understand his side of things.

Still, Quinn should be recognized for what he has done. Without him HSBC Arena wouldn’t exist, and this team may be somewhere in Seattle. While that grace period of appreciation may be fading, they are the facts.

As weird as it sounds, it was interesting to go into a room and leave your rooting interests at the door. We have been as big a critic of Quinn as any with regards to his disconnect with fans, but after seeing things from his side it’s hard not to sympathize with what he does.

I’m still not buying a “home” white, Larry.