Slip of the Lip

I’m fascinated that hockey fans can’t get their heads around how much the players make.  Much of the discontent with the NHLPA and their decision to not take what is being offered seems to be revolve around the dollar figures many of the top players receive for their efforts, and why they don’t take the millions of dollars on offer.  Well, that and the delay to the start of the hockey season.

After the fallout from the comments made by Red Wings vice-president Jim Devellano, you would think there would be a lot more sympathy for the players.

It wasn’t so much the comments that made my hair stand on end (a bit of a feat, considering how bald I am).  That the NHL owners or even just a few executives would look at the players they have under contract as ‘cattle’ doesn’t shock me at all.  These people shell out a ton of cash for near ownership of a person’s life.  It’s amazing they think of the players as people at all.

What stunned me was the amount of the fine that the NHL levied against Devellano.  $250,000.  Chew on that one for a while.  For making comments about how he views the players, and alluding to the owners potential collusion on offer sheets, the NHL took a quarter of a million dollars from Devellano.

Most fans have a hard time relating to the salaries of the players.  They make a ton of money compared to you and I, and we certainly hear a lot more about their money than the owners.  But the NHL just took the price of a nice house from a team vice-president.  $250,000 for one interview.  That’s life changing money for most people.  That’s several years salary for a middle class worker or family.

Yes, players make a ton of cash, and I talked about why in yesterday’s post.  And some of the teams are losing money, no doubt about it.  But it’s obvious some of the executives kicking around the league and the more financially successful teams are doing just fine.

As an aside, I find it highly amusing that a person who has enough money to survive a $250,000 fine is not allowed to speak his mind, in a country where the first amendment allows a person to say whatever they want.  In fact, I would love to see this kind of thing challenged in a court of law.  How is it acceptable to censor a person for comments they make that aren’t harmful to others in a society that protects free speech?

The owners are claiming they are in the poor house.  But they can charge each other half an entry-level contract for saying something stupid.  Something about that doesn’t sit right with me.

CBA Chatter

I want to write about hockey, but I’m out of practice.  And it seems like everything has already been said about the current struggles in the NHL.

Yes, the finer points have been hit.  Greed, millionaires and billionaires, the poor people who won’t be working the gates and concession stands (as though the people who write about them as much as they purport to), and how the fans are screwed, have no voice, must rise up as one, and not be so quick to return to the game.

I don’t think there has been a side of the issue that hasn’t been explored, and nearly every complaint has been lodged about the lockout that has barely started.  Still, I think I should get my side out for a moment.  It could be cathartic.

–  I know it’s hard to look at the players and feel bad for them.  They make a ton of cash compared to the regular, working class person.  I try to think of them of not only being paid for what they do, but also all the time it took to become the elite players they are.  We see the time the players spend on the ice, interspersed with clips of their latest trip to the local burger joint or hospital and think they have it easy.  To me, it’s they years before that which justify their salary.

–  The other thing that justifies their salary is our willingness to pay sky-high prices for the tickets, keeping hockey-related revenue climbing higher and higher.  We are as culpable as anyone.  But if we want our live hockey fix, we have to pony up.  That’s how it is, as ticket prices for anything are based on what the market will bear, and minimum costs factoring in as well.  It’s nothing new.  Hit broadway shows charge a lot more than soon-to-be flops, even if they cost the same amount to produce. The reason is demand.  As we demand our hockey, and willingly shell out larger amounts of cash to sit in the “cheap” seats, those prices will go up.  That’s the gate-reciept business model.

–  And the fans will be back.  There aren’t any real alternatives.  We will be jonesing for hockey when it comes back.  We will show up, buy the concessions, cheer on the team, and still hate how much we pay for it.  The fans aren’t going to make the owners pay.  Even if we don’t like the owners, we love the game.  There is nowhere else to find the best players in the world.  We’ll be back.

–  This is going to seem like an unfair comparison, but stay with me here.  If you went to work tomorrow, and the boss told you that your pay was going to be cut 24%, but you were going to be doing the same job, you’d be pissed, right?  The difference between the players and ourselves is scale.  We can’t fathom losing one million dollars and still getting three million.  It doesn’t seem like a big deal, because we would still be getting a lot of money.  If we were only going to get that kind of money for a few years, you can see how that might change your perspective.  So you agreed to a deal at work, and now it’s getting cut by 24%.  Wouldn’t you fight if you had the chance?

–  The notion that the owners will win no matter what, and the players should give in, is ridiculous.  You don’t back down from a fight just because it seems inevitable.  The players used up their silly gamesmanship like going to the Quebec Labor Board to try and get the lockout nullified.  Now it’s time to dig in, man up, and do the job.  The players caved the last time, mostly because the fight at the time wasn’t a winning battle, and somewhat because the NHLPA executives gave up.  But this is a fight worth fighting.  And yes, even if it costs the season.

–  Do you remember when the US had their credit rating slashed thanks to infighting over raising the debt ceiling?  I think the NHL is wading into similar territory.  How many CBAs in a row need to end in a lockout before confidence in the NHL plummets?  At this point, the CBA is just a window where hockey is played, until the next lockout.

–  Also in the way back machine, remember when hockey fans were poking NBA fans about their lockout?  Yeah, about that….

–  Lyle Richardson said something interesting on The Faceoff Hockey Show.  He said that ownership was incredibly short-sighted and that the NHLPA need to capitalize on this.  He referred to the last CBA, and all the loopholes that were left and exploited by the players.  I think he has a point, but not that broad a point.  The last CBA was an experiment, and probably should have been shorter.  Even with a year to work on it (mostly not working on it, though), accountants and lawyers crunching numbers, and the world thinking that the announced partnership between the players and management was nothing more than the players rolling over and playing dead, the CBA wound up with the players getting a lot more money than previously thought possible.  You aren’t going to nail your first salary cap, or any CBA, for any long stretch of time.  That’s why they get renegotiated after a few years.  I don’t believe it was short-sighted of the owners, just that the numbers need to be reexamined.  Mind you, not in the dramatic fashion rolled out by the owners, but they will always need adjusting.  Markets change, economies change, lots of things change.  The CBA has to change with it.

–  I should write a post on this point, but the owners aren’t all working towards the same goals.  They might all want the players to get less of the take, but do you think the smaller market teams have the same ideas of how revenue sharing should work?  Or contract length?  Or any number of similar issues?  I doubt it.  If you’re losing money, you probably have a different view on how business should work than the people making it hand over fist.


Looks like I did have a few things to say after all.  More later? You bet.  Including going from optimistic about there not being a lockout to the realities of being in the middle of one.