Hockey This Week

Spinning Out of Control | NHL Lockout | By Tony Stabile

November 25, 2012
Hockey This Week

Hockey This Week

Hockey This Week

Spinning Out of Control

I know rich people tend to be out of touch with average working folks, but are the NHL owners and Commissioner really this far out there?

After the NHLPA proposes a deal that in many opinions, bridged the major gap between the two sides, the NHL once again shoved it back in the players faces and said basically “try again”. How can you possibly look fans in the eye, and tell them you are doing everything in your power to get their game back on the ice?

There are some in the media who claim to be impartial, that are out there blasting the PA for not knowing the previous agreement and for “ruining our game”. Just the other day I listened to an interview on NHL XM Radio. After listening to the interviewer bash the players association and calling Steve Fehr Stevie Wonder, he brought up a very good point. He stated that there are just a “few teams” making big money, then 3/4 of the league who either break even or lose big money.

If that is in fact the case, then my question is this…

How with a 24% rollback in salaries, the implementation of the salary cap, and the loss of an entire season, did the owners get such a bad deal?

AND furthermore…..

Would you as the owners allow this man to negotiate your next (and quiet possibly most important) CBA after he made such a “bad” deal the last time???

If so many teams are in such dire straits, why of the last 150 contracts signed by NHL teams, were 21 of them for more than 3 years and a cap hit of over $3.5 million. 14 different teams are responsible for these contracts (remember, these are just the LAST 150 contracts, which starts in the middle of July and extends until just before the lockout started. Sidney Crosby, Zack Parise and Ryan Suter’s deals are not listed since they were signed earlier in the summer.

That list looks like this…

Evander Kane 6 yrs, Kevin Klein 5 yrs, Cam Fowler 5 yrs, Milan Lucic 3 yrs, Shane Doan 4 yrs, Alex Burrows 4 yrs, John Carlson 6 yrs, Kari Lethonen 5 yrs, Tyler Seguin 6 yrs, Brad Marchand 4 yrs, Jordan Eberle 6 yrs, Taylor Hall 7 yrs, Scott Hartnall 6 yrs, Wayne Simmonds 6 yrs, Max Pacioretty 6 yrs, Jeff Skinner 6 yrs, Tobias Enstrom 5 yrs, Jakub Voracek 4 yrs, Shea Weber 14 yrs, Kris Versteeg 4 yrs, and TJ Oshie 5 yrs.

These contracts average annual value varied from $2.9 million (Klein) to $7.8 million (Weber), with 10 of the averaging more than $5 million per season. Seems an awful lot like some owners were trying to sign their players to inflated contracts knowing they were going to get some of that money back eh? Oh, I forgot to mention, of these above mentioned contracts, 7 of them belonged to the Boston Bruins and the Philadelphia Flyers.

If you look at the league, the teams who unquestionably make money are easy to spot, they are the…

New York Rangers
Philadelphia Flyers
Boston Bruins
Detroit Red Wings
Toronto Maple Leafs
Montreal Canadians
Vancouver Canucks

Then there are the teams that draw extremely well and should be making money, those teams are…

Buffalo Sabres
Ottawa Senators
Washington Capitals
San Jose Sharks
Pittsburgh Penguins
Calgary Flames
Chicago Blackhawks
St. Louis Blues
Minnesota Wild
Los Angeles Kings
Winnipeg Jets

That’s 18 teams, but here is a better stat for you, the NHL has 21 teams, who draw to 95% of their home capacity for the SEASON. Also factor in that one of the league’s most financially troubled franchises, the New York Islanders, will be moving into a brand new multi billion dollar facility in the large media market of New York City’s Brooklyn in a few short seasons. This is a league that wants it’s fans (and players for that matter) to believe half of it’s teams are broke and need immediate cutbacks? 427 games have been cancelled so far, including the Winter Classic and now the All Star Game, do you think the NHL is worried about how much the fans are missing the game? Maybe they should be….

In a little independent study i’ve been conducting, the League might want to talk to their season ticket holders, or should I say ex season ticket holders.

I’ve spoken to 10 different people who have held at least a 1/2 season package as recently as last season, have all said they will not spend a DIME of their own money on anything having to do with the NHL this year. 10 for 10, and it wasn’t even close, one person I spoke to told me that even if he received free tickets, he would not go, on principle alone.

Based on my findings, the NHL better be ready to kiss some serious you know what once this thing is finally over.

The big word on campus this weekend seems to be decertification, which if the union decides to go down this road, Gary Bettman’s eyes may pop right out of his head.

Decertification of the NHLPA would mean the NHL, (if they continued the lockout) would be in violation of US labor laws and the players (most likely a big name, the NFL had Tom Brady file it’s main anti-trust lawsuit last spring) would file a lawsuit against the league. What would that do for the players you ask?, well first of all, it would turn the tables on the NHL owners and actually subject them to fines (though that’s not a certainty) of a dollar amount per day…times 3. That may get the attention of the guys across the table. See the NHL has been stating that the NBA and NFL CBA’s were much better deals than what the NHL had in place, what they failed to mention was that both the NFLPA and NBPA both decertified and sued their respective leagues. Both came back to the bargaining table VERY quickly (the NBA hammered out a deal about 10 days after the lawsuit was filed) and brokered a deal. Some would say that the PA should have started taking about decertification after the NHL’s initial offer, as it may have been an early wakeup call to Bettman.

Decertification would be a dangerous road for the players, but it may be the shortcut through the BS to get the NHL back into reality and force them to make a deal with both sides in mind.

I read an article from a senior baseball writer, and he wrote about Donald Fehr, and his tactics. How he keeps his union extremely well informed, and invites players to the bargaining table. Why does he do that?, so the league can’t go to the media or send out “feelers” that the union is keeping things from them. If the NHL still thinks that they can hoodwink the PA, Mr. Bettman should call Bud Selig and ask him about Don Fehr.

Say what you want about Donald Fehr, but MLB and the MLBPA have 17 years of labor peace going, and both the players and MLB owners are making HUGE profits (except for the Wilpon’s). I mean the Dodgers just sold this season for $2 billion, and they weren’t MLB’s most valuable franchise!

In my opinion, and this is just by reading all of the material on this topic and reading all of the players comments, the players are genuinely trying to broker a deal and get back on the ice, the owners are trying to do exactly what they did last time, and strong arm the players into a deal that mostly benefits them. It seems now that from the NHL’s perspective, that making a deal is secondary to crushing Don Fehr and the Union.

Tony Stabile
Hockey This Week

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