Friday, October 24th, 2014

An NHLPA Strategy

33

Anyone who thought Gary Bettman and his employers were going to approach this CBA negotiation like a reasonable partner with the players has had hopes dashed with the leak of the opening NHL position in respect of the player percentage, term limits of contracts, the elimination of arbitration and later free agency. Aside from sending a message to the NHLPA that the league intends to play hardball, it is a simply bad joke.

First, there is only one issue that is important: The money. Everything else is a detail, something that shifts the money from one player to another or the cost from one team to another. The only issue that is a dealbreaker, the only issue that will lead to a lockout? The money. The owners have one demand and a wish list they will happily compromise. They will even be flexible on the demand. The aim is 50%, so the opening salvo is 46%. The other unacceptable (to the players) positions are mostly fluff because in the end, the league doesn’t care which players actually get the money. What really matters is who pays and how much the players get collectively. It’s all about the Benjamins. Period.

The issue is about how revenues are defined and how big of a slice the owners get to keep. The NHL says they want the players to take more than 20% less of a revenue pie that is redefined to be smaller. Is there any industry besides sports where the employer brags of a booming business and still insists that employees have to take a pay cut?

As I’ve said before – many times – once the negotiation is reduced to “What percentage of revenue should the players get?”, the owners can’t lose. The players aren’t going to have to take a 30% paycut, but they are going to take a paycut. Furthermore, they will be forced into a paycut in every negotiation for the forseeable future, at least until a significant chunk of the talent starts getting better offers from Europe. If the players can’t win – or expect to be treated fairly under this system – what is their best strategy when the last thing they want is to miss any games?

1) Take the long view and use this negotiation as a springboard to destroy the framework without having to sit out the next two years.

2) Negotiate the best deal possible within this framework. That means conceding a lot of money. The key demand for the players should be the term. Three years would be great, four would be okay and five the absolute maximium.

3) As soon as the ink is dry on the new CBA, decertify. As things stand, the NHLPA cannot do anything but shelter the employer from antitrust rules while facilitating the transfer of money from the players to the teams. Decertifying now doesn’t prevent a work stoppage now because the owners will dismiss it as a bargaining ploy, lock the players out and threaten to spend the next year in court instead of on the ice. If the players decertify after a new deal is signed, it clearly is not a bargaining ploy. It is the end of collective bargaining, the salary cap, the draft and any restrictions on free agency once the CBA expires.

Even three years would give the NHLPA time to recast itself as an organization that administers pensions, the money players get from video games and the like, and represents the players in any legal challenge made by the owners. It gives the NHL plenty of time to reorganize into a league that operates in a free market.

When the union does more to help the employer than it does the worker, it’s time to kill the union.

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Comments

33 Responses to “An NHLPA Strategy”
  1. Tyler says:

    Tom-

    Good as always. Have you considered a twitter account that, even if you didn’t use it otherwise, would shoot out links to your posts? Would be helpful for those of us who get our links that way.

  2. beingbobbyorr says:

    Is there any industry besides sports where the employer brags of a booming business and still insists that employees have to take a pay cut?

    An enterprising NHL player, agent, or player-sympathetic fan should create a mash-up (I think that’s what the kids call it these days) of all the 1993-2012 video/audio clips of Gary bragging about the NHL’s health and growth. Overlayed in one corner would be an animated graph of the player’s % as a function of year, including the dotted-line projection of the current proposal’s %.

    Start by putting it up on YouTube and using Stealth Marketing to spread it around various hockey fan sites (message boards, blogs). In the worst case, Mr. Fehr can have it ‘accidentally’ begin playing on his laptop during negotiations.

  3. DaBruinz says:

    Tom – before posting ideas about what the NHLPA should and shouldn’t do, you should make sure it is legal. They can not decertify for 3 years after signing a new CBA. If they attempted to, they could be held in breach of contract and then they’d really in trouble. And, considering that there are numerous other hockey leagues around the world, the NHLPA would be hard-pressed to say that the NHL is a monopoly. Especially with players leaving and going to Europe every year. So it’s very unlikely that the NHLPA would be able to get the league’s anti-trust exemptions pulled.

    Also, anyone who believes Bettman’s spiel about the health of the league being good is a baffoon. The fact is that, until recently, The Stars were being “run” by the league. The Devils are close to being run by the league. The Coyotes were being run by the league for awhile there. And the Thrashers just got done moving to Winnipeg to restart the Jets franchise. Those are signs that the league health is not all that great. Especially when a team like the Devils is having issues.

    Reality is that the NHL is still viewed as the 3rd or 4th sports league in the US. Even with the advent of NHL Center Ice and HDTV, hockey’s popularity isn’t growing much.

    The reality is that there is only so much money to go around. The players, like in every league, believe that they should get the lion’s share of the money before the owners pay a dime to other bills. The players take for granted the perks that they get. Like access to the top healthcare specialists and healthcare at no cost, like chartered flights, etc. Those things come out of the team’s budget.

    Now, I am not saying it needs to go back to when Alan Eagleson was ripping them off, but going to a salary cap system with contract length limitations the way the NFL has them isn’t a bad idea. A simplification of the free agency rules in the NHL would be nice. Giving the players free agency after 5 years wouldn’t be a bad thing wither.

    • HypocriticalHyperbole says:

      Thank you, nice to see someone with a fair amount of insight for once. Are the owners greedy? Yes. But no more so than the players, agents, and other people involved in the BUSINESS of hockey. As you astutely point out, the league is not exactly swatting away lucrative tv contracts and rich owners, not to mention paying fans and corporate ticket holders in many cities.

      Yet, at some point the entirety of the NHL must be considered more than the value of the sum of its parts. Unless we are to revert to the time of the original 6, (which would result in a significant paycut for hundreds of hockey players worldwide), the foremost pre-occupation of the CBA must be to ensure stability and the continued viability of the league as a whole.

      The big issue that article’s such as Tom’s are missing is that the NHL is ultimately only worth money because the fans are willing to spend on it. Yet, it is the fans that suffer the most. They have no commisioner or fans association bargaining on their behalf. The recent NHL proposal, as ludicrous as its made out to be, has several aspects that I, as a lifelong fan, can appreciate.

      I would like to think that a player I cheer for, pay to come see, buy their jersey etc… will still be playing for my team into their prime. And, at least, if they are not, it is because they are traded or let go; not because some other team that has more money to spend can steal them away. Why should I spend my money if that is the reality? Which is, I feel, what many people have started believing.

      Unfortunately, this will ultimately leave only the large market teams viable, which, if the NHLPA gets its way, with no cap and early free agency, will amount to only a handful of teams. In the age of mass media, this simply is not a possibility as there could be no TV RADIO and other endorsement deals for a league with such a limited fanbase.

      Im not saying that the owners are justified, yet, at the end of the day, their greed has led to an NHL that has exponentially increased both its size and revenue; allowing for more players to make a living off hockey. The WHA failed, the KHL cannot produce close to the same amount of revenue despite their ability to spend whatever they like on players. There is a reason why the NFL, despite its drastically higher revenues, has imposed a hard cap well below the level of what many owners would be willing to spend; because it has an understanding of what the ‘N’ in its name stands for. IT is a national league. It attracts scores of lifeling,even generationally passed down fans because you can be certain that it is only through skill (of the managers, coaches, players etc.) that winners and losers are decided, not fiscal advantage.

      To sum up, sports is about fair play, competitive spirit, pride and honour; it is why players cannot use drugs to get an unfair advantage, cannot have different equipment that gives an unfair advantage etc… ANy solution that will work must recognize this first and most crucial fact: if the league allows money to be used by teams to create an unfair advantage, much of the magic of sports is lost. I am a fan of a big market team, and I will always cheer for my team to win; but, victory is not the same if it is earned unfairly.

      The Harlem Globetrotters are entertaining, but they are not sports, they are a farcical exhibition of athletic skill; which is what BAseball has become and Hockey risks becoming.

      • beingbobbyorr says:

        Yet, it is the fans that suffer the most. They have no commissioner or fans association bargaining on their behalf.

        The fans have something better than a commissioner or fan association: their feet, which they can use to vote for/against the NHL product.

        I would like to think that a player I cheer for, pay to come see, buy their jersey etc… will still be playing for my team into their prime. And, at least, if they are not, it is because they are traded or let go; not because some other team that has more money to spend can steal them away.

        I just saw Gone With The Wind at my local repertory cinema ( http://www.americancinemathequecalendar.com/content/gone-with-the-wind-3 ) . I would like to think that I, too, ought to be able to own some slaves like those Fine Gentlemen Of The Antebellum South(tm), but there’s that pesky strain of morality about respecting the autonomy of others and not treating them as means to my ends, yada, yada, yada. Time to re-examine the logic behind the accepted wisdom of viewing athletes’ being drafted, traded, waived, or unrepairably-injured as virtuous, but leaving of their own volition (via free agency) as contemptible.

        Why should I spend my money if that is the reality?

        Because the value of the hockey game is the spectacle of two teams competing in a (hopefully) entertaining way. Athletes come & go. Some laundry wins this year & some other laundry will win next year. Marry the sport, not the players.

        There is a reason why the NFL . . .

        There are many reasons (which we ought not detour into today) “why the NFL . . .” is what it is. And “what it is” is very different from the other major team sports. But, a greater comprehension of the word “National” is at the bottom of the depth chart of those reasons for football’s dominance of the American sporting culture.

        Let’s also not forget that the NSDAP (National Socialist German Workers’ Party) had a firm grasp on the word “National”, too.

        To sum up, sports is about fair play, competitive spirit, pride and honour

        Perhaps. But what “sport” has to do with the NFL, MLB, NBA, or NHL (which are business enterprises engaged in separating people from their money via the SPECTACLE of sport) is a mystery to me.

        . . . victory is not the same if it is earned unfairly.

        What meaning will victory have if it becomes increasingly due more to randomness (as it must when salary caps & floors become more stringent and/or narrower)?

        • trev says:

          The fans can’t vote with their feet. Each individual fan can, but not The Fans. HH was clearly pointing out that The Fans have no collective ability to influence the negotiations, and you twisted his words to make a lame point. Same with “national.”

      • Sheldon "Oilers Fan 4 Life!!!" says:

        Man I like how you said that! I so want my favorite player to have a shot of being able to retire in that same sweater I love to see him in. National is right!

    • Bill says:

      I find it hard to believe the owners can’t find a way to share 1.4 BILLION dollars after paying the players.

  4. Fauxrumors says:

    DaBruinz: Why is it that its always the players asked to bail out the league? If they want to have franchises in poor locations or are poorly run it should be on the NHL to either share revenue more equitably or relocate/fold those teams
    2) I love the decertification idea. I wonder if what DaBruinz writes that it would be illegal is correct? At this point it seems worth a shot. The NHLPA seems to do very little positively for the players other than the aforementined penion/royalties administartion

    • Tom says:

      I looked it up, and DaBruinz is correct. The NHLPA would have to wait three years. I don’t think it matters though. The point is to decertify when the league can’t pretend it is a bargaining ploy.

      Otherwise, they have to give up too much time off the ice and they won’t do it.

  5. Fehr Time says:

    This is as good a strategy as any, and helps bridge the otherwise painful/chaotic gap between decertification and a better beginning for pro hockey in N.A.

    Anything to bust Bettman Inc. collusion racket of a ‘league’ is good for the players and the fans.

  6. snafu says:

    “When the union does more to help the employer than it does the worker, it’s time to kill the union.”

    I think this is it in a nutshell. The NHL has figured out how to use the union basically to dictate whatever terms they want. It gives them a legal vehicle to take away anything and everything players’ unions have achieved since the Flood days. Furthermore, getting players to accept linkage really was the lynch pin.

    I still think teams would like to get the UFA age up, and anything that allows them to further squeeze the players to whom they have the rights. While collectively they may not care that Shea Weber will take a haircut when teams spend over the 50% share, some teams do care that they have Weber on their roster, for longer than say when he reaches 27 yrs. In fact, watching Weber get his $7.5 MM from an arbitrator only reminded teams that they have a limited amount of protection once it gets to this point. If anything, Shea Weber represents to me the poster child for what the NHL, and more specifically, the hardliners in the league want.

    • Tom says:

      I still think teams would like to get the UFA age up, and anything that allows them to further squeeze the players to whom they have the rights. While collectively they may not care that Shea Weber will take a haircut when teams spend over the 50% share, some teams do care that they have Weber on their roster, for longer than say when he reaches 27 yrs. In fact, watching Weber get his $7.5 MM from an arbitrator only reminded teams that they have a limited amount of protection once it gets to this point. If anything, Shea Weber represents to me the poster child for what the NHL, and more specifically, the hardliners in the league want.

      Raising the UFA age is a move that would change both which players get the most money and which teams pay the most. Same with ELC changes and removal of arbitration rights. While the small markets would definitely benefit from such a move, it is at the expense of the bigger markets. I don’t think any of us know how seriously the league is about it, but I certainly think the league will throw the small markets under the bus for an extra percentage of the revenue.

      No way this is a dealbreaker for the owners.

  7. Darrell says:

    A legitimate decertification is clearly the next big labour event in pro sports. The NBA and NFL basically proved that the Owners can easily roll back the % of revenue that the players get every time there is a new negotiation. This time it was to approximately 50% of revenue, but the next time is 45%, etc.

    So clearly, at some point in the future the players will need to decertify, and they will need to do so before the negotiation starts (for the reasons Tom outlines).

    As for the rest, I agree with Tom almost 100%. The other items are largely irrelevant to the big picture, and as presented, are clearly bad for younger players. However, I agree with the owners on Arbitration, and I agree with the thought process that teams need rewards for player developement, so what would the PA say to the following:

    4 year entry level
    no arbitration
    10 year or 30 years old UFA
    7 year max contracts
    RFA is a right to match only

    This allows teams to control players they develop for 10 seasons, while lowering the RFA discount and making almost all contracts market rate (arbitration is failing with the current setup).

    • Tom says:

      Unload the fixed percentage and the cap, and we are tweaking the 2004 CBA. The players probably would go for that. The NHL could probably get a luxury tax with taxes going to revenue sharing to boot.

      Late free agency helps the small markets more than a cap ever could.

      The only problem is the six years without arbitration. As long as RFA offers actually happened, that might be okay. If, however, teams always match – and I think they would – we’d see too many holdouts among players 23 (or so) and 29.

  8. Richard Ilfeld says:

    The hardest task in sports is to convince the owners (and fans) of the few large market teams that sufficient parity to allow the smaller market teams to win sometimes and compete often is essential for the health of the sport. A players union captured by the stars, and protecting the ability of the few gifted ones to get megabucks, and leave a “bad” situation early, is a part of the problem, not part of the solution. You don’t have to have absolute parity, but you do have to have honest competition.
    For TV money, for example, you have to put on a show that will attract fans across a wide spectrum, not just from the cities of the goliaths.
    An alliance between the players and fans, where the players understand that the fans pay the bills, would help the players understand why relatively long contracts make sense. Most players, I think, would not care about long contracts if their income could be maximized in place.

    Fans have proven they can and will vote with their feet. Even the National Budweiser Football league feels this (blackout rules changed this year). Hockey is the most arena-revenue driven of the major sports..

    If the players gave the fans a proxey seat at the table they’d have a lot more clout.

    • snafu says:

      The Cup winners under the current CBA:

      Carolina
      Anaheim
      Detroit
      Pittsburgh
      Chicago
      Boston
      Los Angeles

      It took Pittsburgh 7 games and some officiating help (;), well and a slew of injuries) to unseat the Wings. Having two generational talents also helped. Anaheim was almost as quickly disassembled as assembled; and Carolina faded into complete irrelevancy after its win. Meanwhile, the big revenue teams (calling them Big Market is a misnomer when Atlanta loses a franchise) have been able to reload and maintain more quickly. Chicago only faced cap issues due to the mishandling of qualifying offers for their RFAs.

      I believe most fans buy into the idea that parity is necessary, but I don’t think this system has actually helped the teams that need help– financially or with roster building. The best players want to go to the strongest markets. Shane Doan doesn’t care about the money as much as he does about owner/franchise stability. Parise’s agent had to provide his client with background on the same stability and revenue issues. Rich Nash’s list of teams to which he’d accept a trade also reads like a Stabilities ‘R Us list.

    • Tom says:

      hardest task in sports is to convince the owners (and fans) of the few large market teams that sufficient parity to allow the smaller market teams to win sometimes and compete often is essential for the health of the sport.

      I think it is very hard to convince owners (and fans) of this because it is not true. European football seems to be healthy enough. Baseball – the bete noire of North American sport – also seems to be pretty healthy, far healthier than hockey. A 30 team league is not essential to the health of the sport.

      Even if I hold my nose and accept the premise, there are surely limits to any largesse dished out. In hockey we have big markets, small markets and zombie markets. The zombies hardly generate any revenues at all. Before revenue sharing and the $10 MM or so teams share from centrally generated revenues, Phoenix produces revenues that are less than $40 MM. And they are not alone. They is a staggering gap between the big markets and the small markets. There is another staggering gap between the small markets and the zombies. The difference between Toronto and the zombies is well beyond staggering.

      These gaps cannot fairly be resolved with a CBA. Why should fans in big markets be forced to pay more for hockey to keep the zombies on life support? Why should the players have to adopt a salary structure that the zombies can afford? Why should the fans have to endure a 4th Gary Bettman work stoppage because there are zombies staggering around?

      Fans have proven they can and will vote with their feet.

      Gary Bettman does not believe this. He thinks he can lock out the players again pretending it is about protecting “small” markets, and gain a whack of money. As long as he markets it properly, the fans will come roaring back in hockey markets. Then the zombies will continue to lurch from crisis to crisis and the big markets will keep winning on and off the ice.

      Rinse and repeat forever.

      • beingbobbyorr says:

        There is a staggering gap between the big markets and the small markets. There is another staggering gap between the small markets and the zombies.

        Unless there is more recent data, I don’t see any significant gaps or “market clusters” in the graph in the following article . . .

        http://www.threehundredeight.com/2010/06/nhl-gate-revenues.html

        I count MTL and TML at the top more as outliers than a separate caste. (I’d prefer to see a scatter-chart with gate revenues on one axis and TV revenues on the other …. all figures pre-sharing, of course.)

        Why should fans in big markets be forced to pay more for hockey to keep the zombies on life support?

        Variety of opponents. It’s a matter of debate how big a league needs to be to meet that goal (how did fans of the original 6 avoid getting bored shitless?) vs. avoiding the other extreme of too many teams/players to keep track of (know the opponent well enough to hate).

        Why should the players have to adopt a salary structure that the zombies can afford?

        Jobs. Too many Darren McCarty’s and not enough Teemu Selanne’s (today’s promising youngster, star or not, knows that a 4th-line job in Phoenix or Long Island may someday be in their future).

        • Tom says:

          Variety of opponents. It’s a matter of debate how big a league needs to be to meet that goal (how did fans of the original 6 avoid getting bored shitless?) vs. avoiding the other extreme of too many teams/players to keep track of (know the opponent well enough to hate).

          I’m going to do a post on most of your comment, BBO, but I can’t let this pass. It was a different world. We might get 20-24 regular season games on TV. Perhaps another dozen in the playoffs. No highlight packages. We got most of our hockey news from the newspaper.

          HNiC was a very big deal. The program alternated games from Montreal and Toronto. We’d average 1 game a month from each opponent, although most of us would have been pleased to see Chicago and Bobby Hull as the opponent every week. But Detroit with Howe and Delvechio wasn’t bad at all. Early in the decade the Bruins sucked so they weren’t that much fun, but then a kid named Orr came along. The Rangers were also pretty bad for most of the sixties, but they did have lots of good young players.

          It was fun – sometimes less is more, I guess. I love the game but I get tired of the ocean of noise and the blizzard of highlights. Its hard to pretend any of it has any meaning. A game on TV was an event and not just a blip among 1,229 other blips.

          It was miles from boring.

      • James Mirtle says:

        Baseball, btw, shares 30 per cent of local revenues I believe. NHL is about 6 per cent of owners’ share as far as I can tell.

  9. Tach says:

    Tom,

    Do you really see de-certification and anti-trust suit as a viable long term solution for the players? I can’t say I have read all the legal briefing and decisions from the NFL showdown, I got the impression that the PA’s chances were slim. And that was for the bohemoth that is the NFL, without any legitimate cross border issues. What do you do with hockey where they have a better shot of arguing the market is a broader entertainment market and the cross-border issues come into play?

    Is there no possibility that this group of pretty wealthy and some relatively intelligent individuals, with a coterie of bright and capable agents and assorted other advisors, could start up a league of their own? I get that the arena issues would cause some initial grief, and it would take time to get revenues up to a point to match what the NHL has. But an ownership share for the top 50 or 100 players in the league long term – that might equal out to what they could make in the NHL if the ownership keeps cranking down their share every 3-5 years.

    Short of breaking the monopoly with something like this, I think your long-term outlook for the players is spot on. Isn’t this what the WHA basically did for the players in the mid to late 1970s?

    • Tom says:

      Do you really see de-certification and anti-trust suit as a viable long term solution for the players? I can’t say I have read all the legal briefing and decisions from the NFL showdown, I got the impression that the PA’s chances were slim. And that was for the bohemoth that is the NFL, without any legitimate cross border issues. What do you do with hockey where they have a better shot of arguing the market is a broader entertainment market and the cross-border issues come into play?

      I think a rival league is the non-starter. The league controls the viable rinks, for the most part.

      The law seems to me to be pretty clear. Once the CBA is gone and labour law, anti-trust will apply. In some ways it will be best if the result is a slow transition as the courts deal with the issues one at a time. A draft pick will challenge the draft. An RFA will challenge the restricted part of the rules.

      I’m far from expert in anti-trust law, but I can’t believe that the courts will allow a group of employers to conspire to hold down wages. I’d like to see the courts intervene to protect the consumer, too. Why should the league be able to keep more teams out of Toronto or Vancouver? That hurts the consumer.

      I have no doubt that the players will be better off. Unions do a great job of protecting the interests of semi-skilled and unskilled workers, but individuals with unique skills? What do they get out of collective bargaining when the result is less money? I think fans would be better off, too.

      The problem for everyone is getting from here to there. The players can’t afford a protracted fight.

  10. FastOil says:

    Advantage has to go toward owners for the league to find long term stability. They take all of the financial risk and deserve a larger share and a reasonable rate of return on very substantial investments. They deserve to have significant control over the assets they pay for, and pay to develop. It is very difficult to run large businesses like teams successfully over time, as we see in the relatively small number that actually seem to do it. In the way of the world, whoever writes the cheques calls the shots, right? Unless your the fan.

    If players want more of the action they should move toward going into ownership positions and taking risk. To build the fan base, teams shouldn’t be under constant threat, be it bankruptcy, relocation, inability to compete, or unwillingly losing core players in their prime. How much fun is it being a Preds fan right now?

    • Tom says:

      Advantage has to go toward owners for the league to find long term stability. They take all of the financial risk and deserve a larger share and a reasonable rate of return on very substantial investments.

      Who says they do not get a reasonable return? Who says what is a reasonable share in the absence of a market? They voluntarily make their investment. Usually a substantial part of that investment is money borrowed against the value of the team. As Rod Bryden said when he was trying to hold onto the Ottawa Senators – and Bryden is a financial engineer par excellence – sports teams provide excellent tax shelters that deliver up paper losses and a positive cash flow. Plus, there is the capital gain. Golisano made a killing in Buffalo. Leipold did well in Nashville.

      They deserve to have significant control over the assets they pay for, and pay to develop.

      Not when the assets are people. Why should they have any more control over their employees than any other employer? There is no reason players should not be able to enter into a contract with any team at all. Being able to work wherever you want to work – assuming more than one interested employer – seems to me to be a pretty basic right in a free society.

      That players voluntarily waive that right with a CBA is in itself a very large concession. That concession costs the players a lot of money.

      It is very difficult to run large businesses like teams successfully over time, as we see in the relatively small number that actually seem to do it.

      A hockey team is not a large business but that is neither here nor there. Sports franchises have been enormously successful over time as businesses. The Canucks have not historically done well on the ice, but they have been a hugely successful business for more than 40 years.

      Most sports franchises have been around a long time. This is a great business – passionate consumers, lots of different revenue streams, great tax structures with corporations able to write off the costs of tickets and suites, and politicians willing to divert tax dollars to build ice palaces to generate even more revenue for the billionaire owners.

      In the way of the world, whoever writes the cheques calls the shots, right? Unless your the fan.

      The consumer is supposed to call the shots. Or the taxpayer. Again this is why this is such a great business, having a monopoly over the sale of a popular product in a territory. The consumer – the fan – is exploited to beat the band. By the owner, not the players.

      To build the fan base, teams shouldn’t be under constant threat, be it bankruptcy, relocation, inability to compete, or unwillingly losing core players in their prime. How much fun is it being a Preds fan right now?

      NHL teams love to keep their city under constant threat. See Edmonton. The Oilers generate revenues closer to the top of the league than the bottom, and except for the period when the Canadian dollar fell to ridiculously low levels, they have been a damn good business. What has the team sold to the fan? Constant – and I mean constant – threats. Why? Because a frightened fanbase is an exploitable fanbase.

      In 2011, the Predators sold $23.5 MM worth of tickets with a good team. How do you help a franchise that does not generate any revenues? Why should the Canuck players and fans pay to keep them above water?

  11. laplander says:

    I like restraint of employment as much as I like restraint of trade. After the Management came up with their wish list, the players should try this -
    - No term lengths
    - No cap
    - When the contract ends – unrestricted free agent
    - No draft – a player can sign wherever he wants to
    - In the offseason any player can talk with any management they want to; no colusion rules

    How would you like to graduate from high school and be told that your only choices for places to work is Houston, Texas or Europe? Yes they can make a lot of money but without a contract if I want to leave I can do a job search, pick companies I want to work for and change jobs.

  12. You bring up some really valid points here. Firstly, without a competitive rival league, the players really have no choice but to continuously take a smaller piece of the pie. Luckily for them, league revenues continue to grow steadily meaning salaries will increase over time.

  13. snafu says:

    It would make sense for the big markets to hold your position, but I think of guys like Burke in Toronto, who has always had leanings towards restricting player movement (insofar as team rights and the length of those rights). He didn’t seem to change his tune once he became GM in Toronto vs being a GM in Anaheim. He’s made more noise about offer sheets and the loss of the second contract than any other GM to my knowledge. Rutherford and Leipold are both part of the NHL negotiating committee, and I think their allegiances are still small market.

    That leaves Jacobs. I think he’d be in favor of anything that lets his GM hang on to a particular player as long as possible. I’m just guessing though because I haven’t heard him say much on these topics since the last lockout when he said he didn’t care if current fans like the ‘new’ NHL or not. The goal was to attract new fans so whatever was needed to do that was fine by Jacobs.

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  1. [...] CANUCKS CORNER: Tom Benjamin (who did a magnificent job covering the previous lockout) cuts to the chase regarding the league’s offer, prosposes strategy for the NHLPA in response, and coins the best line I’ve heard yet to describe not only the business of hockey, but of North American professional team sports: “Is there any industry besides sports where the employer brags of a booming business and still insists that employees have to take a pay cut?” [...]



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