Thursday, February 17, 2005


On December 15, 2004, I wrote what follows below. I consigned the season to posterity at that point and NOTHING changed in the two months since. Yes, the players proved a moral stance meant nothing to the leadership. Yes, the owners finally figured out that you can delete the word linkage, and then call for a cap low enough that it should withstand most if not all of any shortfall the economically-challenged NHL would experience. But, ultimately, the owners made silly mistake after silly mistake and that allowed the bozos in the player's association to back taking nothing of a $49M cap rather than all of a $42M cap. A plague on both their houses.

The season is over and stupidity reigns.

Just reading archives here will tell you who I hold responsible. I still can't believe bleating sheep who repeat the "Free Market" mantra over and over again. Sports Leagues don't operate like other businesses since they don't strive for a monopoly and to drive competitors out of business. They can't, since competition (and seemingly legit competition, at that) is required to sell tickets.

The union won't accept a cap in the same way fat kids eat themselves into an early death because loving parents putting heaping platters of food in front of them and perish the thought of not eating it all. (One of the few changes in the reality in two months)

Unions in the real world negotiate contracts for ALL of their members, not just perqs and minimums and let the members get whatever they can. The real world unions get a percentage of the money that's out there and aportion it accordingly. The only people the NHL union wants restricted and capped are the members not yet in good standing ... the rookies. The union has no problem with a salary cap for SOME members.

How does the old joke go? "Will you sleep with me for a million dollars. YES!! Will you sleep with me for a buck? WHAT DO YOU THINK I AM?!? We've established what you are, we are just haggling over the price." The union just has to decide who and how much cap they are willing to accept.

Did the agreement work the last two years? OF COURSE it did. There was a looming work stoppage. The owners didn't want money spent that wasn't going to be productive. Will the same system work with a six-year contract in place? OF COURSE it won't!! The good behaviour of the past two years was enforced, just as a capped system would enforce it in the future.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have budgeted $60 million for this season. Reduce the payroll by a quarter and the Leafs don't respond by lowering ticket prices and being happy to make even more money than usual. The Leaf management asks themselves who they can get with the $15 million they now have to spend. Jarome Iginla? He goes from being a $7-8 million player, probably with Calgary, to a $12-15 million dollar a year bidding prize between Toronto, Detroit and Philly. They had the money already spoken for, why not spend it? Say good-bye to that 24 per cent cut likety split.

I participate in the Sporting News' Basketball Roto Leagues. I drafted well initially and have used my transactions fairly well to be competitive. I am placed third in one of the leagues with absolutely NO chance of winning. I have limited financial resources. I can spend a certain amount on transactions. The two teams ahead of me have outspent me, at this point in the season, by almost 80-1. They both change their rosters completely every day to ensure they have six active players every night. That's almost fifty transactions a week. I average less than two. It's all I can afford. I am not embarassed by that fact. Thus, I participate out of intellectual curiosity, rather than emotional fervor. I can't win and won't spend money to prove that point.

The NHL allegory is that a New York contract can't be held in comparison to a contract in Minnesota or Calgary. Arbitration allows OTHER teams in far-off places to dictate a team's payroll. Arbitration is unnecessary. If the player doesn't have a contract, let him negotiate one. Until a contract is agreed to, the player doesn't play. Why does the union bleat 'free market,' then make arbitration a motherhood and country issue where somebody not affiliated with a team tells them how much they have to pay for a player?

Most assuredly, the NHL is often run like a circus. Idiots abound. Mistakes of the most basic kind occur. Gary Bettman is not a stupid man. But why not make the management offer come out to 56.6 per cent of revenues. rather than 54? Why not give the union EXACTLY what it asked for, rather than suggest the debate should be what mid-point between the two figures can be the agreement point? And, the dolt that released the memo on Monday is on a par with the dunce in Atlanta that talked about replacement players.

Which brings me to the summation. NHL Owners are well-to-do for a number of reasons. Some earned their money. Some inherited. Some piggy-backed on others' great ideas to build up a bank account good enough to afford an NHL franchise. Expertise in one area does NOT make you an expert in another. It probably helps, but offers no guarantee. The different levels of 'intelligence' and the different agendas (some owners are out to win, regardless of profitability) means the owners DO have to be protected from themselves. They DON'T work for each other, but NEED each other. But in a competitive world, it's easy to overlook the common good and make the one transaction that serves as a dam breaker.

For the good of the sport, the NHL Union must accept a cap, negotiating as good a cap as it can get. To do elsewise means changing the title from R.I.P. NHL 2004-05 to R.I.P. NHL.

And now we know. RIP NHL.