Sep 122004
 
Authors: Stephanie Lindberg

Ah, hockey season. It brings a refreshing chill, but that big

sheet of ice, in my mind’s eye, is melting.

The image of the zamboni is fading as Sept. 15 nears. The

likelihood of a NHL season is on par with the likelihood of Pete

Rose getting into the MLB Hall of Fame any time soon.

At midnight on Sept. 15, the current Collective Bargaining

Agreement will expire. The 2004-05 NHL season will likely expire

with it if no agreement is formed in the next two days.

I honestly can’t decide which side, the NHL or the Players’

Union, is being more bull-headed, but lately I’m siding with the

NHL. Both sides might make it all out to be about what is fair to

the players and the owners, but what it boils down to is money.

The players want more. The owners want to be able to pay the

bills while not having to minimize their teams’ productivity by

having to spend a fortune on two or three superstars and filling

out the rest of the roster with average players.

The players don’t want a salary cap because it would minimize

how many houses they could buy in the off-season. The league wants

to make sure all teams are on an equal playing field.

The teams with the funds routinely make the playoffs, while the

small market teams like the Toronto Maple Leaves or the Calgary

Flames have to rely on loyalty to the team to keep their good

players.

The glamour of free agency glitters, enticing small market

players with more money than their team could ever offer them. A

salary cap would limit the effect free agency has on small market

teams.

Teams with the top-10 payrolls have contributed seven of the

last nine Stanley Cup winning teams. Teams in the lower half of the

payroll list, have sent 3-of-18 teams to the Stanley Cup

Finals.

A salary cap would not necessarily make the teams more

competitive, but it sure would help. If I were a hockey player I

would not care if I was getting a minimum salary if my team won the

Stanley Cup. After all, it would probably be plenty of money to

live on.

The Players Union seems opposed to this theory. The NHL has

experienced 173 percent increase in revenues, but players’ salaries

have increased 261 percent, according to the CBA Web site. The NHL

would like a system that links revenues to salaries. The players

want salaries dictated by how much teams will shell out for their

services, rather than what the team actually has to spend.

NHL players or owners seem to think the fans will understand if

the season is delayed or cancelled because a compromise has not

been reached.

Work stoppage has never been good for professional sports. When

MLB had a season stoppage in 1994, they were in better financial

status than the NHL is now, yet they are still recovering from the

strike-shortened season 10 years ago.

I don’t think the fans will understand. They will not see the

two sides working hard to make things right. They will not

understand why players want more money when the majority of players

sign million dollar contracts.

The fans will not understand when preseason rolls around and the

ice is still fresh and free of skate marks.

So far the two sides are not budging. The Union submitted a

proposal on Sept. 9, which could be its final offer, which

according to the players is the best proposal.

It included a five percent salary cut, revenue sharing between

the clubs and a luxury tax system that would impose a tax on player

salaries over a certain threshold. It did not include a salary cap

proposal.

The owners want a salary cap. A salary cap is what the NHL

needs. Though many find it a dirty phrase, a salary cap has worked

for the NFL. Hockey players need to give a little more if they want

to keep their jobs. What the fans will understand if there is no

agreement reached, is that the NHL players and owners only care

about money.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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