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
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 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
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
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
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
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