We’ve all got something in our lives in which we place a great deal of existential
weight, but over which we exert virtually no control. Some of us ache over the will
they/won’t they of T.V. dramas, some of us play the stock market, hell, some of us
even vote. For me, I’m a Habs fan, I watch hockey.
Possibly ever-so-slightly more than watch it. When I’m not plugging away for
Swagger Magazine, I’m the Senior writer for the champagne of hockey magazines,
Pucklife (and have been for the past 3 years). That means with some regularity I’m
holding a microphone near the mouth of 24 year old millionaires and spinning their
eager (if clichéd and generic) answers to my eager (if clichéd and generic) questions
into solid gold. But as far as journalistic integrity goes, I’m mostly just a fan with a
press pass. But I’m a fan in a whole lot of turmoil as of the last little while.
NHL Labour Relations Nut-Shelled:
The crisis is all about league parity amongst the owners. There are a handful of
teams bleeding money (The Panthers, the Islanders and the Coyotes) and dragging
down the teams either breaking even or kicking ass (The Maple Leafs, the Rangers,
Les Canadiens). The teams at the top are not keen to pay more to keep the teams at
the bottom solvent, they already pay a token amount and were forced into a salary
cap that takes away their natural advantage to outspend the competition. But, in a
league that made in excess of 3 billion last season, their current system means that
some teams still can’t afford to keep the lights on without internal (and external)
That situation amounts to an insurmountable impasse; the solvent teams are not
willing to help the insolvent any more, period.
So, the league is forced to look at their major expenditure, that is, their players, and
ask them to pony up. The last contract (that followed the last, season-long lockout)
imposed a salary cap (and at the time a paycut) and gave the players 57% of the
league’s overall kitty to pass out amongst themselves. They grumbled, but as the
league’s trajectory starting going up higher than anybody could have predicted,
their 57% actually became pretty sweet.
Now the league wants to trim (see: Chop) that 57% down to the mid forties, and
the players aren’t too keen. They don’t want to be the release valve for what is
essentially an ownership cold war, so they called bullshit and hired a pitbull for
an executive named Don Fehr, who promplty shouted “this is Sparta”. The NHL
ownership, who have the enviable position of all being filthy rich down to the last
man, took their government subsidized rinks and went home, knowing that if the
NHL didn’t drop another puck ever again, they’d still be rich as fuck. Not “Oh boy I
can buy a sports car” rich, the “I can install a statue in their living room that pisses
vodka forever” rich.
It’s union busting pure and simple, albeit it’s union busting against a bunch of kids
who’ve got more money then anybody deserves and have girlfriends in the music
As I see it, there’s no way for the players to win, the NHL doesn’t have to budge, so
unless the few owners at the top who make the most cash decide to break ranks
and force some compromise (unlikely) the players will have to buckle. I don’t
necessarily like it, but I care about my hockey season a lot more than I do about the
NHLPA’s viability, so it is what it is.
In the meantime, if you’re a hockey fan and you’re jonesing for the NHL, check out
your local CHL team. They’re amazing games with amazing atmospheres, the tickets
are amazing, the beer is cheaper, and the players and owners alike are working too
hard to ever be prima donnas. It’s the game, a little slower, but a little purer too.
You might forget what you’re missing. Now that’s swagger.
by: Jeremy P Beal