The wrong end of the stick…


When I moved to Calgary this past June, one of the things I was most looking forward to was attending an NHL game.  It had been several years since I had last had that privilege, and I couldn’t wait.  What I was not looking forward to was an NHL lockout.  But that’s what I got.  And now, the odds are that I won’t see an NHL game this entire season.

I’m in a tough spot here.  I’m normally a big fan of the players and not so much a fan of Gary Bettman but I have to say I’m leaning pretty heavily toward Bettman and the owners in this latest dispute.

My difficulty with the player’s stance starts with their salaries.  With an average salary of $2.45 million over the course of the latest collective bargaining agreement, it’s safe to say the players aren’t about to go hungry any time soon, not to mention that most of us won’t see that kind of money collectively over the course of our entire lives.

So, the sticking point to inking a deal?  Well, the NHL believes that too much money is being paid out in salaries and has decided the best way to address this is to set the player’s share of revenue at 49 percent this season – down from the 57 percent in the deal about to expire – and further proposing that it drop to 47 percent by the end of the six-year deal.  The union is not only against that proposal, they tabled an offer where the salary cap would be set to fixed increases of two per cent, four per cent and six per cent over the next three years, with the system then reverting to a percentage-based system for the remainder of the agreement.

Ok, let me think about all the jobs I’ve had over the past 33 years.  Funny but I can’t think of a single instance where I received so much as 1% in revenues, even when I was directly involved in increasing the company’s revenues.  So 49 percent sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me.

And a two percent increase in salary sounds somewhat reasonable given the current economic times, but four percent?  Six percent?

Has anyone received a six percent salary increase any time in the past few years?  If ever?

No?

Me neither.

Ottawa Senators forward Jason Spezza had this to say about the standoff.  “I think we (the players) want more of a partnership”  (Sympatico.ca Sports).  That comment actually calls for a moment of silence.

It would seem that therein lies the problem.

The players are confusing themselves with partners when they’re actually employees.  The last I checked, employees are sometimes given perks that are dependent on the company’s bottom line and generosity, not obligation.  By forcing a lock-out, the players are actually showing they don’t want to be partners.  They just care about their share of the spoils.

Greed.

Otherwise they would be a whole lot more concerned about how a fourth lock-out in twenty years will almost certainly severely and adversely affect both short-term and long-term ticket sales.

I think the players need to have a reality check.  They’re making phenomenal money, with phenomenal perks, to play a sport they love.  A sport.  Not rocket science.  Not medicine.  Not law enforcement.  If the players play their cards right, most can reasonably expect to make enough money to take an early retirement with few, if any,  financial worries.

The players have completely lost sight of their situation versus that of the average Canadian/American.

I personally think players are not held accountable enough.  They’re signing increasingly lengthy contracts with teams practically daily.  But, how many times has a player signed a long-term contract only to have their performance drastically decline shortly after the signing, never to rebound?  Far too often, it would seem.

I think player’s contracts should come with caveats.  Base salaries plus performance bonuses.  Long-term agreements dependent on minimum performance levels.  Player’s percentage of revenue share dependent on league revenue and team ticket sales.

Motivation for hard work.  Consequences for not so hard work.

We all know the players would never agree to any of those caveats in a million years but, on the other hand, we, the average worker are fortunate to receive a base salary, let alone the potential for bonuses, and rarely the potential to share in company revenues.  Not to mention that, in nearly every instance, our potential for a raise is almost solely dependent on our performance.

In short, reality.

I’ve been a fan of hockey since I was a child.  I love the game.  I love the NHL.  I love the rivalries, I love the playoffs.  I even love the fights.  Not the cheap shots.  Just a good old fashioned dropping of the gloves to expend some frustration and make a statement.

I’m hoping the players will gain some perspective and save the season.  I don’t want to see it go up in flames.  C’mon guys, let the puck drop where it should.

In your arena, with your team.

Not with the Russians.

It’s not a lot to ask.

Think about it.

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