NHL Lockout: Who’s to Blame This Time?

The NHL is suffering through it’s 3rd work stoppage in 18 years under Gary Bettman

Someone recently got into a discussion with me about the lockout and stated that they believed the players were mainly at fault for this because of out of control salaries in the league today for very average talent. I couldn’t disagree more with that sentiment.

In fact, I believe it is the pissing contest that the owners get into every July that drives these salaries up to where they are because they can’t control themselves and their egos. Very average players constantly get huge deals they don’t deserve because one or two stubborn owners feel the need to write enormous checks that they really can’t afford. This past free agent season is a perfect example. There were maybe like 3-4 great players on the market and they each got $100 million deals! The players got teams into bidding wars for their services and in the end a small market bought 2 of them and Philly drove up the cost on another one so high that Nashville just had to match the offer to keep their franchise player in town. Weber ended up getting $110 million, which is $30 million more than it cost to start up the franchise in 1997!

How is that any of the players fault? If you are a player you are going to take the best offer you can. Your family is your priority and when you are done playing, after an average career lifespan of maybe 4 years in the NHL, you are done making that kind of money forever. Most of these NHL players are not millionaires; all of the NHL owners are billionaires. I cannot see how it is fit to punish the working class just because the owners can’t keep spending in check on their own.

And if you are a player, how many times are you going to get bent over a barrel before you stand up for yourself? Every time a CBA expires you now have to make all the concessions even though the league is recording record profits? That doesn’t sound fair. You are only taking what someone was willing to give you in the first place, and you are playing within the rules of the salary cap and CBA. But no, they want to take take take and tell you that if you want to play the sport you love and not be a bad person to the rest of the world that you must give give give because the genius billionaire owners can’t figure out that overspending and over expanding is costing them too much money in a niche sport that most of America couldn’t really care less about outside the day they say “Oh, hey… neat! They are playing hockey outside without that roof! Now turn this crap off and see what is happening in the Capitol One Bowl, maybe we can see a fight or something at halftime.”

Bottom line, both sides are at fault, but I find it hard to place much of the blame for where salaries have gone on any employee of a company. You only take what someone is willing to give you. And salary caps are a joke in all leagues. It is something made up by rich guys who want to bone the talent because they couldn’t help themselves along the way. Truth is if you run your team well and draft correctly there is proof in all sports that you will be successful. If you spend $250 million, but do it poorly, you will lose. Case in point; Every MLB team has made the postseason in the past 20 years except the Pirates and Royals. Is that because they don’t have a salary cap and floor to stay competitive? No, other small market teams have been great and have had success (Oakland, Minnesota, Cleveland, Detroit, Tampa, Baltimore, and Cincinnati to name a few). While teams like Boston, Philadelphia, Anaheim, Florida/Miami, New York Mets, all failed to make the post season or struggled mightily. The Yankees are about to lose again. So, spending doesn’t equate to winning.

The same is in hockey. When the Caps and Rangers would throw ass tons of money at players every year and seemingly bought the best players money could buy, in a pre-capped NHL, I don’t ever recall either team winning a Cup using that method. But the leagues have to do something, because free enterprise isn’t working for them to make enough money. They are too stupid to figure out that spending beyond your means isn’t going to pay off in the long run.

And that is my point. Don’t get mad at the dog when you drop spaghetti on the floor and he tries to eat it. That is what dogs do. Same with players, they want to make money. They have trained and spent their whole life at this chance at one big contract. Do they deserve to make that kind of money? Hell no! They are entertainers playing a game, but if someone is going to pay you for that then by all means you go after it hard! Nobody ever played for free willingly. And now you expect to ask these players to roll their salary back, many of which that have just signed these deals within weeks, because a few of your owners can’t control themselves and screwed up? This does not make logical sense to me. When only a handful of teams are losing money and a handful of teams are raking it in wouldn’t it make more sense for better revenue sharing and perhaps contracting a team or two that is in a market that shouldn’t have a team in the first place?

Do you think many would cry if Miami and Phoenix would suddenly just not have a team anymore? Would all hell break loose if Long Island or Nashville went north of the border to a city that is in love with hockey? Why did Lord Gary insist on spreading the league so fast and so thin and let teams walk away from traditional markets and into disastrous places that cannot and will not support hockey *cough Atlanta cough*. And then fights tooth and nail when they want to go back to a place and have sellouts and a fan base every night of the year with a new arena deal coming; Winnipeg, anyone? Contracting a few teams would make the overall product on the ice so much better, too. Imagine four teams splitting up their 23 players throughout the league. Each team would get about four NHL players and the product would be so much less watered down. Less goons, less interference, more scoring, that’s what people want in the end. All of this happens with more top end talent in the league. If you take on four new players odds are that you send your 4 worst back to the minors or scratch that goon most nights because you need the talent to keep up.

The NHL needs to fix itself before asking the players to do it every 5-7 years via lockout. Not a good business model. And in the end all that ends up suffering is us, the fans. I could never look a player in the eye and say “Hey, just take this deal so we can have hockey!” Because I know we will just be back here again at some point very soon saying the same things. At some point you need to stop patching the problem and fix things. Step one, fire Gary Bettman! Three work stoppages are enough, and that should have been a contingency in the last CBA. Say that you will sign it if he is removed as Commish. Losing a whole season is inexcusable! If it happens again then many people will not be back.

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About willi33

An avid sports enthusiast and long time writer on all things sports, Patrick Williams brings an opinionated, yet informative viewpoint to the table. A life around professional, collegiate, and recreational sports has provided Patrick the background and inspirations for his topics.
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One Response to NHL Lockout: Who’s to Blame This Time?

  1. Jake says:

    Wow, where to start? Alot here, but first thing is first. If I drop spagetti and Lucy goes for it, she’e getting her ass or head smacked! I love that dog, but need to set a precedence!

    Secondly, and amazingly, I agree with it being an owners problem, and u know how much I HATE UNIONS. However, in this case what they are doing is complete BS. The owners sign all these players to huge contracts then they try to trick their own system (that they wanted installed) by front loading it and then giving guys $500,000 when they are in their early 40’s. Make’s no sense! I do like the general idea of a salary cap because the baseball contracts are and have been out of control, plus everyone and thing needs boundries.

    Thirdly, exspansion isn’t working & wont work in the areas that Bettman wants, so it’s time to move on! Just bring back the Whale and the balance of the universe will be equal again! (The Nordiques too!)

    Fourth, I agree that Bettman needs to go. The whole idea behind running a business because like it or not that is what the NHL is, is to actually have the business running. Not sitting still trying to fix problems that were self inflicted. Especiallly doing it 3 times during his tenure and every time the CBA is up. Put Bettman on a bus, along side Fehr because he’s Bettman’s twin on the union side. They are both ego driver DB’s that need to go.

    Finallly, I hold no repsonsibitlity for the spelling, puncuation, or anything that looks funky with this response. You all should just feel lucky that I didn’t have an explative melt down because I F’n hate all of this BS…..just play hockey!

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