Monday, September 13, 2004


Trevor Linden: A Message from the President

As the CBA 'negotiations' go down to the wire, both sides seem firmly entrenched in their desire for a cap/non-cap system in place.

Unfortunately, despite the rhetoric coming from the NHL's Bill Daly, the NHL seems unwilling to really negotiate, and seems set on breaking the NHLPA Guild.

Today, NHLPA Pres Trevor Linden released 'his' NHLPA approved message to the fans.

The owners are only interested in negotiating a salary cap and will shutdown hockey if they don�t get their way. Five years ago they created a $300 million lockout fund. Now they have begun to lay off staff with more layoffs to come. The league is also engaged in a PR campaign to justify their lockout to fans.

Well, Trevor, the players have also prepared their own little warchest in preparation. It seems the NHLPA is just as willing to have no NHL hockey as the NHL is. Unlike the owners, the players have other options (AHL, Europe, OSHL, etc).

Our system would have taxed higher-spending teams and redirected those dollars to lower revenue clubs. That, coupled with other elements in our proposal, such as a 5% salary rollback, revenue sharing and changes to the entry-level system, would give the league the drag on player salaries they want and provide revenues to teams that need it.

As you can see for yourself, we are not looking to preserve the status quo in these negotiations, as the league likes to claim.

I agree with Linden that the NHLPA appears to have 'conceded' some ground to the NHL, but the NHL has not returned the favour. As much as the finances in the NHL aren't really too great (but not as bad as the NHL would lead you to believe), the NHL has entered these negotiations with a 'take it or leave it' attitude. If the NHL owners want a new CBA, what have they given the players in concession for any proposed salary caps or salary reductions or whatnot? It seems that true negotiations involve some give and take, and I haven't seen much giving from the NHL.

Fans have asked me what�s wrong with accepting a salary cap like the ones used in football and basketball. Besides imposing severe and artificial limits on the market value of a player, salary caps also handcuff team managements.

To stay under cap limits, clubs are forced to get rid of popular players or to take a pass on signing players who could help the club improve. Fans take a back seat under salary cap systems, where accountants rule, players come and go and winning becomes secondary.

In all of the talk about the current CBA, one fact seems to get lost: when compared to other leagues, the NHL�s current rules on player mobility are the most restrictive of all major pro sports. NHL teams have the ability to control a player�s career path from the age of 18 up to 31. Although this system is restrictive on player movements, it has produced the kind of roster stability fans favour and incredible competitive balance.

We believe that a marketplace system where owners determine a player�s value, as they have for more than eighty years, is the best system for our fans and our sport. A player�s value can both rise and fall in a marketplace.

1. I don't believe winning is secondary to most NBA and NFL franchises. They certaintly try to win under their systems.

2. I do agree that stability is something the NFL does not have at all. All too often, players switch teams and there are very few players like Brett Favre who stay their entire careers with one team. However, fans of hockey and ANY team sport tend to be a fan of the TEAM, rather than the players. I know I am one of the few exceptions to the rule.

3. The current CBA does not really allow for a players market value to decrease. In order to keep a player's rights, the NHL team must offer a qualifying offer that equals or betters their current contract. So, Trevor, how does that allow for a player's value to fall in this marketplace? A team can almost never get a player at a salary reduction because they'll likely take off to another team. Just ask the Mighty Ducks about Paul Kariya sometime.

4. The NHLPA certainly did agree to a very restrictive free agency, and the owners did their best to screw up what they had. Of course, what Linden didn't mention is that the high UFA age leads to a shortage of skilled labour on the market, which really drives up the prices for Unrestricted Free Agents. Players wait until they reach 30-31 and then they really cash in (Bobby Holik, Robert Lang, etc).

Say you are a high 1st round draft pick. You start off with a heavy $1.25mil contract plus big incentives (Kovalchuk got close to $4mil in bonuses). To keep your rights, the team must offer you a raise during your next negotiations.
When you hit 31 years old, you have established yourself as a star and then you will get megabucks once you are on the open market.


In the end, the NHLPA has a better argument than the NHL, despite the fact that the NHL has spent a lot more resources on its propoganda campaign against the NHLPA Guild. The problem for the NHLPA is that it doesn't fully appreciate that the NHL is not going to be a viable long-term entity for many small market teams under the current scenario without some major changes. I'll expand more on this later, but my experiences in San Francisco/San Jose and Phoenix have really showed me just how much of a hockey market there is in these two cities (not much).

the reason the nfl has the cba it has is because its players struck, but crumbled. a non unified players group who had recently shown it couldnt handle a strike is easy pickings. even bettman could handle that match-up

the real problem i have witht he nhl stoogies is that they extended the current deal twice already calling it good for thegame, etc etc. what it really was doing was allowing a m-l-m marketing campaign to expand into marginal areas to fund its entire warchest.

how much is the war chest? 300 million. how much did they get in the expansion during the cba. 325 million. YIKES!

now im not saying there isnt an issue. when you have a small sport like hockey paying pronger and kt 5 million more than the cardinals pay rolen and albert, you gotta wonder.

the salary structure is crooked. but ONBLY because the current head of the sport has failed in every aspect to sell the game to the prize market (usa! usa! usa!) there was a time this sport was on the cusp of being THERE. two networks showed the game, ratings were good.

ow the league has no revenue sharing, a horrid tv contract, dwindling viewers (leaving to such things as beach volleyball, nascar, and of all things poker).

you are the worse commish the nhl ever had. yet you keep getting re-hired, you take the losses out of fleexcing new owners, then you take your failures out of thge pockets of the players. or try to.

I say fight back. unless the owners decide to give the players a REAL say in the future revenue earnings potentioal of the league, the players should not simply accept the destruction of revenues to mean they alone must bear the brunt.
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