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Will the players' wait be worth it?

We won't see Sidney Crosby and company on the ice soon if the NHL maintains it will

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We won't see Sidney Crosby and company on the ice soon if the NHL maintains it will "die on the hill" for allocation of dollars. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Hi there. We’re back for another edition of THN’s online mailbag. This is my next-to-next-to-last time answering your questions before I take a few weeks of vacation, but keep those inquiries coming, because my colleagues will answer them while I’m away. Thanks again for taking the time to write/type.

Adam, I understand that NHL players want to ensure they get 100 percent of the money they are owed on their contracts, but the problem is their contracts have never been 100 percent guaranteed. If revenue isn't what was expected, players lose part of their escrow payment. The players have lost 12 percent one year before so only received 88 percent of that year’s salary.

It seems likely that the split will be 50/50 as the players have proposed that as long as they don't lose anything this year. Is it worth missing half a season or more (50 percent of salary) so you don't lose 12.7 percent this year?

Joseph Ierfino, Newmarket, Ont.


Joseph,

You submitted this question a few weeks ago, but I wanted to return to it because of the way the NHL labor negotiations have developed of late. I think it’s clear the league’s insistence on contractual rights – as deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Thursday night, capping term length of contracts at five years was “the hill we will die on” – the league wants not simply to get a larger piece of its revenue stream, but to effectively tie down the union’s ability to control how its membership splits their 50 percent.

As an NHL agent wrote in an email last night, “The players have agreed to go to 50-50 for the last "x" number of years of the deal. Shouldn't that be all that matters? Why does the league have to "die on the hill" on an allocation of dollars issue? It's the PA’s 50 percent, the PA should dictate who gets what. Why does the league care and how does the allocation jeopardize franchises?”

These are valid questions the league will need to answer if it insists on sticking to its current stance. On the one hand, owners are well within their rights to try and protect themselves from themselves, but on the other hand, they’ve already achieved their main financial victory and appear unwilling to realize the players won’t settle until they see some form of compromise from the owners in other areas. In my estimation, we won’t have NHL hockey again until that happens.

Hi Adam, Do you think that if NHL owners were allowed to speak about the collective bargaining negotiations we would see a lot of dissent among the owners? I'm guessing probably around half of the owners would have taken one of the deals already proposed.
Chris Hoeft, Milan, Mich.



Chris,

I don’t think it’s fair to say 15 owners would sign the NHL Players’ Association’s last offer, because nobody has taken a public poll of them. Now, would at least some like to be playing right now? Absolutely. Big-market teams in Toronto and Manhattan were making amazing profits in the last labor deal and will make even more with the concessions players have made in this current negotiation.

That said, I don’t think the NHL’s strategy of keeping owners quiet is a poor tactical choice. It keeps them from putting their expensive shoes in their mouths – you know, the way Red Wings exec Jim Devellano did not so long ago – and prevents any perception of dissent from entering the public domain.

The code of omerta isn’t beneficial for the honest picture of what’s going on right now, but league commissioner Gary Bettman was smart to insist on the huge fines that serve as a deterrent to owners’ speaking their minds. Very little good, if any, can come of them providing their opinion. At least when it comes to their own self-interest.

Hi Adam. With the U.S. experiment still in effect, shouldn't the NHL have expanded to Houston by now? It’s the fourth largest city in America and a conceivably motivating force to getting Texans out to a hockey game for the state rival Dallas Stars. Sounds like a good move for the sport.
Josh DeRose, Edmonton



Hi Josh,

There are definitely some attractive qualities about Houston, but it’s no accident the NHL hasn’t set up a second team in Texas. Why? Well, let’s look at the struggles the Stars have faced recently. Fans didn’t exactly support the team through thick and thin – although it’s tough to blame them when the franchise was cutting payroll as it searched for a new owner – and the league isn’t in a good position to take a gamble on a market that doesn’t have an organic connection to the sport.

Someday down the line, if things don’t work out in other markets and places like Seattle, Quebec City and Southern Ontario receive expansion or relocated teams, I could envision the NHL giving Houston a shot. I wouldn’t count on it any time in the next five or 10 years, though.

Hey Adam, long-time reader, first-time writer. This question is of course about the lockout. If the NHL season is lost, is there another league that can actually play for the Stanley Cup seeing as it is a challenge cup? Could the Canadian Hockey League play for it or maybe a senior league playdown? Just curious considering the insanity that the World Junior Championship brings to Canada. Could you imagine the Colts playing the Mooseheads for the Stanley Cup? To see these young warriors compete for the chance to hoist that Cup would, at least in my mind, make up for an NHL season lost. Seriously, why not? It’s not right that the Stanley Cup doesn’t take a lap around the ice. Ever!
Scott MacFarlane, Cold Lake, Alta.



Hey Scott,

Long-time writer, first-time responder to you in particular. During the 2004-05 lost NHL season, there was a legal challenge made regarding ownership of the Cup, but like most things associated with the law, there are differing interpretations of the ruling that came out of the case.

Essentially, an Ontario court ruled that, if the NHL misses another full season, there isn’t anything stopping the trustees of the Cup from awarding it to another league’s champion. However, the same court didn’t rule that the Cup had to be awarded in that circumstance.

Now, another league or private citizen might challenge the NHL to let the Cup be handed out in the event this season is cancelled in full. But at the very least, given the league’s trademark on the trophy and the association it has with its main product, the only thing we can be sure of is we would likely see more court wrangling before we ever get to a point where the Cup had new non-NHL names engraved on it.

Ask Adam
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