Donald Fehr and Gary Bettman (NHL via Getty Images)
The NHL is finally taking ownership of hockey's advanced statistics community by offering the data on its own website. So why not do the same with salary cap information that's already out there on third-party sites?
With the NHL set to introduce in-house analytics data on its website in the near future, the situation has never been better for the league to add salary cap information to its statistical offerings.
The NHL has thus far balked at making all players' salaries public, despite the fact that every player's salary is already out there. Hockey insiders and sites like Cap Geek have been disclosing salaries since the dawn of the cap era in 2005, and that information has become crucial to fans' understanding of the game.
Salaries drive trades, roster makeup and prospect development. They directly impact the product on the ice.
So why doesn't the NHL make that information available, instead of forcing fans to go to a third-party site?
The recent and sudden demise of Cap Geek has created a void for a go-to cap-crunching site, and many blogs are hurrying to fill that space. But with the NHL already revamping its website to introduce analytics, now is the perfect time to step in and offer a salary cap site under the official NHL banner.
Commissioner Gary Bettman admitted on Friday that there’s already an internal salary cap site at the NHL to keep track of team’s contracts. How hard would it be to scrub out some of the nitty-gritty notes in that site (i.e. no-trade clauses, individual exceptions) and put the dollar figures up for fans to see? Offering reference information like that would drive steady traffic to the NHL site, rather than losing that fan traffic to the blogger world.
Bettman told reporters in Vancouver on Friday that he’s not keen on disclosing player salaries, and would rather fan focus on the on-ice product.
“Entirely too much attention is paid to the cap and to the economics and how much players make,” Bettman said. He added that he’d rather not make any move that would “buy into” focusing on money, but acknowledged it might be worth re-examining the idea.
He’s not the only anti-disclosure man, either. General managers hate bargaining with agents when all their past signings are a matter of public record. Owners don’t like it, either. And players surely don’t enjoy having their earnings announced on Twitter. But that’s the world we live in now under a salary cap.
The truth is, the NHL’s on-ice product has everything to do with the cap and economics. As soon as Bettman and company imposed a salary cap, they made the NHL a bean-counter’s league where dollars directly impact roster moves and player trades.
If anything, salary information makes it easier for fans to engage with their favourite team, and simpler to grasp why a superstar had to be traded or a costly player sent down to the minors.
Try explaining to a casual Los Angeles Kings fan why Mike Richards is playing in Manchester right now, without using money in the telling. Didn’t he just win his second Stanley Cup? Isn’t he fairly young? Why can’t they leave him on the fourth line?
There's no disguising the fact that NHLers are highly-paid athletes drawing multi-million-dollar salaries in most cases. Fans are going to go after players for making too much money no matter what the actual dollar figure is.
Every time a team puts “terms of the contract were not disclosed” into a press release, those terms stay quiet for all of 10 minutes before the numbers come out on Twitter.
The NHL can’t keep the information quiet, and there’s obviously a market for it.
Why not own that market for yourself?