A Rant on Lockouts
Quick note, this is pretty much the same rant I used to open our show with, but for those of you who haven’t heard it yet, here it is for you’re reading pleasure.
I’m getting sick and tired of how professional sports leagues are taking for granted the love fans have for their respective sport. All we hear is how they are trying to make the game more accessible to their fans. How they are trying to put the best product on the field or ice that they can. They say this all, but in reality all they care about is how much money they can get out of the players, and even worse, us, the fans.
There have been certain eras in sports. We had the Jordan era in basketball. The Gretzky era in hockey. The steroid era in baseball. We are now enthralled in the lockout era in sports.
When a league’s respective collective bargaining agreement is about to come to an end, these billionaires look to see how they can extrapolate more money from their employees and fans. And when they don’t get what they want, they act like an upset child. They say, “Well, if you aren’t going to play by our rules, we’re going to take our ball and go home.”
Now, of course not all the blame can be put on the owners when a lockout occurs. I will concede to that fact. The players in a lot of cases are just as guilty as the owners.
However, in the NHL, I place about 75% of the burden of blame on the NHL and its owners.
All hockey fans have already heard how the owners want the players to take a double digit roll back on their 57% share of revenues. We all can understand the owners point of view on this subject. However when you walk away from the table after the players bring to the table an offer that is in the ballpark of 51/49 in the players favor, you lose some respect. It shows that the NHLPA is willing to work with the owners and come to a fair deal. But it wasn’t enough for the owners. The same owners who lie about not making enough money out of the $3 billion of revenues. The same owners, who over the past few years have been shelling out contracts valued over $100 like they were going out of style. The owners have been happy to do this, yet they claim that we need to completely overhaul the system that they have been taking advantage of over the past eight years.
The league is also asking to ELIMINATE players arbitration rights. Why wouldn’t they after all? A young player out plays his contract, you wouldn’t want him to try and get a raise that he deserves would you? AND they are looking to limit free agency even more. No doubt adding another 2-3 years before a player can become eligible to free agency. Combine that with no arbitration rights, and a young player is almost certain to not get a raise, unless they are a superstar quality player.
On top of this, the owners are looking to retroactively cap ALL NHL contracts to 5 years, and discount big money contracts. And you may be asking yourself who is spearheading this campaign? None other than Craig Leipold, owner of the Minnesota Wild! Now, Mr. Leipold sits on the NHL’s negotiating team. This is the same Craig Leipold who made July 4th 2012 a day that will resonate with Minnesota Wild fans for the rest of their days as fans. On that day he signed both Ryan Suter and Zach Parise to matching 13 year, $98 million contracts. Now just two and a half months later he is trying to cap those contracts to 5 years. Without the discount on contracts that the NHL is seeking, Mr. Leipold is trying to rob these players of approx. $60 million… EACH!
I say shame on you Mr Leipold. How dare you hand out these contracts to these very deserving players when you knew that this labor dispute was on the horizon. You better believe he had something like this planned from the beginning. Yet he also knew that he needed to do something to win over the fans in Minnesota, who had become restless lately with the mediocrity of the team he was putting on the ice. What better way to do that, than hand out $200 million to the two best free agents out there. Especially when you are going to try and weasel $120 million of that money right back into your coffers.
Yet this isn’t what upsets me the most and forces me to blame the owners for this lockout. What really forces the vast majority of blame on the owners is their unwillingness to allow the players to play under the previous collective bargaining agreement while try to settle this labor strife. Play one more season under the same rules that the owners set in place eight years ago. Of course they didn’t do this, because they know the results that occurred the last time they locked out the players. They got nearly everything the wanted, with the exception of the revenue split. They got the players to take a 24% paycut. They got the players to agree to a salary cap. And they got new rules forced into the game.
Now they have set their sights on gouging the players for more. And until they get what they want, we won’t see professional hockey in North America. The owners have taken their puck, and gone home.