Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Low First Blow

By Steve Vitakis

Why take steps backwards?

This isn't a board game.  There are no bad tiles that make you move backwards. There are no cards that get you out of jail or give you a sum of cash. Although for even offering what they did, the NHL and owners should sit in jail for a turn or two and let the NHLPA play. 

After the negotiations of the last
Collective Bargaining Agreement(CBA) caused the 2004-2005 season to be lost due to a lockout, it appears we may be headed in a similar direction. The current CBA expires September 15th, and the NHL struck first in the negotiations for a new CBA by sending an egregious offer to the NHLPA. According to multiple media outlets, the league asked the union to take a 19-percent cut on all hockey related revenues. That means the players would receive 46% in revenues instead of the current 57%. The league also set a contract length maximum of 5 years and that a player is forced to be in a contract for 10 years before becoming an unrestricted free agent. Wait a second though, it gets even better for the players. No signing bonuses, same salary for every year of a contract, no more salary arbitration, and for those young and rising stars, 5 year entry-level contracts instead of 3 year contracts. 

According to, the average career length of an NHL player regardless of position is 5.59: basically 5-6 seasons. A statistic that becomes extremely relevant when the league is asking to make entry level contracts last just as long! Now although the data only covers players through the '08-'09, it is safe to assume that with the increase of speed and the demand of the game since the lockout, the average career has been shortened slightly. This only makes it harder for the new stars coming into the league. 

 The current CBA has no restrictions on contract length or amount that a team can offer to a player so long as the league approves the final contract. This is a great approach to a situation that the league is looking to address in the new CBA because it is tired of dealing with teams trying to take advantage of it. That being said, how does forcing a player into a contract for 10 years help him to become an unrestricted free agent when he is over 30 years old and teams want to pay him for what he was but may no longer be? Only 1325 of the 6064 NHL players that have played since 1917 through the '08-'09, a small 21.8% of all player have played longer than 10 years. What about the other 79.2%? Clearly not everyone comes into the NHL as a wide-eyed rookie at the age of 18 and plays a long and established career.  The league shouldn't tailor the CBA as if that is the case. 

I can understand that the owners are looking for ways to increase overall team revenue.  It is their job to make sure the numbers are growing every year. I can also understand that this offer is nowhere near what the final agreement will end up being and is simply a worst case scenario offer for the NHLPA to get the negotiations moving along.  NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr would die in the negotiations seat before agreeing to this CBA, or anything close to it, that is how bad this offer is.

In sports, some players and coaches believe in momentum and others don't. Owners and players need to come to an agreement and not kill what momentum they both have worked so hard to gain over the last eight seasons.  A lockout would cripple hockey, and we cannot afford life support.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this article.

Steven Vitakis is just like any fan you can talk sports while enjoying a beverage. Whether he believes you to be right or wrong, he will almost always listen to your viewpoint. It's also how he has had a Patriots fan as a best friend for years now. Feel free to reach out to him at

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