Back to work?

NHL players and owners find common ground

By Eric Wilkins, Staff Writer

So here we are in January, the end of the NHL lockout. Hands up, everyone who thought it would get this far. For whatever it’s worth, you pessimists were right. Whoop de-freaking-doo. Give yourself a pat on the back and then go back to telling everyone how you knew Alexandre Daigle was going to fail.

Yes, believe it or not, our multi-millionaire owners and players have finally (tentatively agreed as of this writing) settled on a new collective bargaining agreement. Gary Bettman set January 11th as doomsday a short while ago, and his warning seems to have worked. It seems that the moneybags are no longer digging in their heels and holding their ground like Spartans at Thermopylae. Or a child who doesn’t want to leave the playground.

So what does this new deal entail? For starters, it’ll be a 48-50 game schedule this season with a cap of $70 million. The cap will drop next year to $64.3 million ($44 million being the bottom), but teams will be allowed to buy out two contracts without penalty to help manage their cap situations. Contracts will now be limited to seven years maximum—unless the player is resigning with his current team, in which case he may sign for eight. There is now a 50/50 revenue split ($300 million to be paid to the union to ease the transition). The new draft lottery system allows 14 teams to have a shot at the top pick. Players will supposedly be allowed to compete in the Olympics. There’s something new about pensions as well, but details are scarce; in any case, the players like it. And last, but not least, the new CBA is for 10 years, granted it has opt-out opportunities after eight.

The most humourous part of lockouts for me is when pensions become such a major issue. Yes, I understand pensions are wonderful and everyone wants to have one, and I fully comprehend the desire to have guaranteed money to keep you going in old age. However, most people don’t, and never will, have pensions. Furthermore, the average citizen isn’t rolling in millions of dollars. The fact that these players feel entitled to additional support after they’ve blown through their substantial earnings is preposterous. Don’t bother quoting the time-wearied argument of “oh, it’s a dangerous game and we’re putting our bodies out on the line” either. Players choose to play this game, and they get compensated generously for it. This isn’t the 1960’s, there’s more than enough money to have an extremely comfortable life.

In the end though, call me exceptionally un-Canadian, but I don’t really care about the NHL being back. I’m sick and tired of watching the rich squabble over disgustingly large amounts of money. The NHL be damned. I can get my hockey fix from other sources if need be. The World Juniors was a delightful breath of fresh air, and junior hockey in general is a fine alternative. Take in a Giants game sometime. Or for that matter, go check out the Abbotsford Heat of the AHL. I’m not sure I’m in any particular hurry to get back to following even our beloved Canucks. As a fan with any sort of self-respect, you have to be a bit offended by the total lack of regard shown to you. I’ll happily continue my NHL-less life for a time (though my job position may dictate otherwise…), and I hope I won’t be the only one. Show some backbone, people.