Thursday, July 07, 2005

Very soon now, the hockey players are going to wake up one morning to find that they got royally screwed. This will come as no surprise to anybody, but it's telling that a smart guy like Jeremy Roenick can do little to hide his frustration at how this whole thing has been spun by the owners. Whenever a sports league has labor troubles, it's important to remember that it's one group of rich guys fighting with another group of rich guys over the money that we, the fans, generate for them. I tend to side with the players over the owners because I'm not paying to see owners own a team - I'm paying to see players play the sport. The NHL players accuse the owners of being less than truthful about their finances. To be sure, this is like accusing water of being wet. Some owners are clearly lying about the state of their financial affairs, and that just makes it harder for the teams that are losing money to get any sympathy from players.

So in this new deal, which will be announced any day now, the players took a massive pay cut, accepted a salary cap, and took it up the ass in several other ways that don't really matter to us, but will positively affect owner revenues for years to come. The league wanted a system that protected teams from themselves, the players wanted a system that encouraged free-market activity. Stupid capitalists! Socialism is the way to go, comrades!

Yet somehow the owners have spun this whole situation into this idea that the players are to blame for losing a year of professional hockey, even though it was the league that locked out the players, and it was the league who rejected several players' proposals that would have resulted in almost the same deal as the current one. The players wanted to play; it was the league that wouldn't give in until they got what they wanted. The league gave up 10 %, the players gave up 90 %. How is that fair?

All the pro sport leagues look at the NFL as the model - everybody is guaranteed money, and the players have a lucrative pension. What's easy to forget is that the NFL is swimming in TV money, so much so that they could sell all seats for a penny and still turn a profit, and the NFL player's union is weaker than the spaghetti sauce at Denny's. For an NFL player, the pension is important because the chances of career-ending injuries are higher than any other sport, so they were willing to throw everything else away. NFL owners make massive profits, the players get paid well, but not too well, and everybody's happy (kind of). This couldn't work for hockey because the TV money isn't there and players have longer careers. The new deal puts more money in the pockets of the owners at the expense of the players, while it's doubtful that we fans will see reductions in ticket prices and merchandise. So, yeah, cheer on the owners - it's always good to see rich white guys get richer, isn't it?


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