Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Storm Clouds

...gathering on the horizon.

I usually stay away from this kind of stuff like the plague and leave it to those with much more knowledge and stomach for it than I do to tackle it, like Tom Benjamin for instance, but a little factoid in Big Al's column today that heretofore had escaped my attention caught my eye.
After shutting down for a full season, the National Hockey League managed to avoid any serious labour unrest last year.

But player agents see the storm brewing once again.

In theory, it's the duty of the NHL Players' Association to crunch numbers but these days, the PA doesn't do much unless it first gets the approval of NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly.

So the agents did it. And they don't foresee the kind of escrow payments Daly would want to bring to the fore.

The escrow payments, for those who didn't memorize all 15 volumes of the collective bargaining agreement, are the amounts deducted from the players' salaries to cover the owners' over-spending.

Last year, the escrow payments were 12 per cent, but because the PA allowed the league to plug in an almost-random number that was easily surpassed, those payments were refunded.

This year the agents are convinced there will be no refunds. And the players can expect to pay how much?

"According to our calculations, it's going to be 17.5 per cent," one agent said. "That might be a bit high," said another, "but it's definitely going to be in double digits. There's no way to know exactly until the season opens, but it looks like somewhere between 12 per cent and 14 per cent."

Most fans don't care a lot. They see projections like this and they shrug. They feel the players are well paid and if they have to give some of it back, so what?

After a year of reading about labour negotiations instead of hockey, they're sick of the turmoil.

But the fact remains, if this season turns out to be the kind of economic kick in the tender parts the agents predict, there will be even more trouble on the labour front. This is the second year of the deal and after three years, the players have the right to terminate it.
Yep, there it is, that's the little bugger that got my attention. Could we be possibly looking at a replay of the horror we just suffered through? In just ONE more year? Of course we could be, I put nothing past this crew that is running (ruining?) the game.

I recently read The Rebel League: The Short and Unruly Life of the World Hockey Association. It's a good, entertaining read and I highly recommend it. It's pretty amazing the number of innovations that came from the WHA that we still see in the game today. I'm beginning to think the time is coming for another hockey insurrection/revolution like the WHA one to take place. Particularly with the continuing threat of NHL labour strife hanging over the heads of all us fans.

Maybe it's it's time for someone or ones to step up and really challenge the NHL monopoly that holds us fans hostage to their nonsense before they take their puck and go dark again. A lot of good came from it the last time it happened.

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