Friday, October 19, 2007

Strike Brewing?

Our old friend Larry Brooks just couldn't contain himself last week reporting about the hiring of a New Head Thug for the NHLPA. However a more sober reporter, TSN's Bob McKenzie, says Kelly is truly independent and won't be a lap dog for the factions that Brooks is a mouthpiece for. McKenzie also points out (and said on TSN during the Florida-Montreal game on Tuesday night) that any labor stoppage in 2009 would have to come from a player strike and not another owner lockout.

I just figured Ol' Lar was shooting his mouth of again but before I left for the game last night, I read this article and I'm beginning to wonder, is Ol' Lar just shooting his mouth off? It's easy to discount Ol' Lar because he'll contradict himself in the same column but I don't know much about Bruce Dowbiggin. Is he a Union Thug mouthpiece like Ol' Lar?

Oh Caps Nut, you're just being paranoid, there's no way the NHLPA will reopen the CBA and call a strike in 2009...

Maybe I am being paranoid but I remember the run-up to 2004-2005. There was talk two seasons ahead that the NHL was heading for another lockout and that it could very well cost the NHL an entire season (which it did). And while we do have sober reporters saying it won't happen, who knows what is going to happen over the next two years. That is more than enough time for the dissidents to increase their support. 2009 sounds about the time that another round of misguided expansion will be coming into play, putting more $$$$$ on the table for the players and more players into the union to dilute their hard liner factions. But if the NHL is going to expand for the 2009-2010 season, they need to get the ball rolling on that one sooner rather than later and award the franchises sometime after the New Year.

But let me say this. Should the NHLPA reopen the CBA and call a strike, I will shut down this blog, cancel my Caps season tickets, and NEVER pay any attention to professional hockey ever again. If you think I'm joking, go ahead and try. I don't care if the Caps win the Stanley Cup in June of 2009, if there is a strike in 2009 (or later for that matter) I'm leaving and I won't be coming back. Ted can invite me to all the events he wants, I won't go and I won't even bother watching hockey on TV anymore.

I did not like the 1994 and 2004 lockouts but I understood that the NHL was trying to bring some fiscal sanity to help the small market franchises. Considering the amounts of $$$$$ the owners were (and still are) losing because of the lack of real TV revenue, it only made sense. The other option to bring salaries under control was contraction of some sort which is a total non-starter for the owners, players, and fans.

However, in 2009, the CBA will mandate a MINIMUM salary of $500,000. That will put a player in the 10% of ALL income earners in the United States. (For my left wing friends out there, these are the people that you hate seeing get tax cuts) While NHL players have only a limited amount of time to capitalize on their talents, these guys aren't hurting for income while they're playing. The largest source of revenue for NHL teams (which directly fund their salaries) is ticket revenue and that is not changing anytime in the near future. I cannot and will not justify paying higher ticket prices so that already rich hockey players get even richer playing a kids game.

And make no mistake; should the NHLPA talk a walk, it won't be about greater free agency, it won't be about benefits for themselves or former players. It will be about lifting the salary cap so that the handful of financially viable teams can inflate the salaries for the rest of the league and the players can demand more $$$$$. Gone will be the "hockey players are the most down-to-earth athletes around" persona they've spent so much time trying to build. They will be no different than the baseball players who shut down their sport over a few bucks. Baseball has had trouble rebuilding itself from that disaster and I know I won't be alone in giving up on hockey should the NHLPA do the same thing.

McKenzie points out that there needs to be some serious housecleaning at the NHLPA first. That should show us what direction the NHLPA will head in and let's hope that this talk of reopening the CBA and going on strike in 2009 dies a quick death. Because this is sounding too much like the run up to the lockout in 2004.

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