• Fights (boardroom and ice)

    by  • October 2, 2011 • NHL • 8 Comments

    Unlike probably 98% of people who follow hockey, I find the CBA and business stuff interesting. (See, in that regard, Elliotte Friedman’s declaration that lockout talk makes him want to “…go out and choke an old lady.”) So I was interested to see Larry Brooks’ column this morning in which he discussed some CBA stuff and what the NHLPA’s priorities should be for the coming negotiation.

    Eliminating the floor should be Priority 1 for NHLPA chief Donald Fehr next time around. This notion that Carolina’s payroll should somehow be directly related to Toronto’s revenue is not only absurd, it means the Hurricanes necessarily will lose more money, thus both increases escrow while fueling the self-fulfilling prophecy of increased losses by small-market clubs that sends Bettman into the labor battle with the hammer to demand give-backs because of rising losses by small-market teams.

    The floor is supposed to guarantee the holy grail of competitive balance, but it doesn’t. Buyouts go toward the floor. Entry Level bonuses that may never be and quite often never are attained, go toward the floor.

    Forcing franchises that can’t afford it to commit a certain portion of their assets to payroll means they have less to invest in scouting and player development, areas fundamental to long-term success.

    Brooks has two big biases: he’s pro-player and pro-big market club. I don’t have any problem with that – I share his first bias and I’m coming around to a variant of his second – I’d be pro-capitalism as it came to the NHL, which might see more teams in places like Toronto. The problem I do have is that what’s good for his first group of people that he supports is not necessarily good for his second and vice versa.

    There’s no reason for the players to care about taking money out of their own pockets to ensure competitive balance. There’s no reason for them to care if franchises can invest in scouting and player development. None of this matters when it comes to putting dollars in their pockets.

    Ultimately, every financial change to the CBA other than the setting of the salary cap itself is about how the dollars will be allocated between the players. A salary floor creates a transfer of wealth from better players to lesser ones. The Islanders, or whoever, have to spend more on their crappy collection of players. Escrow increases as a result of this and guys on the Red Wings lose more of their pay cheques.

    There are very good reasons for a salary floor. One of those is that the NHLPA permits its members to be owned by teams for a seven year period. If you’re John Tavares, and the New York Islanders own you, don’t you want them forced to spend some money? If they’re forced to spend money, they might try to spend it well.

    There’s a very simple rule when it comes to the NHLPA and a league with a salary cap: outside of the size of the pie, there is no collective interest in anything of a financial nature. Everything that affects how the pie gets divided up sees some of the players win and some of the players lose. I’m amazed that, six years into this CBA, people still don’t get that.

    * * *

    The 2010-11 NHL regular season consisted of 74,946.25 minutes of hockey. In this time, there were 1284 fighting majors handed out, an average of one fight per 116.74 minutes of hockey played.

    It’s no secret that fighting basically disappears in the playoffs. Games are more important and it’s rare that teams want to risk taking instigator penalties or a situation in which their player gets a major for fighting while the other player gets two minutes for roughing or something like that. Basically, you can say that teams and players are less willing to fight in the playoffs because the games matter more.

    This got me thinking: does the same phenomenon exist in the regular season? We know that there are high leverage and low leverage moments in regular season hockey games – a tie game in the last two minutes is different than a tie game in the first two minutes and a five goal lead in the third is different than a one goal game in the third period.

    I put together some charts that I think are illuminating. Basically, what I’ve done is ask how many minutes have to be played in a given situation (tie, one goal game, two goal game etc.) at a given time (first period, second period or third period) to see a fight in the NHL in 2010-11.

    Fighting1

    Fighting2

    Fighting3

    The results are about what you’d expect, if a touch more dramatic. I think we can probably expand the “nobody fights in the playoffs” argument to “nobody fights in the playoffs…or basically at any other point in which the game hangs in the balance.” I’ve made this point before but, given how ancillary a fight is to a hockey game, the degree of risk that the league ought to tolerate to players before banning it has to approach zero.

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    8 Responses to Fights (boardroom and ice)

    1. speeds
      October 2, 2011 at

      There’s a very simple rule when it comes to the NHLPA and a league with a salary cap: outside of the size of the pie, there is no collective interest in anything of a financial nature. Everything that affects how the pie gets divided up sees some of the players win and some of the players lose. I’m amazed that, six years into this CBA, people still don’t get that.

      There is no collective interest among all members, but there is a collective interest among all voting members to limit the wages of players that have yet to have voting rights – the rookies. That doesn’t contradict your point, but I think it’s worth pointing out as it relates to the upcoming negotiation.

      It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if we see ELC’s upped to 4 years, or cut to a max of 2 mil in bonus money, stuff like that.

      What we might also see is that any time, within the NHLPA membership, there’s a group of many pitted against the few, count on the many. As an example, pretend the NHL comes to the players and says “We want to get rid of the UFA at age 27 OR 7 years experience, and just have the UFA age at 27 for all.” that is something that might affect, what, 10-15 players per year, it’s not too hard to imagine the union acquiescing to something like that as part of negotiations.

    2. Richard Holusha
      October 2, 2011 at

      While Tavares would want Wang to spend more money – is that really a good idea? Yashin, Di Pietro, must I go on ? Look – John loves it on Long Island so Toronto – get over it – he aint playing in Toronto

      • Julian
        October 2, 2011 at

        You hear that Tyler? You can get rid of you Tavares Leafs sweater man, the dream is over.

      • draglikepull
        October 3, 2011 at

        Yes, but the point is, would Tavares love playing on Long Island if there was no salary cap floor, and thus no incentive for the Islanders to pay him something approaching market value? Would Tavares love Long Island if the Islanders were only willing to offer him, say $2.5 million a year instead of the $5.5 million he recently signed for?

        • speeds
          October 3, 2011 at

          The Isles would have to pay him his market value, either through negotiation or arbitration (after his 4th year), that’s not really the issue Tyler was getting at (I don’t think).

          The issue is, were there no floor, there would be nothing preventing the Isles (or any team) from icing a roster of Tavares and 20 guys making the league minimum, and what player wants to be stuck in that situation for 7 years?

          I’m not saying there’s a team that would do exactly that, but it’s conceivable without a floor.

    3. NYIFC
      October 3, 2011 at

      The NHL is not about how much revenue a corporate team can lose for advantages and then write off on their taxes. Larry Brooks should stop lobbying for Cablevision, they led the NHL in money lost before the last lockout per Larry Brooks own paper at 25m-40m a year.

      Charles Wang was spending over 40m before there was a floor, Snow traded 4.5m in December with Roloson and Wisniewski and got one player back who went to the AHL so obviously those attempting to keep count of what teams are at the floor do not have a clue.

    4. FastOil
      October 3, 2011 at

      Any rule that reduces the financial flexibilty and stability of a team is not good for the league, unless teams are only placed in hockey hotbeds. A cap helps financial stability and competition. A floor guarantees nothing except a reward for average players and a penalty for struggling teams. The Oilers are a prime example of how spending does not equal success or quality. Many teams that spend far less have shown to be more competitive and better than those that spend more.

      While I have sympathy for the players, the days of old are gone and nobody is getting ripped off anymore. Players share very little risk in a financially volatile business, invest no money really, and while the distribution of profits should loosely be agreed upon to avoid the damage the market would bring to correct an unfair situation if it arose (ie a competitive league), the owners deserve to make good money on their big dollar ventures.

      The argument that players are the game, or however you want to spin it is true, but there are players coming of age every year to replace them excepting a few elites, and only the same thirty teams to employ them. I am more concerned with the player’s safety and the quality of product (and how that truly can be enhanced) than the level at which they’re handsomely payed, especially the less skilled.

      As for the tax write off issue (Tyler you likely know a bit on this), money lost is money lost. I am not sure any company will sustain bleeding for any reason. They still need to find that cash and pay the bills. Any investment in a sports team, I believe, is based on an expectation of profit.

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