If Brian Burke wasn’t the GM of the Maple Leafs, Bleacher Report would pass on this:
In no other sport do the players, the management, the owners and the fans treat The Game with such respect. That’s what they call it, too — The Game. And everyone’s actions are still guided by what’s good for the game.
2004-05 lockout? Good for the game. Six game mini-packs to watch the defending worst team in the NHL that cost more than $100 per game? Good for the game. Making threats that, if you aren’t given a few hundred million dollars, your hockey team located in the heartland of hockey is no longer viable? Good for the game.
Alternate theory: everyone’s motives are a mix of what’s good for the game (stronger with people who have an emotional connection to hockey) and what’s good for the individual. What’s good for the individual is a mix of things that differs from individual to individual. For Burke’s employer, it’s the sheer thrill of exceeding the projected returns on the quarterly financial statements. For other owners, it will be a mix of financial and on-ice success.
Our game is only played in a comparatively small area on the planet. We need to grow the world’s greatest game, and international hockey competition is a critical component.
Tournaments must be staged in a manner that is consistent with the interests of the fans, the players, and the teams they play for. International competition needs to benefit all of the stakeholders.
This seems reasonable enough, although I don’t see why I’m supposed to care about the interests of the teams that the players play for. Let the owners sort it out with the players when they negotiate contracts with them. Washington can just fire Ovechkin if he doesn’t show up for work in February of 2014.
The current format simply does not meet everyone’s needs. The National Hockey League currently sends its players to the Olympics and the world championship, but receives no compensation for doing so.
That’s ok. It’s good for the game. After all, hockey is the world’s greatest game, we need to grow it and international competition is a critical component. I vaguely recall reading this somewhere.
Each NHL team shuts down its business for close to three weeks while the Olympic Games are played. In return, fans, management and owners are often rewarded with tired or broken players on their return from Olympic competition.
I can’t comment on the tired player part, although only a small percentage of players actually play in the Olympics – the rest of them get a delightful break from a long grind of a season to spend some time on a beach somewhere. As for the broken players – I genuinely don’t remember anyone coming back from an Olympics who was broken. Closest I can come is Mario Lemieux in 2001-02 but I have something of a suspicion that the Olympics were the only reason he played that year.
Nobody requires the NHL to shut down its business either. It shuts down its business because the players badly want to play in the Olympics and the fans are enthralled by Olympic hockey. Literally nobody complains when the NHL yields the stage to the Olympics for three weeks except NHL owners and management. This should tell Burke something about what’s good for the game.
Assured only that the game must be growing as a result of an Olympic bump in interest, what results instead is the game’s most dedicated stakeholders see their own games being diminished.
There really is nothing like the dedication of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment is there? Dedication drove it to conspire with the other owners to get rid of hockey for a year. Dedication gets it out of bed every morning to work to make sure that they can continue to make monopoly profits from a city that desperately needs another hockey team. Thank god for their tireless efforts.
And it is not fair that the athletes themselves are not compensated for their participation. They run the risk of injury in international tournaments, which can threaten their NHL livelihood.
Let the players get insurance if they’re worried. Or let them negotiate something with their club teams. Believe it or not, this is actually built right into the CBA – players are permitted to play in the World Championships, provided that there is adequate insurance in place. The players don’t seem to care that they aren’t compensated for their participation. Brian Burke’s concern for their interests is touching but they seem to have the matter well in hand.
While some would argue that the chance to represent their country is compensation enough, it is unfair when the International Ice Hockey Federation and the International Olympic Committee receive multiple millions of dollars from these tournaments.
I’m not going to defend the IOC or the IIHF but that sounds like a problem for hockey players and their governing organizations to work out. The players also do a bit of payback by their participation in these tournaments, as money comes into organizations like Hockey Canada and the other national federations which provided resources (in Canada at least) which benefitted the players as they were growing up.
Even the healthy player is impacted negatively in years requiring overseas travel where distance and time changes compound fatigue in an already gruelling schedule.
The post-Olympic slump that often impacts player performance can result in lost bonus opportunities and further lost endorsement revenue owing to missing the playoffs or Stanley Cup final.
“Lost endorsement revenue”? Are there any NHLers with significant endorsement revenue outside of Sidney Crosby? I’d like to see some data on this post-Olympic slump in any event. If hockey is a zero sum game – and it is – one player’s slump is another player’s hot streak. Someone else will get the revenue. Again, Burke’s concern is touching but if the players – by and large a collection of millionaires with all sorts of bargaining power – aren’t worried about this, why is he suddenly such a passionate advocate for their interests?
Basically, athletes and leagues are not paid or protected for their participation in either tournament while the tournaments themselves make millions. With that money going to the IOC and the IIHF alone, it jeopardizes future NHL player participation.
I feel very comfortable with a confident prediction that this will change.
FOR THE GOOD OF THE GAME. All of you fans and players who love Olympic and World Championship hockey are too stupid to know what’s good for you and the game. Only NHL owners and management know what is really in the best interests of the game. Like not having hockey for a year in order to establish a system to prop up financial blackholes in Phoenix. NO LOCKOUT, NO PHOENIX. NO CAROLINA. NO TAMPA BAY.
Burke goes on to propose a late summer tournament which I would love but really, this is all a pile of crap. The NHL is not hockey. NHL owners are conduits through which money passes and organizers. They are parasites. They can be tolerated so long as they produce useful outcomes – the scheduling of entertaining hockey matches – but when the negative consequences for the host of the parasite start to outweigh the benefit of their presence, they should be killed as quickly as possible.
If the players and fans want the Olympics, I say tough shit for the owners. They shouldn’t have their thumb in the pie of international hockey either. The players shouldn’t let them. I’m not even sure why the IIHF is needed, to be honest. What’s to stop the players from organizing a sixteen team international tournament, with the money divided up amongst the players who participate, in August of every fourth year? Why, exactly, is the consent or involvement of the NHL owners necessary? The highest level of the game is the property of those who can play it – if parasites like NHL owners or the IIHF are somehow necessary to facilitate it, their presence should be tolerated but they should never be mistaken as being somehow essential to it.