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.
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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.
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.