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NHL Return

Kingerski: NHL in the Wrong and the Players are Right

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NHL return, Pittsburgh Penguins Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, Jared McCann

The National Hockey League is fighting a few battles on a few fronts. Not even the most impressive armies ever seen have been able to fight on three fronts, yet that’s the challenge facing the NHL. While players have traditionally not had a great position in negotiations, this time, they’re in control of the NHL return to play.

And it’s not a great look for business owners to ask players for even more money.

The three battles are the owners vs. the players, the owners who want to play vs. the owners ready to scrap the season, and all parties vs. the insidious coronavirus.

I’ve appeared on 93-7 the Fan a couple of times in the last few days because the National Hockey Now family is on top of the situation like few others. A few sources familiar with the situation have vented to us.

There is rancor, resentment, and some who would like to give up. If you haven’t, check out the latest “Off the Record” column for PHN+ members. A few folks on the inside let off some steam, and the column by Jimmy Murphy contained heaps of insight.

“Obviously, (the players) know the owners got them again, and they will look like greedy assholes if they hold out, but this does not bode well for the future,” said a prominent agent.

For those just catching up, the NHL Return to Play in June included a new five-year CBA agreement. In that agreement, players agreed to a massive 20% escrow for this season and declining escrow withholdings until the final year of the agreement, in which the hated escrow payments declined to just 6%.

However, as part of the “new” NHL Return to Play discussions, owners want to re-open the new CBA agreement to increase escrow payments in the final years of the agreement, AND owners want players to accept a 13-16% salary deferral this season.

The owners’ ask would mean players receive only about 40% of their salaries.

Don’t succumb to the “players should be happy because they get paid to play a game” nonsense. With lasting physical effects, the extreme work required, and their careers’ finite lengths, the players earn their money. There are 500 people on the planet able to play the game at that level, and they create billions of dollars of revenue.

You wouldn’t be too happy if you worked year-round but received a 60% reduction in money; if you created billions of dollars in revenue but carried the losses for people who are otherwise worth hundreds of millions or billions of dollars.

Owners will recoup the losses now and when they sell the franchise at an exorbitant profit. Not even the Arizona Coyotes or Florida Panthers have decreased in value.

And so the players are right to be angry. They forewent their last paychecks last season and sacrificed big money to make the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs work, left their families for months, and agreed to significant salary givebacks.

In theory, the escrow money could be returned to the players, but it has never worked that way. At best, the players received pennies on the dollar after the escrow is redistributed to achieve the 50/50 hockey revenue distribution between players and owners.

In a solid union town like Pittsburgh, it’s always surprising to hear so many people side reflexively with owners, regardless of the situation. Imagine steelworkers’ or coalminers’ salaries fluctuating based on how well the company performed.

Players and owners agreed to a CBA just a few months ago, during the pandemic, which no one expected to be solved by October. If the owners made a bad deal, that’s on them.

But, the owners didn’t make a bad deal. It’s just going to be a little while longer before the owners recoup their losses from the 2019-20 season. For the players, they’ll never recoup their losses.

And that’s why, this time, the NHL players are 100% right.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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Jeff Arnold
Jeff Arnold
1 year ago

That last bit is right on target — the owners have a long enough timeline to recoup obvious losses but most players have only a few years. Shaving one off is massively unfair to the players. Consider in 5 years who will still feel the financial effects of this pandemic, Lafferty or Mario.

Rick
Rick
1 year ago

People a siding with owners over unions because the unions got greedy and have outlived their usefulness!

As far as the players only getting 60% of their salary. 60% is better than 0%! AND I have a hard time feeling sorry for a player, eve a player making the minimum making 60% of their bloated, inflated salary to play a GAME!

Peter Hoffman
Peter Hoffman
1 year ago

You are still wrong about this Dan. If they don’t want to play in the NHL, let them quit and get real jobs. With millions unemployed and facing a real financial crisis, you will never get a majority to cry about millionaires getting paid to play a game.

Peter Hoffman
Peter Hoffman
11 months ago
Reply to  Dan Kingerski

They didn’t generate billions last year, did they? And guess what, if all 600 died tomorrow, there would be 600 others to take their place next week. But the real point you are missing is that the players aren’t demanding lower ticket prices for the people that pay their salaries, the fans. They don’t care about the fans who are the people really hurting this year. Why should fans care about millionaires arguing with billionaires about hockey?

David
David
1 year ago

The players get paid what the free market will bear, just like the rest of us. At the NHL level it’s not a game, it’s a business — one that generates money for both players, owners, the media, concessionaires, etc. All are needed to keep the business going. Any of the others commenters here, including me, would play this “game” if they had the talent, and they’d find it takes dedication and sacrifice and a great tolerance for pain — because there must be reasons so few start out but only about 600 play at the NHL level.

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