I’m sure you’ve been buried under enough of this stuff, but here is my first CBA-related post, one that I make out of curiosity and frustrated reflection. It’s a weird time to be an NHL fan.
Everyone and their Canadian grandmother is abuzz about the (impending?) doom that could (will?) accompany the wide gap in CBA negotiations between NHL owners and the players. I don’t claim any kind of expertise in either collective bargaining negotiations or labor strife, but I couldn’t help but be struck by the shockingly ineffective PR work done by the owners, how this has resulted in guiding my viewpoint… and how very little that matters whatsoever.
I’m not interested in making this a political blog, but I do want to give some context to my thoughts: I typically don’t tend to side with unions. And despite the problem of there actually being a lockout, the 2004-2005 NHL lockout was seemingly done for the right reasons.
Judge however you will, but the idea of a level playing field through the salary cap is desirable. While I don’t typically support artificial propping-up of failed organizations, the world of sports is one that (I feel) works better when teams are on relatively even financial ground in terms of pure operational ability. From there, it becomes a difference of managerial competence that creates a gulf between the current day Penguins/Sharks/Bruins and the Jackets/Islanders/Oilers of the NHL.
But that’s just the thing: there’s not all that much about the current NHL system for a fan to be up in arms about. Yes, loopholes in salary cap circumvention aren’t exactly enjoyable, but these tools (long contracts with tails) are available to every team, and turnaround is very doable (change happens both from the brink for Chicago or Pittsburgh, or from the very top for Buffalo). While the NHL lockout was a worst-case scenario, the outcome has been highly successful. Tweaks to revenue sharing or outright franchise relocation (for teams losing money) would seemingly solve the few noteworthy monetary woes in the system.
It is within the realm of that success that the NHL owners ask for more. I’m not opposed to that philosophically (any business should be looking for more when reasonable), but I am opposed within my scope as a hockey fan and casual observer of the expiring CBA. And that opposition stems from the rather shocking starting point offered by the NHL owners.