Above the Glass
by Samantha on 06/20/11 at 01:44 PM ET
The unrestricted free agency season opens on July 1, giving qualifiied players the chance to shop themselves around to the highest bidder if they haven’t been re-signed by their current team. If only it were that easy. Alas, the creators of the Collective Bargaining Agreement didn’t follow the cardinal rule of hockey: keep it simple. Take, for example, Article 10, Free Agency. Age and experience are part of how players qualify, as is the number of seasons played. Kinda like life, only we don’t have a complicated collective bargaining agreement to guarantee that we have the right to go freelance and determine our worth by something more meaningful than how many rungs of the corporate ladder we’ve climbed. But what if we did?
First, the basics: Article 10 of the CBA has four sections, takes up 11 pages and includes the definition of unrestricted and restricted free agents. The first part of it goes like this. I think:
10.1 Unrestricted Free Agents. (a) Group 3 Players and Free Agents. Players in the 2005-2006 season had to be at least 31 or older and have four accrued seasons as of the end of the 2004-2005 season. That changes with each season, in which the player can be younger or have played more accrued seasons. It dictates that for the 2008-2009, 2009-2010 or 2010-2011 seasons, the player must have seven accrued seasons or be 27 years of age or older as of June 30 of the end of the 2007-08, 2008-09 or 2009-10 League Year. He shall, if his most recent SPC has expired, with such expiry occurring either as of June 30 of the applicable League Year or June 30 of any prior League Year, become an Unrestricted Free Agent. Such players are free to negotiate and sign an SPC with any team that wants and is willing to pay for them without penalty or restriction. (b) Group 5 Free Agents. These players must have completed 10 or more professional seasons (minor league or NHL) and must not have earned more than that year’s Average League Salary in the final season of their SPCs, provided that they had not previously elected to become an Unrestricted Free Agent. These players are entitled at the expiration of their SPCs to elect to become an unrestricted free agent by notifying in writing the League and his Prior Club on or before July 10. (c) Group 6 Free Agents. Means any player who is 25 or older who has completed three or more professional seasons, whose SPC has expired and in the case of a player other than a Goaltender, has played less than 80 NHL Games or in the case of a Goaltender has played less than 28 NHL Games.
So, in other words: The older and more experienced you are, the more rights you have to shop yourself around. Except in the case of Group 6 Free Agents, who presumably didn’t sign a ridiculous multi-decade deal with a team and who while young, are not quite worth resigning at some ridiculous multi-year salary.
But what about what isn’t on paper?: This rule says nothing about the intangibles that may prompt a team to not want to resign you and let you go on your way, like injuries, bad PR missteps on Twitter and elsewhere, not having good chemistry with your teammates or not being a team player, having a big mouth that you should probably shut now and again or illegal off-ice activities. Well, ok, maybe it is in here, but not being a Harvard lawyer, I haven’t decrypted it.
Morals of the story:
The game: Hockey is many things, but at the end of the day it’s a business. And if players who are getting older, more beat up and more injured with each season have the chance to make all the money they can while they can, they should have the right to do so. But then again, the money they make in 20 some odd years in the league is more than most working professionals will ever make in their lifetimes. Which brings me to this:
Life: We need a collective bargaining agreement for Corporate America. My slightly simpler version would go a little something like this:
Group 3 Top Shelf Employees: These workers are those that have shown loyalty to a particular company or industry, who have worked hard and gotten ahead the honest, real way instead of the way most do: stealing other people’s ideas, sleeping with the boss, being related to the boss, having a big fancy piece of paper from a big fancy school that you didn’t really earn because your parents bought it for you or all of the above; BUT who have not been properly paid for their time and talent and have been held back from promotion by an evil mid-level boss who is sleeping with her boss. Group 3 Top Shelf Employees are those that have earned the right to shop themselves around to the highest bidder in an unrestricted free employee negotiation period from April 1 - May 31. Such employees will be free to take lunch hours, long breaks and days off in order to shop their talents around to companies that are willing to pay them and promote them to a position worthy of their talents.
Group 5 Middle Shelf Employees: These individuals have been with a company for less time and like it but don’t love it and therefore it is time for a change before their career derails or dead ends. Because they may take longer to find something they really like with a company that doesn’t mind they haven’t been promoted in five years, these workers are permitted to get a three day jump on the unrestricted free employee negotiation period, as well as use lunch hours or paid days off to search for other jobs.
Group 6 Bottom Shelf Employees: These employees are defined as those bottom feeders who have slept with the boss, stolen ideas or bullied their way to the top. After being discovered as the phonies they are by their current employers, they are resticted to offering themselves to the highest bidder for only the first five days of the unrestricted free employee negotiation preriod. If after this time, no company was stupid enough to help them get even further ahead, they will be free to go look for far more lucrative careers that involve the expression “would you like fries with that?”
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About Above the Glass
Welcome to Above the Glass, a definitive anti-expert’s guide to hockey. I started blogging in 2009 as part of an effort to learn all 87 rules in the NHL Rulebook in 107 days before the 2010 Olympics, 30 years after I discovered the sport. You can peruse the archival results here. Growing up in Arizona, I didn’t even know hockey existed until February 22, 1980, when the USA played Russia in the Olympics. And just like that, the game of the century changed my life. I still don’t quite understand the icing rule or which faceoff circle goes with what offense, but I do know that every aspect of hockey has something to teach us about life. That’s what you’ll find here, along with my unadulterated passion for the game.
I live in Portland, Oregon, home of the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks. I invite anyone who wants to know more about hockey in the Rose City to visit here, where I blog exclusively about the Winterhawks. I’ll post an occasional musing about the Hawks, the WHL and junior hockey here as well.
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