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The Puck Stops Here

Finally A Significant Change To The Lockout

The NHL has locked out its players for over three months and we have finally hit a point where the paradigm may shift.  The NHL players are acting to dissolve the NHLPA.  I asked during the 2005 lockout why the NHLPA exists.  They are supposed to be an organization for the NHL players to get them a better deal from the owners.  That isn't the way it has been lately.  The NHLPA has accepted salary caps and other restrictions that would not exist under a free market.  The NHL players would be better off without accepting these restrictions.  In the current lockout where the NHL is demanding more restrictions, the NHL players have finally decided that the union does more to help the league than it does the players.

If you need proof of that statement look at the current events.  The players are voluntarily acting to get rid of their union and the NHL is running to court to try to stop them.  The NHL needs the union.  The players are better off without it.

If this process is completed it will change the landscape of the lockout.  There is uncertainty about exactly how things will stand when everything is completed but it is clear that both sides believe that the players would be better off without the NHLPA.

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redxblack's avatar

This is an oversimplified statement. Without the NHLPA, the individual players can take a class action approach to hammer the league for collusion and antitrust violations. With the NHLPA, they cannot. THAT is why it matters.

Posted by redxblack from Akron Ohio on 12/16/12 at 02:23 PM ET

Dakkster's avatar

Way to completely miss the point of dissolving the union, TPSH

Posted by Dakkster from Southern Sweden on 12/16/12 at 04:05 PM ET

Chet's avatar

...the 4th grade intellect strikes again. why is this guy a blogger here again?

Posted by Chet from twitter: thegansen on 12/16/12 at 04:56 PM ET

Paul's avatar

Chet, I want to make sure you understand you have an option if you do not want to read certain blogs.

Go to My Homepage at the top right of any KK page and you can design your own home page, eliminating blogs you do not want to read.

I would prefer comments in this blog remain on topic.  Thanks.

Posted by Paul from Motown Area on 12/16/12 at 04:59 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

Its the commenters who are being the idiots.

Without even jumping into details its obvious the union helps the owners more than the players.  Look how much the owers complain and how quickly they take things to court when the players consider dropping their union.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 12/16/12 at 05:00 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

So if the author goes far enough to call all of his commenters idiots, does that make personal shots on-topic?

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 12/16/12 at 05:06 PM ET


Even if the NHLPA is disclaiming as a “ploy” rather than disclaiming because they believe they “would be better off without the NHLPA,” PSH’s opinion that unions are worse for athletes than not having one is perfectly valid.

I think he’s wrong, mind you. Without a salary and cap floor, bottom pairing D and bottom 6 forwards—guys who aren’t necessarily all that much better than similar guys in the AHL, but have NHL deals for nebulous reasons such as because they’re an inch taller than the next guy—will likely see their salaries drop to just above what replacement players outside the league make now. If I’m not mistaken, there are about 30 Chris Thorburns for every Ilya Kovalchuk.

I have an awful hard time thinking the players are better off without a union. But that doesn’t mean I think it’s right to call the author a stupid child for thinking otherwise.

Posted by larry on 12/16/12 at 05:22 PM ET


One more thing. Currently the collective bargaining agreement made possible by there being a union offers a lot of protections for the players.

Contracts being guaranteed is one. A retirement plan is another.

But still another is that these contracts are standardized. Only certain things that the union agrees to can go in them.

Without a union, there’s nothing at all to stop general managers from, for instance, jamming non-competes down the less-important players’ throats come contract time. What happens when a contract like that expires? The GM lowballs him and gives a choice between taking the lowball offer or not playing anywhere for x years then signing with someone else.

Posted by larry on 12/16/12 at 05:28 PM ET

redxblack's avatar

Well said, Larry.

That said, Chet said something personal about the original blogger’s intellect. The blogger called all critics of his half-thought blog “idiots.” This “I’m right, you’re wrong, no matter what” is the height of insecurity and lowers the quality of the site as a whole. As far as ignoring, I have this blog on ignore and it still shows up. I don’t know why. I guess I should re-ignore.

Posted by redxblack from Akron Ohio on 12/16/12 at 05:45 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

It is true that calling all the commenters on this blog idiots was going too far and I am sorry for that, but the first three comments added little to discussion and were going further and further off track at a rapid rate.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 12/16/12 at 06:12 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Without a union, there’s nothing at all to stop general managers from, for instance, jamming non-competes down the less-important players’ throats come contract time.

This is why I’ve laughed whenever I’ve read somebody categorize this as the union hurting the little guys to get benefits for the star players.

Without the union, low-liners and fringe players are screwed.  Star players are going to be able to name their terms and, when the dust settles and the sport works out all the generalized kinks caused by a non-CBA world, it’s going to be the star players getting paid out of the extra money teams have available from how little they can pay the non-stars.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 12/16/12 at 06:30 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar


They said exactly the same thing about the salary cap.  Stars would make all the money and the bottom guys would make the minimum.  It hasn’t happened this way.  These prognostications that the new system will screw the bottom players have been made for 50 years and they haven’t come true.

I think what happens when the dust settles is a system much like the European soccer leagues.  There will be a first division smaller than the NHL today and second and third divisions (and likely beyond).  All told more independant professional teams would likely exist but there would be some that are equivlalent to the ECHL and AHL today.  There would be mobility between divisions and there would be more teams in the good markets - Southern Ontario, Quebec, BC.  It would be a different world and it would take a few years for the dust to settle, but the blanket claim that the bottom would be screwed now is unsupportable and likely false.  The NHL has never screwed the bottom players (any more than they screw the top players).  I think it is just an example of buying into the NHL’s disinformation.

The NHL is quick to say how bad decertification of the union is but their actions speak louder than words.  They are fighting against the process because it is not in their best interest.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 12/16/12 at 06:38 PM ET


They said exactly the same thing about the salary cap.  Stars would make all the money and the bottom guys would make the minimum.  It hasn’t happened this way.

That was said, wrongly, about the salary cap.

However, the reason it was wrong was 3 fold
-threat of salary arbitration (these will always drive salaries up)
-league minimum salary
-cap floor (a team like columbus needs to pay even a replaceable player a big wage to ink him)

With a possible 4th reason I’m not quite sold on
-star players trading dollars per year for term

In a union-free future for NHL players, none of these mechanisms that helped the mid and low-tier player exist.

And it’s funny that you mention soccer. The Chris Thorburn type who isn’t any better than the best guys in the minors can make as little as $20k/y playing in a pro soccer league, while a teammate might make $8 million/y. This disparity, to me, is exactly why NHL players need a union.

Assuming Thorburn would make $20k in a true free market, he has gained $3.1 million and counting from being in a union (though more realistically, considering ahl wages, it’s more like $2.6).

Posted by larry on 12/16/12 at 06:55 PM ET


One final thing. Goodenow’s most-effective mechanism at getting salaries to rise was in instituting the practice of publicly announcing the dollar amount on every deal. The NHL’s not really capable of forcing a union to stop doing that.

But without a union, NDAs would be written into every contract going forward, so THAT mechanism would be gone, too.

Before Goodenow came along, there were a bunch of stories about this awesome player or that one asking to be the highest paid guy in the sport, being told he was and walking away with a smile, even though there were pluggers clearing more on other teams. Without a union, in the long term, this practice could return.

Posted by larry on 12/16/12 at 07:00 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

I don’t particularly remember reading people saying that about the salary cap, but if they did, they were right. Bottom guys *do* make the minimum… and really they should.

But with a CBA, the minimum NHL salary is pretty damn good pay.  If you eliminate the CBA, you eliminate a set-definition for what the minimum is and you allow that to be set by how inherently replaceable bottom-rung NHLers are… which is probably significantly more-replaceable than being able to demand more than half a million in salary.

I don’t think that’s an unsupportable claim. A true open-market system sets every bit of competition within itself. The bottom will be exactly as supported as the players who make up the bottom allow themselves to be. Much like the bottom rung of labor in the US (illegal labor), it turns out that for the privilege, they’ll allow themselves to be pretty damn taken advantage of.

Of course, that idea and your idea that once the dust settles, you’ll end up with a more-European system of hockey in North America with different teams in different tiers creating more overall hockey at levels which are fairly-well supported wherever they are don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

I kind of like your idea about that; I agree that the existence of an NHLPA is probably the biggest obstacle to creating that. I’m not sure that I’d be completely ok with giving up what the NHLPA provides in order to create that system.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 12/16/12 at 07:04 PM ET

Paul From Cali's avatar

Really the issue of whether the players are better off without a union comes down to one question:  What would the NHL look like if the players didn’t have representation?  My belief is there wouldn’t be an NHL there wasn’t an NHLPA,  but I’m not agreeing with the OP.  His contention is that the union hurt the players by accepting restrictions such as a salary cap.  I don’t believe the players had a choice.  Since the owners can’t control their own bank accounts they need the players to allow them to restrict each other.  If the players didn’t agree to more restrictions 8 years ago,  or now,  there wouldn’t be an NHL for them to play in.  The NHLPA may not be able to negotiate the best deal for all it’s players but simply negotiating a deal benefits all the players.

Posted by Paul From Cali on 12/16/12 at 07:15 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

At least 20 markets don’t need a salary cap at all to be profitable.  Phoenix does.  Florida does.  They could exist as division two teams.  The owners don’t need asalary cap to be profitable in most cases.  Phoenix needs a salary cap plus a whole lot more to be profitable.  Let Phoenix fall by the wayside and the best teams will get better because they don’t have artificial restrictions keeping them from becoming the best they can.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 12/16/12 at 08:05 PM ET

redxblack's avatar

Sigh. So pointing out that you completely ignored the motive “added little to the discussion”?

Posted by redxblack from Akron Ohio on 12/16/12 at 10:46 PM ET

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imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.

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