Stellicktricity: NHL needs to 'make whole' with fans | Hockey | CBC Sports

Hockey Night in CanadaStellicktricity: NHL needs to 'make whole' with fans

Posted: Monday, December 17, 2012 | 02:34 PM

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Commissioner Gary Bettman is at the helm of an NHL lockout for the second time in eight years. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) Commissioner Gary Bettman is at the helm of an NHL lockout for the second time in eight years. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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The term "make whole" has been replaced now by "transitional payments." They both refer to how existing player contracts will be dealt with with once the lockout is settled.
 
But "make whole" is now what NHL teams and players need to do for their passionate and loyal fans.  They have to collectively figure a way to "make whole" to those that have dealt with this (unexpected for most) absurdity for the second time in eight years.
New definitions for some of the terminology we've heard over this prolonged NHL lockout:
 
HRR
 
$3.3 billion in hockey-related revenue was earned (and shared between players and owners) last season. This figure could stand as a high benchmark for what is possible when both sides truly care about the overall good of the game.

It has been reported that NHL COO John Collins has tired of seeing all of his excellent work in driving that $3.3 billion HRR figure diminish each day of this lockout. It is no coincidence since he arrived at the NHL from the NFL that the revenue pie, which both sides are unable to agree on how to split, has grown beyond expectations.

Middle class

This is the group the NHLPA is supposedly fighting for with their insistence that the length of an NHL contract be for as long a term as possible. The theory is that the fewer years that a star like, say, Sidney Crosby can be locked up for in a contract, the more he will ask for each season to make up for the lack of term. This could squeeze the middle-class type of player who may have been the beneficiary of the longer term deal for a player like Crosby as less annual salary and cap-room money become available to be spread to others.
 
But an NHL executive told me that the middle-class type of players are not candidates for long-term contracts in the current system anyway. Of the dozens of players making an arbitrary "middle class" amount (for argument's sake, we'll make it $1.5 million to $3.5 million per season) only one is under contract for six years or more.
 
That player is Kyle Turris of the Ottawa Senators, who after signing a five-year, $17.5-million extension is now under contract for the next six years at an average of $3.15 million per year. So the middle class has never been getting the same type of security in contracts as elite players do.
 
Walk away
 
Much was made about the "walk away" clause that was negotiated into the CBA at the insistence of NHL owners back in the 1990s. It gave NHL teams the right to walk away from arbitration rulings that they deemed not favourable.
 
A big win for them that they won the concession for this clause? Certainly, on the surface it was.  On paper, anything but. After making that kind of a fuss to provide this safeguard against "unfair" arbitration awards, the Leafs used it with Dimitri Khristich early on and Chicago used it with Chris Campoli recently. Otherwise, this much argued for (by the owners) provision has basically meant very little.
 
I think a similar situation may be happening with the issue of contract lengths being a deal breaker. I think this is one issue players should just walk away from.
 
'Hill we will die on'
 
Add to the above the comments of NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, who said that a five-year limit on contract lengths is a "hill we will die on." Daly is not prone to grandiose statements, nor doing or saying things out of spite or anger, nor saying things that he doesn't truly believe himself.
 
My CBC colleague Elliotte Friedman believes there are two situations that especially have irked Daly and the NHL. One is the Vinny Lecavalier 11-year contract that proved to be a real albatross in the attempts to sell the Tampa Bay Lightning. It proved to be a drag on what they were actually able to sell the team to new owner Jeffrey Vinik for.
 
Now they see this repeating itself with Illya Kovalchuk's long-term contract being a potential impediment if and when drastic action needs be taken to assist the New Jersey Devils in being able to work through their perceived financial struggles.
 
Power play
 
Looks like the edge will be determined in courtrooms before judges and arbitrators as to which side gains any legal "advantage" with their particular arguments and positions.
 
Garbage time
 
I call it "garbage time" when games have no real bearing on the race to the playoffs. When a team is out of the playoffs (usually mathematically but often even before that) their games have no real meaning.  They are garbage games and it is the garbage time of the season.

Toronto Maple Leafs fans have on a couple of recent occasions been swayed by the strong performance of their team during that final run of the season, when the team was out of the playoffs. But what  happened in garbage time did not translate into the same kind of success the next season when the games really counted again.

Our NHL Christmas present might be a 48-game schedule beginning in January. The assumption is that teams would just play within their own conference as was the case in 1995.

With games all being played against conference rivals and with each game having added value (compared to an 82-game season) this could make for some intense and motivated hockey and will also mean much less garbage time for teams that ultimately do not make the playoffs.
 
Make whole
 
The term "make whole" has been replaced now by "transitional payments." They both refer to how existing player contracts will be dealt with with once the lockout is settled.
 
But "make whole" is now what NHL teams and players need to do for their passionate and loyal fans.  They have to collectively figure a way to "make whole" to those that have dealt with this (unexpected for most) absurdity for the second time in eight years.

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