Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The Millbury Effect

Does anyone else remember the first interview Gary Bettman gave in 1992 after being named the Commissioner of the NHL? I saw it on TSN. Bettman noted that player’s salaries in hockey had lagged behind those of players in baseball, football and basketball. He said this as though it were a bad thing. I thought it was odd that the owners would hire someone and give them a mandate which appeared to work against their interests, but that was the spin the NHL chose to give the occasion.

I love irony, so I find much to love about this situation. Twelve years after hiring Bettman to raise the player’s salaries, they want him to find a way to stop raising the player’s salaries. To underline their seriousness they have locked the players out. This was a move designed to pressure the players into accepting a salary cap; an upset limit on the earning power of the individual, in order to benefit the earning power of those with no upset limit; the owners.

To say players’ salaries are too high is non-sense. The salaries are exactly what the owners are prepared to pay, and not a Looney more. No one is forcing, or has ever forced the owners to sign any player for any amount above the league minimum. The owners choose to offer the players amounts more than that. The owners could get together and decide on a limit to player’s salaries, but they don’t.

To understand how salaries got into the realm of the absurd you need not look any further than New York Islander GM, Michael Millbury. Millbury pays journeyman/floaters several times more than what the sentient GM’s are willing to pay them. Any really good player; and by that I mean one who shows up every night and actually racks-up points, can’t help but notice what Yashin is making and what he’s doing to make it.

Let’s call this ‘The Millbury Effect’; or the proportional increase in talented player’s salaries as a result of paying journeyman/floaters too much. The owners have to compensate for Millbury’s misjudgements by paying genuinely talented players more. Which part of the equation don’t they understand? If Millbury thinks Yashin is worth ninety-million dollars, who could fault other players for holding out for two or three billion?

Some teams will fold; Pittsburgh may already be gone, along with a number of ‘expansion’ teams no-one cares about. Perhaps this is the break the City of Hamilton has been waiting for? If they could pick up a team they could easily sell out every game. Oh no, I forgot; the Buffalo Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs perennially oppose Hamilton’s bid to get their own NHL team. So you know the owners can reach solidarity if they really want to.

What I’ve learned from all this is; I don’t miss hockey. Though I do miss those hilarious Labatt’s commercials, or chuckle breaks as I call them. Like the one where the ‘room-mate’ dumps a whole shelf of little Stanley Cups on the floor. It’s funny ‘cause it’s true. And I swear it gets funnier the sixth or seventh time you see it every hour.

Or that Wendy’s guy who isn’t really a Wendy’s guy. He’s just a guy, you know, who really likes Wendys? Funny, funny stuff! I miss that a lot.

Or how about the terminally cheerful, all-season ‘neighbour’, who solves every problem with something from Canadian Tire? I miss him too. I wonder what he’s really like as a neighbour? Can you imagine this guy's dark side? You get home late one night and find him hammered, pissing in a snow bank. His wife’s just left him; he’s so wasted he yaks all over himself then cleans his beard out with an adjustable, reasonably priced device which can also be used to fix the dog or a snow-blower.

Hmmm. Now that I think about it, what are we clinging to here?

Let’s NEVER bring hockey back.

Italic Mine


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