Perhaps you’re like me and every other hockey blogger you read. Maybe you’ve been inundated with emails from someone imploring you to join some sort of fan protest or walkout against the lockout. If you have, you’re probably like me in seeing the futility of it. Obviously, no one cares what we really think, as the return of our asses to arena seats and our eyeballs to the TV screen whenever these jerk-stores deign to return the game we love to us is pretty much assured. No matter how big of a crowd one gathers outside the NHL offices, you can bet Bettman and Jacobs would laugh at us.
So, in the coming weeks, I’d like to spend my time with something a bit more productive. Instead of just shouting at the rain on both sides, I think it’s more beneficial to try and come up with solutions. It has about as much chance as ending the lockout as these silly protests and walkouts do. But it’ll be more productive for us and at least maybe, if others catch on, we can feel that we did something to try and end the madness. At least we’ll feel better.
So let’s try it. Obviously, there are some huge obstacles here. Neither side is looking for compromise so much as victory. But to get a deal done, both sides are going to have to be unhappy with things. That’s how it works.
The main issue is of course the divvying-up of HHR. What’s these percentages are agreed on, it feels like the other issues such as entry-level deals or unrestricted free agency will fall like dominoes in the wind. They’re really not that far apart on those. So how do we do that?
The owners have called for the players’ share to shrink down to 47%-49%. The players have countered by volunteering to step ladder down to 52% for a while, which actually won’t change the amount their paid. As revenues grow and the entire pie gets bigger, that smaller percentage will still equal the total money they’re getting now. While I agree that’s fair, you can kind of see why the owners don’t.
Well, why not both?
The minute I utter the phrase “luxury tax,” anyone on the owners’ side is going to make a sound not unlike a small child makes when presented with brussel sprouts. But let’s stick with it for a time and see if we can’t allay what would be the fears of that.
If there’s a soft-cap at 49% of revenue, and then a hard one at 52%, with a penalty for exceeding the soft one and a limit to how many years you could be over the lower threshold, it solves a couple things. A) it creates a new fund that can go directly to revenue sharing. Let’s say a system where 50% of what you’re over the soft cap the first year is paid into the fund, 100% the second year and maybe 150% the third year — and you have to be under the soft cap under three. This would prevent the bigger teams from just ignoring the soft cap with their greater revenues like the Yankees do now or the Leafs and other Canadian teams probably would. It also allows the competitive streak of some owners in tact, while allowing both the players to get paid and create more streams of revenue for smaller clubs so that they can pay for players as well.
There’s actually a system like this already in place. During the offseason, you are allowed to exceed the cap by 5% until the opening day of the season. This is really only extending that into the season, with penalties for doing so.
If we work with the numbers we have now. The cap is set for $70 million for each team, which projects to total HHR of about $3.6 billion (up from 3.3 this past season). With the new figures, the lower, soft-cap (49%) would be somewhere around $58 million with the higher, hard-cap being at $63 million. It’s really not that huge of a discrepancy, but allows for some wiggle room.
As far as getting current salaries to fit in with that level, some sacrifices are going to have to be made. But the owners packaged this wrong, and now it may be too late and the cat’s not only out of the bag but he’s pissing on your rug. But instead of just saying you want to claw back salaries just because you want to, it should have been packaged that we need to lower the cap and with that we need to lower salaries so we can keep our teams together.
Players want to get paid of course, but they also want to compete and win. Sidney Crosby may love his salary, but he’s not going to like it if he has a security guard and a teamster on his wings. He wants good players in Pittsburgh with him.
Whether the players like it or not, they’re going to cough up some salary here. They can miss another season trying to prove they can wait it out or face reality and see they’re outgunned and start to deal a bit. I don’t like it, they don’t like it, but that’s how it’s going to go down.
My socialist heart is going to start bleeding through here, but the higher-paid players should dive on the grenades here for their union. Players making above 7 million a year should see a greater percentage reduced from their salary than those making 1.5 million or less. Yes , that means they’ll be coughing up more money but they’re also in a better position to deal with it. And people want teammates to help them win. Maybe a system where the $7 million + see a 7% reduction, those between $5-7 million see a 5%, and so on down the line. These percentages may not be high enough, or maybe they would be.
A luxury tax is really the only way out of this where everyone gets something they want. It allows the players to have more avenues to get paid, while creating revenue sharing that doesn’t automatically come out of the owners’ pockets if they don’t want it to. The term-limits and penalties also keeps the richer teams from separating themselves from the have-nots.
Or maybe this makes no sense. Or maybe it makes too much sense. But I feel better suggesting things than I do cursing the way things are. I only wish both sides would agree with that statement.