NHL Lockout 2012: Are The Players Hypocrites?

Dany Heatley Wild

Dany Heatley demanded to be traded, effectively not honoring his contract with the Ottawa Senators. So, why should the owners honor the players’ contracts?
(Vincent Muzik/Icon SMI)

As the 40th day of the NHL lockout passed fans were left disappointed as there is still no resolution to the labor squabbles in sight.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman had said all along that the NHL’s latest proposal would have to be signed, sealed and delivered by October, 25th, if there was any hope of an 82-game season being played. Now, with the deadline passing, fans and players are left wondering what percentage of the season is left to be played, if anything.

Last week both the NHL and NHLPA presented proposal’s that would call for the players and owners to split all Hockey Related Revenue 50-50. While the proposals varied on what constituted HRR and the term in which the two sides would get to that 50-50 split, there was hope that there was enough common ground to continue talks and finalize a deal.

Instead, with the NHLPA requesting further meetings this week, the NHL all but refused to meet with the NHLPA, causing the players and fans to throw a little mud at the NHL.

One of the major sticking points seems to be the issue of “making whole” on the players’ current contracts. It seems any deal the NHL is willing to sign would involve considerable “Rollbacks” on the players current contracts, which would diminish the value of the current deals.

The last CBA resulted in the players gaining a 57-43 split of all HRR. While seemingly willing to give up seven percent in HRR in order to get to that 50-50 split, the players are insisting that their current contracts be paid out in full and in good faith.

On the surface the players’ demand to have their current contracts respected seems like the right thing to do, but have the players forgotten about the shoddy treatment a number of owners have received in terms of players demanding to get out of their deals and/or forcing trades?

Dany Heatley is a prime example of a player that was unhappy where he played and forced a trade. Not only did he force a trade, but when the Ottawa Senators found a home for Heatley in Edmonton he balked at the deal and demanded he be traded to a team of his liking.

In essence, by forcing the Ottawa Senators to trade him, Heatley refused to honor his contract. How this was ever allowed is beyond me, but I digress.

Similar circumstances occurred when Chris Pronger pushed for a trade out of Edmonton, while this summer the Columbus Blue Jackets had their hand forced by Rick Nash.

In each case the NHL teams suffered huge losses in terms of revenue and stature within the NHL. And for what? To make Dany Heatley happy? Because Chris Pronger didn’t like Edmonton? So Rick Nash could play on a contender? Why were any of these players so special that they should be able to derail their teams chances at success? And since when were the players in charge?

So, it’s alright when the players want out of their deals or demand to be traded, but when the NHL demands that changes be made to the deals, financially or otherwise, the players have a problem with this? Gimme a break!

Yes, the NHL is asking that the players rollback their current salaries, which means the players stand to lose millions of dollars. But does anyone take into account the cost an NHL team incurs when they lose a star player because he is unhappy?

NHL teams invest millions of dollars in players and aggressively market their star players in hopes of attracting more fans/increasing ticket sales. When a star player demands a trade out of town the general manager of that team is often forced into making a deal at a discount in order to appease the player and save face with potential free agents who would likely avoid a team that did not “make right” for a player.

And what about the damage it does to the teams on-ice performance? And to potential playoff revenue? Or attracting potential UFA’s to come to your city? The list goes on and on.

The fact is, when a star player pushes his team for a trade it derails that team for years to come and there is something that’s just not right about that.

While I hate the fact that the players can get away with demanding trades, I think the owners have a lot of nerve asking the players to accept any kind of rollback on their current salaries. After all, the owners signed the players to these massive contracts (money and term), and if they had no intention of honoring the deals in full then they are crooks!

That said, if the players want their contracts respected then the same level of respect should be shown to the owners by honoring their contracts IN FULL. After all, the players signed their contracts with the team of their choice (at least for the most part). Asking an NHL club to get out of your deal or turning your back on your team because you don’t like the weather, or your team is struggling, is not a good enough reason to be traded.

Besides, an NHL player should never be able to dictate where he is traded, that is what unrestricted free agency is for— this is when you can chose to go and play in the city of your dreams, not by demanding a trade out of town to a team of your choice or some watered down list of 4-5 preferred destinations.

The way I see it is if a player wants out, fine. But you had better be prepared to go to any of the other 29 NHL clubs, for better, or for worse. May the highest bidder for your services win, personal preferences be damned!

The player signed a contract, so suck it up and play! Conversely, the owners signed the players to their contracts, so suck it up and pay!

And don’t get me started on guaranteed contracts— why does the NHL have them again? That’s a story for another time…

Mark Ritter
Known as an honest, opinionated and trusted writer, Mark Ritter brings a unique view on the Maple Leafs and the NHL in general. Mark has been writing about hockey for almost ten years and is known for bringing an honest view on the Maple Leafs. You can view more of Mark's work at www.theslapshot.com Please follow Mark on Twitter: @theslapshot
Mark Ritter

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