Five Things You Don't Know About the Lockout

Since we all wait with baited breath for the next scheduled negotiation between NHL head honcho Gary Bettman and NHLPA svengali Bob Goodenow, I thought it prudent that I share some facts with you about the current state of affairs in the league and players’ association.1) For any player who wants to play in the National Hockey League, membership in the NHL Players’ Association is completely VOLUNTARY. There is no law or rule that says a player must join the union. According to the last collective bargaining agreement (and the ones before it):

“Every player has the option of joining or not joining the Association; provided, however, that as a condition of employment for the duration of this Agreement and wherever and whenever legal:

a. any active player who is or later becomes a member in good standing of the NHLPA must maintain his membership in good standing in the Association; or

b. any active player who is not a member in good standing of the NHLPA must, on the 30th day following the beginning of his employment, pay, pursuant to Section 4.02 below or otherwise, to the NHLPA an annual service fee in the same amount as the periodic dues.”

Yes, you read that correctly. The players’ association, with the league’s consent, still gets its piece of any player’s pie even if they are not union members. I can only assume that in the event that a player is not a union member, the “fees” he has to pay only go to line the pockets of other players in the form of a pension fund. Sounds like blackmail to me.

Questions: Is this legal? Have the trade unions in the US become so powerful that they can bully their way into getting paid no matter what?

2) The executive committee of the NHLPA is made up of the following players: Trevor Linden, Bob Boughner, Vincent Damphousse, Daniel Alfredsson, Bill Guerin, Trent Klatt and Arturs Irbe.

Did everyone get that last part? ARTURS IRBE!

Question: How the hell does this happen? And what the hell good is a slob like Irbe to a union committee when he wasn’t even “working” 90% of the time last season?

3) This past season, on away game days, each NHL player was paid $85. This is not part of their salary. This is their per diem meal allowance, as stipulated by the collective bargaining agreement. Over the course of the regular season, after 42 away games, this adds up to be $3,570 for each player. That’s just the regular season, not including the playoffs.

Think of the math – 25 players per club multiplied by 30 clubs is 750. 750 players multiplied by $3,570 is $2,677,500.

That’s over $2.6 million just so these guys can GO OUT TO EAT.

Questions: Do players like Nicklas Lidstrom and Jaromir Jagr actually need an $85 per diem? Does a lower-tier player who makes $300K actually need a per diem? Do you know how many homeless and hungry people you can feed for $2.6 million?

4) Any agent who represents an NHL player must become a “certified agent” by the players’ association:

“The NHL and the Clubs agree that the Clubs are prohibited from engaging in individual contract negotiations with any agent who is not designated by the NHLPA as being duly certified (“Certified Agent”) by the NHLPA in accordance with its role as exclusive bargaining agent for NHL players. The NHLPA shall publish and provide to the NHL and the Clubs a list of agents who are currently certified in accordance with its Agent Certification Program and, for each player, the name of the certified agent, if any. The NHLPA shall notify the NHL and the Clubs, by way of publishing and providing them with a comprehensive updated list, setting forth any deletions or additions thereto.”

Additionally, if a player wishes to negotiate a contract with any club, he either must do it on his own or have a “certified” agent do it for him:

“No Club shall enter into a Player Contract with any player and the NHL shall not register or approve any Player Contract unless such player: (i) was represented in the negotiations by a Certified Agent as designated by the NHLPA under Section 6.1; or (ii) if Player has no Certified Agent, acts on his own behalf in negotiating such Player Contract.”

Questions: There are some pretty intelligent players out there, why don’t they negotiate their own deals and keep the sycophants out of the process? Anyone else wonder what kind of “process” people like Carl Lindros and Doug Messier had to go through to become “certified” agents?

5) In addition to any salary and bonuses agreed to in a players contract, bonuses are paid to the award winning players BY THE LEAGUE. Each major award winner (i.e. Hart, Norris, Vezina, etc.) gets $3,700. The runners-up get $1,250.

The starting 6 players on each all-star team get $6,000 each. The next six voted in get $2,750. Again, this is in addition to negotiated salary.

The Stanley Cup-winning team also receives a bonus from the league. This past spring, the Tampa Bay Lightning, as a team, earned an extra $13.5 million, to be distributed equally among the players (part-time players receive their bonus on a pro-rated basis). Yet again, this is in addition to negotiated salary.

Additionally, “Each player on the Club with the most points in each of the four (4) divisions shall receive $5,000 (native currency) for seasons through 1999/00 and $6,000 (native currency) for seasons after 1999/00. Each player on the Club with the second most points in each of the four (4) divisions shall receive $2,500 (native currency) for seasons through 1999/00 and $3,000 (native currency) for seasons after 1999/00.” Yup, that’s still another tack-on.

Last but not least, the players from the President’s Trophy-winning club also receive $250,000.

Questions: If these bonuses are being paid by the league, who says there is nothing to play for? And why are there additional bonuses necessary in individual player contracts?

Disgusted yet? You should be.