NHLPA's definition of

After hearing the NHLPA regurgitate over and over again that all they are looking for is a “fair” deal, I decided to check it out and see what their definition of the word “fair” actually means. I looked all over their NHLPA.com website and found no definition of exactly what they consider to be “fair”, so I thought I’d send them an e-mail and ask. Unfortunately, they appear to be the only website in creation not to have a “Contact Us” section. In fact the only place on their website where I found a place to contact them, (except for all the stupid promotions and links to buy things), was their link to that God-awful “Be A Player!” show that they use to pat themselves on the back. I guess they only care about the fans if they’re supporting their other source of income (their “second job”, so to speak).

Looking in my dictionary, I find that the word “fair”, in this context, is defined as “Showing no partiality; just; upright” or “Moderately satisfactory or acceptable; passably good”. Now, since the NHLPA does not consider the salary tax systems of the NBA and the NFL to be “fair”, and everyone but the NHLPA knows that the CBA of the “New York Yankees” Baseball League doesn’t work, I thought I should look elsewhere.

Since, the NHLPA contends that hockey is an entertainment business and cannot be compared to employment at General Motors or McDonalds’s, I thought “That’s fair” (no pun intended), and maybe I should look at the actual entertainment industry. So, I went to the Screen Actor’s Guild (SAG) website, the Hollywood actor’s equivalent of the NHLPA, and was surprised to find at least three ways to contact them right on their home page (a little different then the NHLPA’s). Also different from the NHLPA’s website was that they had a link, right on their home page, to “Rate Information”. Any actor, producer, director or member of the public like myself, can log onto their website and find out their union negotiated rates. This is something that cannot be found on the NHLPA’s website. I guess they don’t want the average Joe to know. The SAG website, however, clearly lists rates and numbers, such as the minimum salary for what it defines a “Major Role Performer – TV Episodic Prime-Time Networks, FBC, UPN and the WB”. So, for example, I can find out that an actor working on a prime time network TV show can be paid no less than $3, 644 a week for a half hour show, or $5, 831 a week for a full hour show. So, I estimate about $130 thousand a season for a half-hour show, and $200 thousand for a full hour show, keeping in mind that an actor of a TV show does not work for three to four months during the summer. SAG also has different rates for working more or less than 13 weeks, so their contracts aren’t exactly guaranteed long term like a hockey player who signs a four year deal.

For comparison, I had to go to NHL.com to find hockey’s CBA agreement, since it was no where to be found on the NHLPA website. Here on NHL.com it was listed in full, along with many options for contacting them, (including chat lines, and job opportunities). Looking in the CBA I found that maximum amounts are much more prominent when talking about first time player contracts than minimums. In fact, I had to look into a different section to find the minimum salary of the average player playing in the NHL. The maximum a rookie can be paid in 2004 is $1,295,000, not including bonuses. I also found that the minimum a player may make, if he is playing in the minors is $30 thousand. In other words, the minimum a player who isn’t even in the NHL yet can make is 1/4 of the minimum of someone consider to be a “Major Role Performer” in a half-hour prime time television show. For the 2004/2005 season, the minimum a player can be paid to play is $185 thousand. Keep in mind that we all know that players who make $185 thousand are few and far between, and if you do find one, chances are he’s only warming the bench or stewing in the minors.

So what, if anything, have we learned here? The minimums are not entirely that far off from what they would be in the entertainment industry. But the differences are quite significant. First of all, I would be hard pressed to find a television show, half-hour or full hour, that had 18 contracts like an NHL roster. In fact, some teams have upwards of 30 players under guaranteed contracts whether they’re on the active roster or not. Compare this to the five or six actors who make up the cast of a television show and you can immediately see where things are out of whack. Secondly, actors with a first time series are more often than not given the union minimums. In fact, there are even lower rates for first time actors. This rarely happens in the NHL. Players negotiate contracts far greater than the minimum before even playing a game. Thirdly, commercial revenues from TV shows are given directly to the network which financed them. In the NHL, there are many fingers in the pie, what with the NHLPA stamp on every jersey that is sold. Lastly, demand, and therefore revenues, for TV shows is much greater, and the only costs are the actual production and the cast salaries. The NHL has facility costs that TV shows do not.

Considering that the NHL has already offered the players a guaranteed 53% of their revenues which amounts to the average salary being $1.3 million, I think the NHL’s offer fits comfortably into the definition of being “moderately satisfactory or acceptable; passably good”. By my estimation 53% of a $2 billion dollar industry is fair by any definition.

P.S. I would sent this article to the NHLPA, but I don’t know how to contact them. The next time I hear Goodenow or Saskins say that the fans don’t really know the situation, I’m going to know for certain that they are wrong.