Starting from Scratch

There was a report on The Score that suggested NHL owners, in the absence of any sort of salary cap or “cost certainty” in CBA negotiations, would resort to folding the NHL as it currently exists and starting anew, presumably with the salary cap and other changes they wish to make within the current system.

Upon hearing this, I wondered how this was going to work. If the league folded, and a new one created, how would that work from a legal standpoint? The league itself would cease to exist, but the individual franchises would not. As an example, when the IHL folded two years ago, a number of their teams went to the AHL, retaining their trademarks, player contracts, etc. Now in that instance, the teams were free to either cease operations themselves, or find a new league to play in. But the IHL didn’t pop up with another name in October after their playoffs were finished. What the NHL owners propose to do, if the report is accurate, would be very, very different.

So, if the owners did follow through on this contingency, would they be able to retain the players they had under contract and use them to stock the teams in this new league? If not, that would make all those players free agents, and available to each and every team in this new league. What about all the players in their farm systems, as well as all the drafted players in college and junior? Seemingly, everyone of those players would also be free agents as well. This would also allow the league to contract, as seems to be so popular amongst certain sites like these. They could re-surface in a more streamlined league, say 21 to 24 teams. Perhaps even some of the franchises left out of the new league could end up joining the – gulp – WHA. (pause for ridiculous fit of laughter)

However, there is one little snag to this idea, and I think we can all guess what this would be. You can bet, before the NHL finished its last press conference, the NHLPA would be in a court room somewhere, with filing in hand, looking to halt the whole thing on the grounds that the whole process was in an effort to cir¢umvent the collective bargaining process. Their merely changing names and trademarks. And in this case, as much as I hate to admit it, I’d back the players on this front. If the owners really wanted to, they could control themselves, and their GMs. Some of them apparently have been showing signs of that this season. Hell, a couple have been doing it for longer than anyone. Let the PA moan and scream. Let them cry collusion. Then tell them to back it up. Go to court and prove it. If there’s no collusion involved, then they would probably end up getting the cap they want. I personally don’t think there’s any collusion going on because with 30 teams and the way they’ve given out contracts in the past, I don’t think they even know what it means.

In reality, I think this is nothing more than another PR attempt to establish that the owners are not willing to budge from their position. It would take years to sort out all the legalities of the entire thing, during which time everyone involved loses money. The players can’t all play in Europe, and the WHA (laughter again – sorry, can’t help it) isn’t going to give them what the NHL is currently giving them.


18 Responses to Starting from Scratch

  1. SUMMITS says:

    The players just wouldn’t play in this league.

  2. SUMMITS says:

    The players just wouldn’t play in this league.

  3. NHLman says:

    A more conservative idea would be to hire replacement players

  4. SUMMITS says:

    not many fans would want to go and watch players they’ve never heard of before.

  5. cementhead says:

    With all this talk about the CBA and the negotiations between the owners and NHLPA I have a question I hope someone can answer for me.

    Now, in simple terms owners want a cap and players do not. Currently some owners choose not to spend more then 30 or 40 M and some choose to spend 60 or 70 M on their teams. They want to curb it so no team spends more then the 30 or 40 M.

    So why can’t the owners agree to a CBA identical to what has been in place AND THEN amongst themselves (the owners), make an agreement that none of them will choose to pay more then 30 or 40M. Does this really have to be approved by the NHLPA? Does the current CBA declare that some teams HAVE to spend more then 30 or 40M? I really don’t get it. If the owners don’t want to spend more, can’t they just stop it on their own?

    Maybe this was a real dumb question and obviously I don’t understand these issues very well, but if someone could answer these questions I would appreciate it.

  6. PayUpSucka says:

    The players have been saying all along that the curent CBA was going to take some time, but as we can see now salaries are finally starting to come down on their own. I’m finally starting to agree with them after seeing some of the contracts that have been signed since the free agncy period began.

    All the owners have to do is not sign these rediculous contracts. As much as I sometimes disagree with the players the owners made their own bed as far as i’m concerned.

    I agree all the way that all the league has to do is keep the current cba in place with a few changes and stop signing guys like Martin Lapointe to huge contracts.

  7. cementhead says:

    I would say that the players are allowing the salaries to come down ONLY because of the looming CBA. But the question still remains:

    Is their anything legally banning owners from entering their own agreement, outside of the CBA, that would in essence be a salary cap. And thereby cir*****vent authority that the NHLPA pretends to have?

  8. Westcoastexpress says:

    If the owners were to come to an agreement on salaries amongst themselves, it would be against most North American labour laws and the owners would find themselves paying millions in punitive damages to the PA. The legal term for what you are suggesting is collusion.

  9. cementhead says:

    thanks for the answer. in this situation i’d have to say its too bad that collusion laws exists.

  10. rojoke says:

    I think there might be a distinction here. The best known case of collusion in sports, of course, involved Major League Baseball back in the 80’s. In that case, the owners had agreed, as a group, to not offer contracts to free agents unless the team retaining their rights agreed to let them walk.

    If the league were to adopt a luxury tax, there would be nothing in that agreement which would prevent teams from pursuing free agents. They simply would not be offering the exhorbitant amounts of money for them. And as can be seen by Major League Baseball today, it certainly hasn’t been challenged in court. Whether or not the NHLPA would challenge it, I wouldn’t even dare to guess.

  11. Flyers_Fan_In_LA says:

    Not a stupid question at all…

    Basically, you just defined collusion. The NHLPA would sue and WIN.

    The idea of tearing apart the league is a bit drastic but it shows how serious the owners might be. Maybe a few would fold (unlikely) thus causing contraction.

    I don’t see how there would be any ties what so ever to the contracts the teams have. This is good AND bad. Look at it like a Flyers fan – you get rid of amonte and leclair but you might lose Kim Jonesen and Joni Pitkanen too. You just wouldn’t know what you were getting into. I can see the owners going that far.

    I have been thinking about “scab” players for a while now. I would personally support the kings (I live in LA) if they fielded a team but how many others would? No palfy, no Chekamanek, no Visnoski, no Frolov. It would be tough to watch.

    If the owners were solid in playing scabs what you MIGHT find is REALY hockey players breaking the union ranks and playing the game they love for a KING’s salary. Once a few did it (think JR, Brett Hull, Mario) then others would too. THIS would be a HUGE blow to the NHLPA but would be hard to pull off..

    I say just fix the scoring problem in the game, repair the TV ratings and keep playing the NHL game and their will be enough money for everyone to make some cash in a 2+ billion dollar industry.

  12. cgolding says:

    not really the point… they’d do it as a bargaining chip more than anything, plus ultimately you are a fan of a team(especially in the FA era). i’d pay attention to the “flyers” no matter who was dressing up.

  13. Bishop7979 says:

    Personally if it were to come to a point where the NHL decided to fold and begin from scratch, I would think that basically the new league would have to have a complete player draft.

    Every team in the league could start from scratch, draft players of all ages and write up new contracts. Maybe create a couple separate drafts, a draft for college and jr age players, players 19-25, players 26-31 and a 31 and over draft.

    Set it up much like the waiver draft in the terms that the draft goes on until every team stops drafting players.

    It would really create a balance in the league, and if revenue sharing and a salary cap were included it would be a league that would be stable for years. there really wouldnt be any reason to make the league smaller than the existing one since it is possible that revenue sharing and some form of a cap could very easily stabilize the teams who have been having problems lately.

    Of course I dont think it would happen. But if it did, I’d support it.

    the NAHL (North American Hockey League) maybe?

  14. TheCoach says:

    I honestly thing this has some grounds to it. Now I’m not sure if they would start a new league, but I see replacement players as a definate possibility.

    That is the approach the NFL used, and it worked out quite well. Now they didn’t sell out, but good crowds came out, the owners made money because of nearly no payroll, and the players were left high and dry.

    The owners basically told them that they are welcome to be a part of the company, but only on the owners’ terms. Now they have a dream of a deal.

    While I doubt the NHL could get a similiar deal (no guaranteed contracts), but it would definately assure them some sort of cost certainty.

    However, this serves more purpose as a bargaining ploy. I think the NHLPA believes that they can once again, wait the owners out. This is not the case. This time around, 24 of the owners were brought in by Bettman, and now he only needs 6 votes to pass something, whereas last time he needed majority.

    In these negociation, the owners appear much more solid than the players.

    But hey, whatever needs to happen to get hockey this year, I’m all for it.

  15. TheCoach says:

    This is a tricky situation, because the owners have to deal with labour laws in 2 different countries.

  16. Freeze says:

    The NHL will never fold. The value of an NHL franchise would then be zero. Can you imagine an owner of an NHL franchise that’s worth $150 Million agree to wiping out his entire investment and starting over somewhere else? For what? The opportunity to make a few million a year off his team? That’s rediculous.

    The players will bend and give the owners what they want and need – a salary cap. This should happen around January. The players need to drag it out a bit to make it look like a decent fight. The older players that don’t have many years left in them will lead the charge on behalf of the owners. Why? Because they’ve already made a ton of money and they want to get what they can before they retire.

    Where else can any of these players go and make the kind of money they would be making in the NHL, even after a salary cap? I don’t see the WHA or European teams offering the $5-10 million a year contracts. Isn’t Peter Forsberg playing for $400,000 in Sweden?

    With a CBA, I would expect the top pay in the NHL to be around $7 million a year, unlike the almost $11 million that Jagr makes today. I think you’ll see a lot of $1.5-2 million players out there as time goes by.

  17. rojoke says:

    The franchises only get part of their value from the goodwill of belonging to the NHL. The vast majority of their value comes from the assets of the franchise, including arenas, equipment, concessions, etc. If the teams jumped from one league directly to another, with many of their players staying put, then their value may not drop by very much, if at all. If the players were ruled free agents by a court, that would cause the teams’ value to go down more than switching leagues would. In fact, if a salary cap were adopted, then the teams’ value would actually go up because their liabilites would go down.

  18. Aetherial says:

    They would use replacement players and whoever wanted to cross the picket line from today’s NHL’ers… I bet there would be a LOT, especially the older players.

    It would work, and it would not be the end of the world… seems to be there was some other, extremely successful league that did this…

    The NFL.

    As far as this statement:

    “If there’s no collusion involved, then they would probably end up getting the cap they want.”

    To simulate a *cap* would be collusion. There is no way you could argue that one happened by an *accident* of fiscal responsibility.

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