The More Things Change…
It was interesting to watch the docu-drama Net Worth today. I don’t think it was a coincidence that Bravo decided to air it, given the current climate in the professional hockey world today. Now, having seen it for the third or fourth time, it suddenly came to me. Nothing in the state of hockey has changed.I know stating something like this is going to get a lot of people all upset. Well, that’s not exactly difficult here anyway, but that’s a different story. Anyhow, after listening to it more than actually watching it, I heard the same basic arguments put forth in the movie that we all hear in the press today. The issues are different on the players’ side, but the arguments on both sides are the same. When Ted Lindsay made his first attempt at forming a players’ association, he was seeking access to the pension plan and health benefits for players. The owners’ position was that the teams weren’t making any money on the league, and that they couldn’t afford to give the players what they were asking for.
That last part sound familiar?
It’s the same basic argument being propagated to anyone and everyone within earshot. Only they add the words “to continue” to the sentence. The players’ union doesn’t trust what the owners are saying any more than they ever did since Alan Eagleson formed the PA. And he was screwing the players himself, so throw that in there too. And anyone who has any kind of accounting or financial knowledge knows the difference between a paper loss and an actual loss.
But there was one speech that really wrapped the whole thing up. In the movie, Jack Adams made a speech in the Red Wings dressing room, asking the players what they really wanted. Did they really want to fight over a few dollars, at the risk of losing their careers, their dreams? At that point, Adams turned to Gordie Howe and asked him what he wanted to do. He answered that he just wanted to play hockey.
In today’s league, the lowest guys on the NHL pay scale still make more money than Lindsay, Howe, Doug Harvey and the players of that era ever made in their entire careers. But I wonder if you asked that same question of today’s players, how many would answer it the way Gordie did in the movie. I believe that the majority of them share the same opinion. Somewhere deep within them, some small part of them has chosen to do this because they just want that opportunity to live that dream, a dream we would all love to fulfill. If they didn’t, they’d retire after their first multi-million dollar contract.
I know some people will call me naïve, gullible, and just plain stupid for thinking this way, or even admitting it. Then fire away. Give me both barrels. But maybe, just maybe, I’m right. Maybe they do love playing the game more than we think they do, more than even they think they do. And if that’s true, maybe we will see a hockey season in 2004, however long or short.