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What do you think? Flames players relent on boycott of team charity event—how would you feel if Leaf players did the same?

There is not a lot  “new” to talk about with regards to the Leafs (the expected Scrivens signing aside), for the obvious reasons.  In fact, there may not be much to talk about for a while.  We’ll know soon enough if we’re facing a lockout, and a prolonged one at that, after both sides exchanged proposals on Wednesday.  Sadly, it looks as though both parties are essentially operating on different financial planets.  So while both feel they are either making concessions (in the case of the owners) or offering creative wealth-building concepts (as the NHLPA says it is doing), we're still stuck in the contractual mud, it would appear.

But one thing caught my eye earlier this week: when the Calgary Flame players decided, all together, to not take part in the team’s annual charity golf tournament this week.  Now, keep in mind that the lockout had not happened yet when the players made this decision.  They were taking, it seems, a "stand".

Since that time, the players have quickly back-pedalled, after they saw just how vehement their fans were about the planned charity event boycott.  Somewhat disingenuously, the players who spoke on the issue tried to pretend it was all just a misunderstanding, when everyone knows they were trying to make a point and flex their "labour" muscle.

Their obvious insincerity aside, here’s my question for you today:

I keep hearing that the vast majority of hockey fans "side" with the players this time around.  Whether or not you are in that camp or fully share a "pro-player" position, how do you honestly feel about the Calgary players initially turning their back on the team’s charity event?

What statement were they making?

Closer to home, would you support the Leaf players if, say, MLSE was hosting an event for Sick Kids’ Hospital and the players boycotted the event before a lockout actually occurred- and after always taking part in the past? (Quick personal opinion:  I think that if the shoe was on the other foot, and the players were about to be—but were not yet—“on strike”, the team’s management and ownership would take part, if invited, in that kind of charitable endeavour…)

There are many “angles” to this kind of situation, I realize, but I’ll get out of the way and let you have your say.



  1. The players are hockey players and not public relations experts or shrewd politicians.

    They sometimes make huge mistakes. Remember when Chelios threatened Bettman and his family:

    I am somewhat surprised that the players haven't made more PR mistakes this time around, but I think that's partly because Donald Fehr is doing a proper job of managing the players and keeping everybody in line.

    "how would you feel if Leaf players did the same?"

    I just don't think they would.

    The NHLPA's offices are in Toronto. I think somebody in the NHLPA's head office in Toronto would have gotten wind of this in the early planning stages and made them reconsider before it went public.

  2. Michael,

    Interesting choice today. While I am known as a players advocate, I obviously am not impressed by the attempts at solidarity by the Calgary Flames players. Putting other people in the middle of this petty squabble, is my biggest objection to the lockout. It hurts the fans, the League, and the players.

    If there is an agreement to be made, I wish that they would make it before it affects the season. It is selfish in my opinion of both sides to miss substantial games, not to mention a season, over half a percentage point for however long the new agreement will be. Remember for every 8 regular season games missed, it is 10% of a players salary that is gone.

    The more I think about the situation, I have no idea why both sides can't continue with the season and not lose any games. There is no reason that both sides can't negotiate in good faith and come to an agreement while the season is being played. Unless it really is about greedy people trying to win, instead of doing what is right for the game.

    For this I blame the owners. The lockout was their idea, and their way of gaining maximum benefit going forward as a strategy during negotiations. Their deadline, take it or leave it offer, and most of all, the maximum amount of contempt for the fans. After all, we will be back in droves, right Mr. Bettman?

    As to whether or not I would support the Leafs players in the same charity situation. I would not. It would clearly be a case of a spade, being a spade. They would earn my scorn the same as the players in Calgary do today.

    On your final thought. I think that you are being far to charitable with respect to the owners being magnanimous given the opportunity. Besides, most of them are pro-am kind of things with a player or celebrity, paired with a foursome. I can't see a great demand to play golf with Craig Leopold, or any of the suits at MLSE for that matter. Maybe Burke, but only so I could argue with him for 4-5 hours about the lack of progress his team has made since he arrived on the white horse. That my friend, would be something to see. Especially if there was beer around.

  3. Fair comment, DP. Thanks. I just wish the Flame players had done the thoughtful thing in the first place....

  4. There is no question that the owners are trying to control the timing here. I can't argue that, Jim.

    I agree few would have an interest in golfing with Richard Peddie (now gone, finally). But I think ownership and management people would attend, I guess that's my point, if the tables were turned.

    Thanks Jim.

  5. I have a great deal of difficulty conjuring sympathy for either the players or the owners. Negotiations should have begun long before they did. All the posturing we are hearing reminds me of two political parties.

    The Flames debacle should have been a no brainer for the players from the onset. I don't know what dumb bunny recommended a boycott but he needs a lesson in public relations. It should have been obvious to the players that the public would react in the manner that they did.

  6. Exactly, Pete Cam. Little if any reason to feel "sympathy" for either side in this dispute.

    And you're right- as DP also noted above, the Flames' players perhaps needed a little better counsel before announcing their intentions...

  7. no sympathy except for the charity who misses out on donations for their cause. talk about 'picking your battles.' unless the battle of the flames is with the charity they're playing for.... they picked the wrong battle.

  8. If the Leafs players boycotted a team charity event, I would lose whatever last interest I have in hockey and the remanence of respect left for the players. I don't have any sympathy for either side when we're talking about the money that is being argued over. But to act like what the Flames players initially wanted to do in order to 'flex' their labour muscle is really small minded and obscene when they make the money that they do for playing a game that millions would die for the opportunity while earning the average income of the common man. Charity events are about the community and the fans and by boycotting it clearly reinforce what these guys truly think about the fans which would be "you don't matter"

    It is really hard for me to see the arguments as to why someone like Colton Orr (whom I love as a team guy) should be making $1 million a year. But I understand the economic nature of it all. As long as the owners are willing to pay from the pot of what the fans are themselves willing to pay, hey why not? At the end of the day, it's not the players or the owners' money that is being argued over. It's the fan's.

    Common sense does not seem to filter to these guys. No one really want to look at the big picture and fix the issues but are too blinded by greed and 'our share'. But then they don't need to as long as the fans continue to pay.

    Some random thoughts

    Things I'd like to see are;

    A 50/50 split on all revenues. (what is HRR is up for debate but I think concession and parking and rink advertising should belong to the owners)

    A cap violation tax where by whatever number the team go over, the tax shall be double and that money proportionately goes to smaller market teams and those that did not make the playoffs. This not only opens up the market but also allow team willing to spend, spend. Smaller team will benefit in the long term if rich teams continue to spend. BTW we all know irresponsible money spending does not always guarantee championships. Funny thing about championship though...they sell merchandise and advertisements.

    Team owners are also obligated to meet certain paid attendance and corporate sponsorship quota and can no longer be the welfare recipients of rich teams. Missing those numbers for 3 years within 5 would subject to revocation or move. This would eliminate the Phoenixes of the world. Move players automatically become restricted free agent in which teams can sign and a supplemental draft in place against team that signed the player. So teams that signed moved players are subject to both compensation according to restrict free agent rules in addition to losing another player off their roster.

  9. Yes, this one had me baffled, Alex. Not that they should have taken part just for public relations purposes, but you would think that, having all made their millions playing (a game for a living!) in the community, they would want to help, regardless of the status of the labour talks. Confusing.

  10. Absolutely outstanding post, Lukas.

    Clearly (and I, too, have posted on this very subject here and have tried to make this point) no one cares about the fans. The owners obviously don't, but in truth, neither do the players. This is all about self-interest, not what's best for the game.

    With regard to your suggestions re a new CBA, those are all reasonable ideas, at least from where I sit.

    I still tend to think the real issue is there are simply too many teams. Lop off half a dozen, have a dispersal draft, and suddenly you'd only have hockey in markets that actually care (not just a few thousand in the seats some nights). We'd also have a much better game on the ice.

    Sadly, the players would never agree, because it would mean fewer jobs.

    Somehow, the players expect the rich owners to prop up the less wealthy ones through revenue-sharing. Nice idea from their side, because it takes the burden off the players and places it on the owners.

    For their part, the owners cry poor then spend themselves silly. The cycle will never end and greed is at the heart of it. And of course, self-interest.

    Thanks Lukas.

  11. Michael,

    Just a random thought, but would a true commissioner, impartial, with the power to arbitrate and paid from a general fund, be an answer to some of this labour strife.

  12. Thanks Michael for the kind words. Obviously, my suggestions are broad strokes but both need to truly understand each others' needs and not play political or strategical games because a positive relationship is built on "what is good for me must be good for you too". Instead it appears that it is built on 'what I can get now and how I can set up my partner to take more or for the lack of a better word, advantage of them when the times comes.'

    Players must truly understand the owner's risk and responsibilities (other labour commitments, maintenance, financial commitments, short and long term risks, etc). Although the players has risks, they are subjected less and are limited to short career and possible long term injuries. Not taken it lightly, nonetheless it is somewhat less comparatively to the owners' in terms of financial. That said, I do understand the players are the 'show' and should be compensated as such. The question is how much - which should be market value but again the owners can't control. In reality, the owners are in very bad situation when they are subjected to collusion lawsuits yet at the same time can't control themselves as a group because the mentality is that to win, you must spend no mater how stupid, hence the cap. The cap as it stands, does nothing to address the ills of the league.

    With all due respect, I don't think the number of teams are part of the problem when it relates to the league. It is imh, the number of teams in bad markets or are poorly run by ignorant owners and GMs (who are rife with short sightedness all in the name of short term gain).

    You don't hear the rich teams complain. They complain because they have to revenue share. So since they can't address that issue without a hint of collusion, they seek recourse via the players.

    Although many problems are of the owner's creation, the players must play an active role as they are part of the whole. The players instead play ignorance and says "hey, it's your problem, you figure it out but don't you touch our share. Btw, we need more since you put a cap in place and I only have X years to make my money". So what is the owners to do? Pass it onto the fans. It is really adversarial. No one is taking the responsibility for the betterment of the leaque because ultimately, there really is no repercussion. Not until the fans stop supporting the product. At the end of the day, both are to blame yet both refuse to address the cause because it's seems easier to put the onus on someone else. That someone ultimately is the fans.

  13. Short answer, Pete Cam, is yes.

    But as you suggest, it would have to be a full-time job, ongoing, a truly impartial arbitrator/ombudsmen agreed-upon by both parties to solve ALL ongoing labour-related NHL disputes (not just at CBA time) with the best interest of all concerned, including fans, as the priority.

    Unfortunately, I sense neither side would be willing to give that much authority to any individual.

  14. So many good points in your follow-up post, Lukas. In particular, your collusion reference is key. This is one of the central problems. We want owners to be wiser and not spend silly money, but the moment they try to do that, one owner breaks ranks and then the bidding starts again.

    More importantly, if they do unite and decide, "these salaries are outrageous; we are no longer going to pay silly money" they risk, as you cite, lawsuits relating to collusion.

    We need to understand that as fans, we want our owners to compete and bring in "stars", yet we criticize them if they try to be prudent in their spending. And yes, owners also run the risk of players suing them because of supposed "collusion" - which to me is another word for smarter business practices. (Can you imagine guys making millions thinking they aren't being paid fairly enough??)

    Thanks Lukas.

  15. What if there was a collectively bargained INDIVIDUAL cap ceiling negotiated in good faith (as opposed to any owner imposed/ collusion dependent variety)?

    The players would be pressured to acknowledge that they play a team game and, despite the star power of certain players, their actual annual salary could not exceed a negotiated number (of course, actual salary every year would have to be equal to cap hit). That amount would be tied to a general revenue formula during the term of the CBA and must be reviewed at the mid-point (when unexpected applications of (or to) the CBA are addressed and hammered out over the remaining half of the CBA, in time for the new negotiations - without the threat of lockout/strike 'looming').

    There could be room for creatively apportioning the portion of HRR (about which both sides are fighting) to address career-ending injury and retirement issues along the lines I've mentioned previously.

    Further, the general revenue formula ought to remove the top AND bottom 3 or 4 teams, so that the disproportionate gains/losses would be factored out of the equation, then a team and individual cap number could be determined from the middling revenues.

    Perhaps this is where the top 3 or 4 (or whomever) could directly 'help' the bottom 3/4 or so, by allowing a luxury tax on funds exceeding the team cap (but NOT the individual caps). Teams at the bottom would get a helping hand and teams at the top might not be so hamstrung. Perhaps the bottom teams could receive incentive bonuses for increasing the size of their market (i.e. without losing the funds that helped them improve their bottom line).

    There should also be some form of accountability imposed referent to the responsibility (or lack thereof) shown by all teams receiving revenue shared funds. If another team earned the funds, perhaps they could provide some 'mentoring' to the teams they help!

  16. As I was reading through your post, InTimeFor62, I kept wondering if the PA and the owners ever actually consider some of the very things you are talking part, as part of their supposedly creative approach to building bridges here.

    It strikes me (and I could be very wrong) that both sides keep hammering away at the same themes, and can't budge from the same basic concepts.

    I think there is some very good thinking in your post -and that of others today. I'm not sure why some of these things can't be part of the discussions.

  17. Lets be honest here folks, there is not one move any of the NHL players do "collectively" which is not first initiated by, or endorsed by, the senior officials of the NHLPA. As they have made it abundantly clear for weeks/months the members of this PA are 100% unified in these negotiations, and information is shared and communicated throughout their membership.

    So, there is no doubt in my mind, that both the attempted blockage of the lockout by the Montreal players, and the withdrawal of player participation in the Flames charity golf event, were either orchestrated and/or fully approved by the senior members of the NHLPA in advance. It wasn't until the players and the NHLPA felt the firm backlash (from the media, fans, and sponsors) did they reflect upon their "union" decision and try to repair the PR damage. I'd like to think (or hope) that the Leaf players would have had the foresight and professionalism to convince the union not to use a Toronto charity event as a political ploy in the CBA negotiations.

    Unions certainly have their place, and they're entitled to fight for what is right and fair. Sadly, too often most unions will put their own cause and demands ahead of everything else, and in the process ignore what is fair and makes the most common sense. Boycotting the charity golf event was an example of a union ploy that completely backfired.

    Before sending a message, think long and hard about the way the message will be interpreted, and if the expected result is truly worth the ramifications it may create.

    Hey, if you'd like to get some honey from a bee hive, is it effective to poke the hive with a stick?

  18. Very well said. Thanks Don (TML_fan)...