Who Does the NHLPA Actually Represent?

Bruce Bennett

Behavior of Donald Fehr and the constitution of the negotiating committee suggest that they are not working for the typical NHL player.

It is not entirely clear who will benefit from a lockout. Both sides seem to be entrenched and ready for a long drawn out fight. The gain for the owners can only be seen in the long-term. They are losing large amounts of money from cancellations, and the big market teams are paying the biggest price. Getting their largest single expense under control is worth the fight. But what about the NHLPA? Is it possible there is a long term benefit to the majority of the NHLPA?

Long term is an odd statement when talking about a typical NHL player. Most NHL players don't have long careers. The average NHL player suits up and skates for 238 regular season games (slightly less than 3 seasons). This average is heavily skewed by a small number of players who play for many years, and rack up an amazing number of games in their career. Given that the union should represent a majority of its membership, we should probably look at the median. The median for length of career in the NHL is 86 games - meaning that half the league can expect to play for a single season or less. Clearly, whether you look at the average or the median, the loss of a season is catastrophic to the union as a whole; they could lose anywhere from 1/3 to their entire NHL career earning potential. But, for a select few, a drawn out fight might be worth it.

To figure out who the NHLPA actually serves, we should probably look at who is making the decisions. The CBA negotiating committee is made up of the following players:

Parros, George

(Florida Panthers)

Campoli, Chris

(Montreal Canadiens)

Darche, Mathieu

(Montreal Canadiens)

Boyes, Brad

(New York Islanders)

DiPietro, Rick

(New York Islanders)

Tavares, John

(New York Islanders)

Biron, Marty

(New York Rangers)

Phillips, Chris

(Ottawa Senators)

Fedotenko, Ruslan

(Philadelphia Flyers)

Hartnell, Scott

(Philadelphia Flyers)

Adams, Craig

(Pittsburgh Penguins)

Crombeen, B.J.

(Tampa Bay Lightning)

Hainsey, Ron

(Winnipeg Jets)

Winnik, Dan

(Anaheim Ducks)

Montador, Steve

(Chicago Blackhawks)

Morrison, Brendan

(Chicago Blackhawks)

Aucoin, Adrian

(Columbus Blue Jackets)

Dubinsky, Brandon

(Columbus Blue Jackets)

Wisniewski, James

(Columbus Blue Jackets)

Goligoski, Alex

(Dallas Stars)

Zetterberg, Henrik

(Detroit Red Wings)

Westgarth, Kevin

(Los Angeles Kings)

Weber, Shea

(Nashville Predators)

Doan, Shane

(Phoenix Coyotes)

Moore, Dominic

(San Jose Sharks)

Murray, Douglas

(San Jose Sharks)

Backes, David

(St. Louis Blues)

Langenbrunner, Jamie

(St. Louis Blues)

Malhotra, Manny

(Vancouver Canucks)

Schneider, Cory

(Vancouver Canucks)

Auld, Alex

(FA-None)

Just a quick glance says that this is not a balanced cross section of the union membership. For instance, only Schneider (68) and Westgarth (90) are anywhere close to the median in number of games played. The next lowest number of games is John Tavaras at 243. Westgarth just signed a new 2 year (one-way) deal, and Schneider just signed a 3 year contract. This lack of representation can be further verified by looking at the average and median number of games played by the Negotiating Committee:

Average games played - 550 (238 for union as a whole)

Median games played - 480 (86 for the union as a whole)

Another measure is the average and median salary:

Average salary - $2.96M ($2.4M for union as a whole)

Median salary - $2.5M ($1.1M for union as a whole)

From this it should be clear that the negotiating committee represents the upper half of the NHLPA.

Messages coming from the union suggest the NHLPA is focused on ensuring current contracts are honored, getting the maximum total fraction of Hockey Related Revenue (HRR), defining HRR to encompass the largest possible fraction of team income, and free agency terms. Secondary interest is league stability (revenue sharing), player safety, and long term benefits.

At this point, the NHL and NHLPA seem to agree that a 50-50 split of HRR works for both sides. There seems to be a minor disagreement on the definition of HRR, but both have used the definition from the last CBA in their proposals. Revenue sharing is approaching a midpoint that both sides can live with. These are the issues of greatest importance to the typical NHL player. They are what will give him the greatest benefit in the time he has in the league.

The place where the league and the NHLPA are in conflict are over issues that should not be a serious issue for well over half of the voting membership in the NHLPA. Free Agency: Most players don't stay in the league long enough to get through a 2 (corrected - Ed.) year Entry Level Contract (per the last NHL proposal). They bounce back and forth between the NHL and the AHL for a while, then get cast aside as not being good enough. Reaching Restricted Free Agency is a dream to most of the union membership and UFA is a total pipe dream. The push from the union to honor long term contracts at their full value is similar. Only the very elite of the NHL have these idiotic contracts that extend beyond any rational timeframe. This is a non-issue to all but the superstars. It was disingenuous (and possibly illegal) of the owners to sign these deals knowing they were going to be trying to reduce them through the CBA, but it has no impact on the typical NHLPA member.

The NHLPA is being run by the stars, for the stars. The rank and file membership can go pound sand. The fact that these majority players are remaining silent is incomprehensible. They are getting screwed.

Webliography:

Length of career:

http://www.quanthockey.com/Distributions/CareerLengthGP.php

Average NHL salary:

http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/news?slug=ycn-10423863

Median NHL salary:

http://www.wisegeek.com/how-do-the-professional-athlete-salaries-compare-among-the-major-us-sports-leagues.htm

NHLPA Negotiating Committee:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/hockey/globe-on-hockey/nhlpa-unveils-31-player-negotiating-committee/article4374654/

Negotiating Committee Salaries and Games Played:

http://www.capgeek.com

http://www.nhl.com

http://en.wikipedia.org

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