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The Point: HYPOCRITE$ Print
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Written by Denis Gorman   
Thursday, 19 July 2012 18:15

With the Collective Bargaining Agreement ending in September, the owners have been spending a lot of time crying poor. This off season has seen some of those owners dig into their pockets anyway.

Denis GormanThe universal truth about warfare is the best attack is the one that your adversary never saw coming.

Just ask the Philadelphia Flyers, who signed Nashville Predators restricted free agent defenseman Shea Weber to a 14-year offer sheet early Thursday morning.

According to TSN NHL reporter Darren Dreger, who broke the story, Nashville will be compensated by the Flyers in the form of either four first round draft picks or two first round picks, a second round pick and a third round pick if they are unable to match the offer for the cornerstone defenseman. Dreger also reported that Weber could earn as much as $26 million in one year.   

Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos subsequently reported that Weber would earn $110 million over the life of the deal, including $68 million in signing bonuses spanning the contract’s first six years.   

Nashville General Manager David Poile has publicly vowed to match any offer for the 26-year old. Weber, a two-time finalist for the Norris Trophy, has totaled 263 points (99 goals and 164 assists) in 480 games and has a plus-44 rating. He played in 78 games last season, finishing with 19 goals and 49 points, and was plus-21.

The reverberations from the bombshell the Flyers dropped are being felt across the NHL landscape. But nowhere are the aftershocks being felt more than in the league’s Midtown Manhattan offices and the NHLPA’s offices in Toronto, where the two sides are negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement.  

Negotiating is too weak a word to describe the discussions. Rather, the league is once again demanding unprecedented givebacks from the players in order for the NHL to say it has righted its financial house without actively having to investigate its flaws.

The league has asked for a reduction in Hockey Related Revenue from the current 57 percent to 46 while eliminating arbitration. They also have asked to cap contracts at five years, dropping the cap ceiling from $8 million over the midpoint to $4 million and increasing the service time from seven NHL seasons to 10 before a player can become an unrestricted free agent.

“They’re proposals we believe need serious consideration for us to move forward,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman told reporters in New York Wednesday following a nearly 2 ½ hour session with the NHLPA.

The owners’ stance is equal parts hypocrisy and chutzpah.

Bettman announced before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final that the league had another record-setting year in revenues, pulling in $3.3 billion.

Then consider Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold’s woe-are-we tale in the Apr. 11, 2012, edition of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Leipold told the newspaper that the Wild are “not making money, and that's one reason we need to fix our system. We need to fix how much we're spending right now. [The Wild's] revenues are fine. We're down a little bit in attendance, but we're up in sponsorships, we're up in TV revenue. And so the revenue that we're generating is not the issue as much as our expenses. And [the Wild's] biggest expense by far is player salaries."

Somehow, the destitute Leipold was able to scrape together a mere $204.95 million for free agents Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Jake Dowell, Zenon Konopka and Torrey Mitchell.

Are there franchises in financial peril? Absolutely. Forbes Magazine reported that 18 of the league’s 30 franchises lost money. Yet nowhere in the league’s proposal is there an implementation of revenue sharing.

Instead, the owners are free to continue to spend wildly while the players—you know, the people you pay to see—have to subsidize a league that will not consider relocating franchises from struggling markets unless absolutely necessary. That is not a partnership, no matter the spin from the league.

Rather, that is an abusive relationship; one in which the league views its premier assets—the players—as means to an end.

You can follow us on Twitter @HockeyPrimeTime and @DenisGorman 

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Last Updated on Friday, 20 July 2012 14:19