Actions often speak louder than words. One can say whatever he wants, he is (and should be) judged more by his actions. Further, while a vast majority of marriages are celebrated because two people love each other, there are some which are qualified as “marriages of convenience”. I’ll do it because I get something out of it. Well, the NHL always says supporting Canadian teams but when it came to saving Winnipeg and Quebec City, the Jets and Nordiques had to pack their bags in a hurry to set foot in the United States, in Arizona and Colorado respectively. Yet the NHL went as far as owning the same Arizona Coyotes in order to keep them there. Actions > words.
We can go further as all Canadian clubs have complained to the league that they were at a huge disadvantage when the biggest part of their expenses (players’ salaries) are paid in American dollars while their revenues are in Canadian dollars. That represents a difference of anywhere between 20-35% roughly on the bottom line, based on the value of the dollar. Often, because of taxes, Canadian teams also have to overpay to lure UFAs onto their team yet, they have the same salary cap. But that’s a different story all together. Today, the NHL needs Winnipeg (Canadian market) and mostly the Montreal Canadiens to be in the playoffs as they are hopeful that by adding a few more teams, it will create huge interest in Canada, which explains the 24-teams format, Montreal sitting in that 24th spot. Marriage of convenience.
Canada is doing very well on the Coronavirus front while the US are in a huge mess, reaching records of both new cases and deaths in several states, and with a President in total denial. So guess what? Gary Bettman and the NHL have chosen two Canadian Cities, Toronto and Edmonton, as the only two hubs where NHL hockey will be played this summer. Again, marriage of convenience.
If I was a Canadian team owner like Geoff Molson, I would be furious of being used that way. The most storied franchise in the NHL, along with another original-6 in Toronto, two of the biggest hockey market for the NHL, are being flooded and pinned into place because the majority of the league owners are Americans and located in the US of A. The NHL doesn’t want to lose Canadian teams as it represents a huge portion of their revenues. But they don’t want to give back to Canadian teams (aside from revenue sharing which they do to every small market). Something’s gotta give at some point.
Players opting out
We’ve seen several players opting out of a return to play at this point due to COVID-19. I dare say (as an opinion of course) that those players are the smart ones, choosing to put family and health before money. At the time of writing this, there are nine players (to my knowledge) who have opted out:
- Steven Kampfer (BOS)
- Travis Hamonic (CGY)
- Mike Green (EDM)
- Karl Alzner (MTL)
- Sven Baertschi (VAN)
- Roman Polak (DAL)
- Zach Trotman (PIT)
- Mikhail Vorobyov (PHI)
- Nikolay Goldobin (VAN)
While Alzner likely wouldn’t have seen the ice for the Canadiens, they have a key player who hasn’t said yes or no. The Canadiens informed everyone that Max Domi will wait another 7-10 days before making a decision. Domi is a Type-1 Diabetic and as we wrote on this blog before, he could be at higher risk if he contracted the deadly virus.
Something doesn’t add up
Seeing the limited number of players opting out raises some serious questions in my mind. Not so long ago, we wrote about Sportsnet Eric Engels and The Athletic James Mirtle having spoked to players who claimed that a vast majority of players were against returning to play. So were they lying about it? Allow me to doubt it. Those are reputable reporters who are not the type to seek hits and viewership by inventing stories or being controversial. So what happened between now and then? I have my theory…
As the announcement by the NHL that the league and the NHLPA had reached a deal for the new CBA, including the participation in the next two Winter Olympics, the NHLPA announced that the players had voted to return to play. Excuse me, but my spidey senses are in high alert. I won’t claim having any sources and self-admittedly, I could be completely wrong about this. But doesn’t it seem like the decision for the players agreeing to play this summer was tightly tied to the new CBA acceptance and/or the Olympics participation? This would go a long way in explaining the “change of hearts”, assuming that Engels and Mirtle were correct. That’s definitely a strong theory and possibility, in my humble opinion.
Regardless, it looks like the NHL is going ahead. While the MLS is postponing games, the NHL seems to be working under the theory that hockey players are tougher. In this case, it’s not a good thing. Go Habs Go!