Sunday, July 24, 2005

NHL Players’ Association Politics

The media treatment of this story has been exclusively focused on how Player’s Association executive director Bob Goodenow is in trouble (despite evidence to the contrary). Take this example from the July 21 Globe and Mail:

Bob Goodenow, for whom the word embattled has become a prefix to his title as executive director of the National Hockey League Players' Association, received an informal show of support last night from at least some players.

But a small story on an inside page of the sports section of the July 16 edition of the Globe suggests to me that Goodenow's position will emerge from the strike strengthened. It is because of this overlooked aspect of the agreement:

In the deal, a player's minimum salary would jump to $450,000 (all figures U.S.) from $185,000. After two years, the minimum would jump to $475,000 for the middle two seasons of the agreement and to $500,000 for the final two years.

The highly-paid players are taking a hit (but they offered to cut their own wages early on in the process) and there is a salary cap. However, the teams have always helped finance the big salaries by having numerous players at or near the minimum. The now much higher minimum (about 143% higher) will affect a large number of players perhaps even a majority. So I think the deal may well strengthen Goodenow’s position.

I certainly welcome the move towards greater income equality in hockey, as much as I would welcome it more generally. It is the one aspect of all this worth savouring.

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