Hugh Laurie can see into your soul, and he knows you’re full of it.
Labour negotiations are easily the worst part of being a fan of any sport. There’s the bickering back and forth, often between two similarly unsympathetic groups of rich guys, there’s the threat of a lost season, or at least lost games, and there’s the encroachment of business and law principles on what is, at the end of the day, a game, entertainment. But worst of all, there’s the blatant lies.
The theme of this post was inspired by the NHL’s “leak” that they lost $240M total in the last two years. Dirk Hoag and Ryan Lambert have already gone to town on the numbers here, but it continues to strike me the sheer bloody audacity of making such a claim at the last minute. Like they didn’t think the media and fans would check up on their numbers and find that they didn’t pass the smell test? Like they really thought that we’d believe that the current proposals are anything other than a blatant cash grab by the League’s richest teams that doesn’t address a system that forces poor teams to pay players more than they can afford in the name of parity, while refusing to address the gaping revenue disparity? Come on, Snider/Jacobs/Dolan, don’t insult our intelligence like that. At least invent a believable lie.
And on that note, we have the comically inept CHLPA, which should be the one real sympathetic side in all of this. Some of the things they’re reportedly fighting for – larger stipends, better education funding, likeness rights royalties – and the potential knock-on effect of more transparency in player payment are commendable and long overdue in the lucrative business of elite junior hockey. And yet they’ve somehow found a way to make a hash of things at pretty much every turn. First, there were the reports that they were seeking part of Hockey Canada’s slice of the ever-growing World Junior pie. At first blush, you understand where they’re coming from – CHLers make up virtually all of Team Canada, and have notable representation on several other international squads. The problem is, that money goes back into the development of thousands upon thousands of amateur players: today’s CHLers almost certainly benefitted directly from the money raised by Canada’s U20 gold-medal dynasty in the middle of last decade. Then, there was the hiring of retired NHL enforcer and QMJHL alumnus Georges Laraque as executive director, despite and apparent lack of training in business, law, economics; indeed, there’s no evidence of any negotiation experience that did not involve his carpal and metacarpal bones, unless you count his (likely PR-driven) appointment as Deputy Leader of the Green Party of Canada. I’m open to the notion that he’ll do a good job, but right now, there’s no reason to think the CHLPA got anything close to the best available candidate.
But the thing I wanted to dive into a little more were the ticket revenue numbers the PA released on their Twitter feed the other day, for all 60 CHL teams, as part of their argument that CHL players are woefully underpaid. Let’s leave aside the fact that these numbers don’t add up to anything close to supporting Laraque’s public statements, as noted by Yahoo!’s Cam Charron. Three sets of WHL numbers caught my eye: