First things first: Generally speaking, in a labor dispute, I tend to side with management. This isn’t restricted to sports. This feeling first started during the Verizon strike, when I had to wait a thousand years to get my phone hooked up in my dorm room because the strike set them back so badly.
But in sports labor disputes, when people always say “It’s millionaires vs. billionaires, no neither side is sympathetic,” I still tend to side with management. When the NBA owners locked out the players, I wanted the league to slaughter the Union (and they did). And nothing has changed with regard to the current NHL lockout.
Why do I feel this way? Because the owners own the league. It’s theirs. And they should be entitled to set the rules however they want. If the owners decide to allow touching up and delayed offsides, it’s their call. If the owners want to change the size of the goals, it’s their call. And if the owners want to make a rule for the league that player salaries are set (or capped) at a specific number, it is their call. The owners should a have a right to tell the players, “this is our league. You want to play in it, then you can play by our rules. If you want to play in the premier hockey league in the world, and enjoy the benefits of the national exposure, then you do it at the pay scale we determine.” And the players, who have shown that they are willing to play in European club leagues, have an alternative. You don’t want to play in a league with a salary cap, go play in Europe. They still won’t make as much as a capped NHL would pay them.
People argue that the owners got themselves into this situation by overexpanding and overspending. It’s true. So what? Does that mean they have to live with their mistakes forever? Not at all. They can correct it. I really don’t think the players should have a say in the matter, other than to opt out, and play somewhere else. And you know what? If all the players in the NHL went to one league in Europe, and the competition was better, you’d see the NHL owners soften their stance, and start paying players more. But they don’t.
Maybe a hard cap set at a low number isn’t the most equitable way, with regard to revenue sharing (between owners and players, not between clubs). Maybe the owner/player split won’t be exactly 50/50 or even close to it. But so what? Isn’t the essence of capitalism to make as much money as you can? I still think the owners have a right to make as much of the the profit from their investment as they can. Sure the players are what make the money for them. But so what? The players get paid. They provide a service. Same as everywhere else. Take a law firm, for example. The associates do all the work for the clients that the partners bring in. But the associates get paid based on the pay scale set in place by the firm, and partners share in the profits the firm makes. So what drives associate salaries to where they are? Competition. You don’t like the pay scale at Old, White and Republican? Go work for Jew, Jew and Jew, they pay a lot better. Jew, Jew and Jew won’t hire you because you’re a terrible lawyer? Go work for a firm that pays less (the European Club Law Firm, as it were).
So maybe the lockout is the owners’ fault, and we can blame them that there is no hockey season this year. But I still think they ought to have the right to do with their league as they want.