Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It may only be a few days old, but the
NHL's lockout has begun claiming victims.
On Tuesday, the Florida Panthers announced an undisclosed number of layoffs,
and they're not the first team to do so. The Ottawa Senators also made layoffs,
while the Vancouver Canucks are reportedly cutting salaries and shortening the
work week for its full-time employees.
Even the league office is feeling the crunch. According to a report from the
Canadian Press, league employees will be placed on a four-day work week
beginning Oct. 1 and they'll receive only 80 percent of their salary. League
commissioner Gary Bettman and his deputy Bill Daly also have declined their
hefty salaries for the duration of the lockout.
On the other hand, there is the case of Alex Ovechkin. News came in Wednesday
that the Washington Capitals star winger has agreed to play in his home
country of Russia for a pretty penny. His agreement with Dynamo Moscow of the
KHL (Kontinental Hockey League) will reportedly pay Ovechkin just under $6
million, or 65 percent of what his NHL contract would be worth this season.
Yet, for every Ovechkin, there are dozens of NHL players who won't be making
millions or even hundreds of thousands of dollars this season. While those
players clearly will be better off than the countless office workers and team
employees who'll sacrifice their jobs during the lockout, it's still a fact
that the work stoppage will hurt some players more than others.
The truth is there are haves and have-nots on both sides of the lockout,
adding depth to a debate that is usually framed as a clash between the
monolithic NHL on one side and the NHLPA on the other.
Relatively speaking in relation to the real world, the have-nots among the
owners are the league's smaller market teams. From the outside, it appears they
have a larger say within their faction than their counterparts on the NHLPA
side -- the journeymen or borderline minor leaguers -- possess against the
star power of guys like Ovechkin.
Of course, the reason the small-market owners have a voice is because Bettman
is their biggest supporter. After all, the NHL expanded to places like Florida
and the southwestern United States under this commissioner's watch and he is
on a mission to make life easier for these clubs, many of which are on
tentative fiscal footing to say the least.
While Bettman is on a mission to help the struggling clubs the owners of more
lucrative teams are said to be on the same page. But that's according to the
commissioner, of course, as individual owners have been prohibited from
sharing their thoughts on the lockout.
Meanwhile, on the players' side, the fact that Ovechkin and other stars can
earn serious money playing somewhere other than the NHL is a good sign for
their unity. It may not do any good for the one-dimensional enforcer with
little appeal to European clubs, but for the most part if the high-profile
players are happy, then that would seem to be a good sign for overall NHLPA
Presently, there seems to be a constant flow of big names announcing their
decision to play in Europe and that's not a good sign this labor strife
will end anytime soon.
And it's not only Ovechkin who is using Europe as a Plan B. Players like Pavel
Datsyuk, Ilya Kovalchuk, Rick Nash and Jason Spezza also are heading overseas
while the owners are left looking like jilted lovers forced to watch their
partners get on with their lives.
Now it seems the only way this lockout will end in time to salvage the start
of the season is if the owners capitulate and drastically lower their terms.
They may have to do that eventually, but with so little progress achieved to
date, it's hard to see the owner's caving before the season is scheduled to
start on Oct. 11.
After losing big in the last labor negotiations that cost the NHL its 2004-05
season, the players seem dug in and ready for a long lockout. The feeling that
the NHLPA has been winning the public relations battle against Bettman and the
owners can only make their position stronger.
Perhaps, as more regular folks are laid off by NHL teams, the millionaire
players will be forced to share a larger chunk of the blame, but there's no
guarantee that would force their hand anyway. The players easily could
rationalize those lost jobs as a symptom of the owners' greed and not lose any
sleep over it.
Both the owners and players are currently relying on tunnel vision to view a
complicated issue that requires a much wider perspective. A more comprehensive
frame of reference will have to come with time, but, unfortunately, when that
will happen is as unclear as the status of the 2012-13 NHL season.
The Sports Network