When it comes to administering its business, the National Hockey League is a complete joke! Sorry, but there is absolutely no other way to summarize this week’s ongoing Ilya Kovalchuk Gong Show. Owners can’t follow the rules. General managers pretend they’re within the rules. Gary Bettman and Bill Daly make their own rules as they go along. Being a fan of hockey is very easy. Being a fan of the National Hockey League is becoming more and more difficult.
I’ll be completely up front in stating that player salaries, in any sport, hold no interest for me whatsoever. It could be because I became immersed in the game in a different era. An era when players didn’t make absurd amounts of money. An era when virtually all of the discussion was about a player’s strengths and weaknesses, rather than his contract and pocketbook size.
I think this makes me a sports purist. And I’m proud of that. I’m proud that I don’t give a rat’s red a—whether or not the Chicago Blackhawks have to struggle to get under the salary cap. I’m proud that I don’t know who’s the highest paid player on the Toronto Maple Leafs. (OK, I do know it’s Dion Phaneuf). BUT I DON’T CARE! I care about what happens on the ice. Between the boards. In the dressing room. Not in the head office of the NHL.
National Hockey League Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly issued the following statement, in short, regarding the free agent contract Kovalchuk signed with the New Jersey Devils: “The contract has been rejected by the League as a circumvention of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The League will have no further comment on this matter pending further developments.”
Then, later in the day, Devils’ GM Lou Lamoriello said this, “We are extremely disappointed that the NHL has decided to reject the contract of Ilya Kovalchuk. The contract complies with the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. We will have no further comment until the process outlined in the CBA is complete.”
Oh my gawd. Why don’t you two infants draw a line down the middle of the sandbox and just play apart. How can the NHL possibly think this idiocy is good for business? This becoming-common practice of circumventing the spirit of the CBA with extended-term contracts is preposterous. And the hilarious part is that Kovalchuk is nowhere near the calibre of player who should be getting this kind of attention anyway.
I guess we’d better accept that the NHL will never, ever change. They were a closed shop back in the days when the Norris and Wirtz families owned everything in the league. They were like little children who had all the toys. It’s no different today. After a shameful year without hockey in 2005, the current CBA was set up to benefit all thirty teams – not just the ones who try to figure out sneaky little ways to get around it. This infantile behaviour does nothing to build the sport or enhance its appeal anywhere.
Old Gary B preaches that he’s trying to build the sport. To build the game’s appeal across North American – and worldwide. Appeal to whom? Lawyers and agents? This is pathetic.
I guess I prefer the days when we assessed athletes on their ability to play…not their agents’ abilities to negotiate. Where’s Chuck Barris? He’d fit right in.