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As negotiations surrounding the current CBA drag on and it becomes evident that players are not interested in any agreement that sees a reduction in their current share of revenue, I feel in necessary to voice my feelings on the matter. Though my single voice may be small, I assure you it is a voice shared my many.
I've been a huge fan of the game of hockey for most of my life. For me, as with many fans, it hasn't been just a past time, but has formed a part of the very culture in which I live my life. Family rituals and gatherings that centre around the game climax in the heartbreak of defeat or the swelling pride of victory. As a fan, I live it all along with you. Not only do I invest my emotions and my time into watching my team through the roller coaster ride of each season, I follow every player transaction, injury and draft pick with a passion. Players become my personal heroes and villains, my connection to something bigger than myself. I follow your every move with the caring eyes of one who personally invests myself in “my” team. More than that, I also invest my dollars. I purchase tickets, cable subscriptions, pay per view games, jersey's, car flags and numerous other items that allows me to boast my support for my team - in other words, for you.
Now you are asking me to continue my support as you fight against the NHL owners. In my view, you are asking me to support you in a position that threatens to shatter every connection I ever felt to the players and to the game. With comments made recently by players such as Alex Ovechkin and Ilya Bryzgalov regarding a potential unwillingness to return to the NHL if salaries are reduced, the damage resulting in my disdain towards the game may already be done. Mr. Ovechkin and Mr. Bryzgalov should instead be asking if a season is lost, will I be willing to come back and support their livelihoods as a fan? Are players today really so far out of touch with reality that they can't see what they are asking me to do in supporting them in there current position with regards to these negotiations?
With all of the focus on the players and the owners, and the constant arguing over each party's view of “reality”, I'd like to check in with the reality that matters the most, but is the most ignored - that is the reality of me, the fan.
The average NHL salary is 2.4 million dollars per year. The minimum salary is 525,000 per year. Statistics Canada reports the average salary in this country to be 46,000 per year and the minimum salary to be 21,424. I personally fall somewhere in between.
Let's examine my reality as compared to the reality of an NHL player while we keep in mind it is my hard earned dollars you are asking me to contribute towards supporting your livelihood.
At minimum wage I would have to work 24.5 years to match what the lowest paid NHL player earns in one year. I would have to work 112 years to match what the average player makes in one year.
At the average Canadian wage I would have to work 11.5 years to match what the lowest paid NHL player earns in one year. I would have to work 52 years to earn what the average player makes in one year.
Don't misunderstand my intent, I don't begrudge you for making the salaries that you do. You are the best in the world at what you do in a business that generates a lot of revenue. I understand the NHL is dependent on two halves to make the league work. You are one half of the driving force behind the NHL. Without you, there would be no product, and no multi-billion dollar revenue stream to fight over. Similarly, without owners, there would be no state of the art arenas, no arena staff, no coaching staff, no medical trainers, no equipment, no road trips, and no one to pay players. It is clear to me that both sides are equally as vital to the existence of the league. It is clear to me that a 50/50 split is fair. I will support you in your bid to acquire more than 50 percent when you share in the risk and offer to give back part of your salary if the team loses money.
As negotiations continue, the hypocrisy and complete uncaring you are showing me both in your words and your actions is what has really prompted me to write this letter.
Under the last agreement players were entitled to 57% of league revenues. Instead of negotiating a 50/50 split and conceding that a seven percent reduction in salaries still leaves you with more money in a single year than I could ever hope to earn in my lifetime, you stick to this grand principle, a principle so important that you seem willing to sacrifice a season for it. The principle is that you should not have to, under any circumstances, take any less money to play hockey because you already gave up so much in the last CBA. In the meantime all I have been hearing about is players signing on to other leagues to play for less money. So your message to me is that you will take less money to play in front of other fans in other countries that haven't invested their time, money and emotions; that haven't followed you your entire career; that haven't lived every up and down right along with you. You are telling me you will take less money to play for those fans, but not me. Perhaps you would also like to spit in my face for good measure?
If players such as Mr. Ovechkin and Mr. Bryzgalov truly represent all players, and I am truly to believe that you are beneath playing for an average salary of 2.23 million dollars instead of 2.4 million because it is “unfair”, then please do me a favour and stay in Europe with Mr. Ovechkin and Mr. Bryzgalov. I for one will not buy another ticket to contribute to your salary. I will cancel my cable subscription, I will not buy another pay per view, I will give away my jerseys, I will not watch another game. If you wish my support, not only must I respect you, I must feel respected by you.
As you continue these negotiations, I hope you will think long and hard on the meaning of the word “fair”. You probably haven't looked at the price of NHL tickets lately and what it costs a family to attend a game. There is no collective agreement that guarantees me a refund should you play poorly and I end up with a terrible product, but your salary is guaranteed. Is that fair? An even 50/50 split of revenue, that if fair. Failing the NHLPA negotiating towards that, and should a season be lost, you will lose my support and my dollars forever. After giving you a lifetime of support, I'd say that is fair.
A hockey fan