The reality of the NHL lockout will begin to hit home in the most fundamental way for players Monday when the first pay day of the 2012-13 season comes and goes without that familiar salary statement being handed out in dressing rooms around the league.

Whether you’re talking about players at the top of the salary scale or guys "scraping by" for league minimum, 10-year veterans who’ve got a big stack tucked away or youngsters on entry level deals, that’s a lot of money that won’t be deposited into bank accounts. Even at NHL minimum, one pay period is as much or more money as many fans make in a year.

Given that, I’m not expecting fans of the Edmonton Oilers, or any other team for that matter, to begin organizing bake sales or fund-raisers for NHL players who’ll have to start dipping into their savings to pay the bills – players will get money this month from escrow payments – but the bottom line is the lockout is going to get real in a hurry when the cheques don’t arrive.

The old saying is you spend what you make, so whether you’ve got a weekly budget of $500 or $10,000, whether you rent a two-bedroom apartment and drive a 10-year-old car or have $2 million in mortgages on a swank joint in the city and a summer house and own a fleet of Panameras, Escalades and vintage hotrods, having the cheques stop gets your attention.

That starts now.


In my years covering the Oilers on the beat, I always got a kick out of the look on the faces of rookies in the dressing room when they’d get a glance at their first pay statement, which would be put in the mail slot in their stalls. Last I recall, the season was divided into 13 pay periods.

A kid making, say, the $900,000 NHL rookie maximum salary (not counting bonuses) in 2009 or 2010, would get a statement for about $70,000 before taxes and deductions. That’s lot of money. For a player like Shawn Horcoff or whoever making five, six or seven times as much, well, do the math. Repeat 12 more times during the course of the season.

There’s obviously much more at play than one pay period as we wait for Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr to sort things out, but money, or lack of it, is the biggest pressure point in any negotiation, so I’m wondering how that will begin to play out with word meetings will resume in Toronto Tuesday.

As if team owners don’t hold most of the cards already, they’re dug in knowing they’ll get $200 million in TV payments from NBC even if teams don’t play a single shift this season. The NHLPA’s rank and file has no such buffer. Might that impact Fehr’s marching orders going into the next round of talks?

Without significant movement this week toward the revamped revenue split owners want as part of a new CBA, it’s likely Bettman will announce the cancellation of more games by Friday. That’ll mean another pay period lost and there is no cheque in the mail .

Whether your budget is beer or champagne, that’s when it gets real.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

    • book¡e

      If that is the case, I suspect it was negotiated into the contract. NBC probably paid less than it was willing to in order to take on the risk. Smart move by the NHL – some teams might make more money this year than if they actually played the games.

  • DSF

    You have to remember the owners are also sitting on their season ticket holders money.

    Kevin Paul Dupont of the Boston Globe estimated this morning that the Bruins have banked $55 million.

  • Rallan72

    I heard on the radio that if the lockout goes the entire year, the deal with NBC will get a year added on to the end of the contract for free. So yes the NHL gets the money this year, but at the end they are giving a free year

    • That’s how it’ll work. NBC gets the year back at the end, meaning owners have the length of this TV contract to try to figure out how to soften that one-year hit they’ll take at the end.

      But for players who only have one season left or those who are nearing the end of their careers, losing half-a-season or so of pay, especially when their window is earn big cheques is limited to begin with, is very significant.

  • DSF

    I once did some repairs on a current Oiler’s vehicle (I’ve done a few, but they’re all ex-Oilers now) and this Oiler happened to leave his pay stub open on the center console next to the gear shift for the entire world to see every time you put it into gear.

    My god. I still can’t fathom it. Also, I hope he didn’t do that intentionally ‘cuz that’s kind of a dick move to the average blue collar worker like myself.

    • My guess is the player didn’t expect “all the world” to be in the front seat of his car at any given time, so implying he left a pay stub around to show off is a stretch to begin with.

      Likewise, there are lots of items in the line of sight that I don’t take time to read on any given day. You didn’t have to read it, but you did. That’s on you, not the player.

      • Wanyes bastard child

        “Likewise, there are lots of items in the line of sight that I don’t take time to read on any given day.”

        This rings true in so many ways… take a somewhat attractive busty girl wearing a T-shirt that has writing on it. Do you read the writing and then get accused of checking her out? Do you not read the writing and always wonder what you could have been missing? Or have her upset that she wasn’t worthy enough in your opinion to check her out? Why must girls wear shirts with some form of communication on their breasts anyways? We are guys, we like boobs, we like to look at boobs, boobs are advertising enough by themselves that you don’t have to draw even more attention to them.

        Umm… I’m gonna shut up now, stoopid lockout…

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Veterans will be receiving last years escrow surplus back this month. So maybe we’ll start to see cracks in the NHLPA foundation in November.

    Outside of the top 200 salaried NHL players, the remaining 550 players will be hurting bigtime. A divided NHLPA/the voice of those 550 or so players, could put an end to this lockout alone, couldn’t they Robin?.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I know this has already been said but it is what is coming to mind as I read this arcticle. It realy seems to me and my circle of hockey fans that there is much less of a appetite for this lock out as compared to the last one. Last time we all new there were big time problems that just had to be fixed. This time however its a bunch of crying rich buggers all pissed off that the other guy might be getting some of their share of the pot. I fear that for the sake of the game they better figure it out or they might not like the out come !!

  • Slapshot

    I know this would never happen, but the NHL should reduce the league by 4-6 teams,get rid of the weaker teams,increase the caliber of hockey around the league and see what Fehr and some of the 3rd and 4th liners in the union would have to say about that.The owners hold all the cards and the players are pawn’s in Bettmann’s chess game.

  • I never did understand why the players thought they could piss into the wind.

    I dont understand their demand or the nerve for the shares. They are players.

    a person or thing that plays.
    a person who takes part or is skilled in some game or sport.
    a person who plays parts on the stage; an actor.

    They are players(employees), not owners. They take part in the game(business) for a period of time, the game(NHL) was there before and will be there after them.

    The current player contracts when compared to other professional leagues are simply asinine, and for most part are earned on previous teams in previous years. The owners/league are the only party that have to honour the contracts, the only time the players dont get paid or earn their money is during the ;ock-out.

    Most of the players comments during interviews are that they just want to play hockey. Most of them are or can, I dont see what their problem is there. There is opportunities and teams for them to keep playing hockey, in my opinion I dont see that as a problem or an excuse.

    I find what the players are doing(being convienced to do) is a spoiled, dirty political move that is doing more harm than good. At the end of the day, if the players dont like it, no one is forcing them to play in the NHL, they can go work elsewhere or do something else if they want. When they say love the game and just want to play the game, then, it shouldnt matter if they are getting 4 million or 5 million a year.(that most probably will never have to measure up to)

  • “…..That’s how it’ll work. NBC gets the year back at the end, meaning owners have the length of this TV contract to try to figure out how to soften that one-year hit they’ll take at the end…”

    I am sure the fans will be counted on to do their part to soften the blow.

  • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

    Harlie… you want to re-read what you just said? I’m a dick because his 6 digit pay stub was “in my line of sight” as you say?

    Yes, I’m a dick then. How dare I look at something that I didn’t know was there and was unavoidable to look at while I was putting the car into reverse. I’m an awful, awful human being.

    Grow up.

  • We have all in our life times seen something we shouldn’t have that was out of our control. You are all implying that I picked up his stub and opened it – I did not – it was the kind where you rip off all the sides and hello, there it is. It was open and right there as I looked down. Did I want to see it? No. Would I apologize if I had met him? Sure.

    Being holier-than-thou is awfully convenient when you are not the person in the circumstance involved and I’m somewhat disappointed that someone at your age and experience in life does not have the wisdom to see this.

    Or are you trying to say that you’ve never once, in your life, overheard or seen, something that you were not supposed to?

  • the sad things is is that what the players are refusing to give up to the owners they will lose with 1 paycheck. after 2 lost cheques, they lose more then the deal they could acheive right now. what makes this even stupider is we all know that, eventually, the players will crack (next fall) and they will accept a deal that will be virtually identical to the deal they could sign today.

    this is so mindless it is mindnumbing.

    Go Oilkings!!!

  • If the NHL wins in the CBA negotiation battle with the NHLPA, and it will be a big WIN, can we expect to see a reduction in expensive ticket and beer prices?

    Highly improbable.

    Will the rich NHL clubs provide a greater form of financial support to their less well off partners as the NHLPA suggests?

    Equally highly improbable.

    So what is this me$$ all about? Answer: Greed on the part of some owners and faint hope on others that the rich will share some of their booty.

    Probably not likely to happen.

    And what about the forgotten fans? During the last NHL lockout, I was in favour of the NHL; not so much this time. For the good of NHL hockey fans, I hope Mr. Bettman will see his last $7 million plus season.

    • Don, for the most part I tend to stay out of arguments for or against the lockout due to the fact I think both parties are equally to blame.

      However, I don’t see where your argument for ticket prices is relevant in the overall argument, why would ticket prices be lowered before or after this lockout?
      Players and owners both benefit.

      The NHL “Rich” clubs are already providing financial support to the “less” well off clubs, how much more of the 18 clubs or so that lost money should the well off clubs support? This benefits the players not the owners.

      ~Maybe the NHL should just contract the bottom 5 or 6 clubs, so those filthy rich teams can just get richer~

      Also, how is Bettmans salary relevant and the players not? Bettman works for the owners, this is the owners decision his salary is irrelevant.

      You say you we’re in favour of the last lockout? So you supported the owners? The financial situation is really no better now then it was then.

      • ~Maybe the NHL should just contract the bottom 5 or 6 clubs, so those filthy rich teams can just get richer~

        According to the Forbes analysis of November 2011, the top five revenue teams (Leafs, Rangers, Habs, Canucks & Wings) accounted for 26% of league revenues and netted operating profits of $210 Million. The bottom ten revenue generating teams generated 25% of league revenues, but had combined losses of $69 Million.

        To me, lowering the cap only serves to allow the top money teams to become even richer but does’t accomplish much for the bottom revenue teams. The solution to me is for more serious revenue sharing by the rich teams. An alternative approach would be to lower the salary floor or establish a flexible floor to allow the lower income teams to better manage their budget.

        • I was being sarcastic about contraction. Still, at some point revenue sharing becomes counter productive, the owners cannot be expected to continue to keep giving higher % to teams that are unable to at some point fund themselves.

          Revenue sharing is meant to be an aid, not part of a teams expected revenue.

          Also, your alternative approach or solution is only a stop gap band aid solution, it doesn’t fix the problem. Non competitive teams equal, no fans, no money, drain on all NHL teams.

          At some point the NHL will have to move teams, it’s better for the owners, the players and the league, it grows the game and makes it stronger. Time to start looking at places like Québec, Ontario, Seattle, ect,ect, stronger more hockey traditional markets.

          • I agree it is only a stop gap, but it will eventually lead to shifting franchises as those temas that cannot compete financially will be forced to move or fold. Lowering the cap for all teams does nothing IMO to hep the overall financial situation of the league unless the league expands revenue sharing. Otherwise, it’s the already rich teams that will benefit most.

          • Bettman certainly won’t fold a team as evident with the Coyote’s situation, the NHLPA would absolutely lose there mind if the NHL contracts teams.

            Which leaves the NHL with really only one option and even then it’s a risky option, re-original Jets and Nordiques and that’s to move teams back into traditional markets.

            The NHL ( Bettmans job) is to grow and strengthen the league, which he has done.

            Getting rid of revenue sharing and having strong competitive teams financially on and off the ice is the ultimate goal no? This benefits the owners,the league and the players.

          • Light, Sweet, Crude

            It would be lovely if there were enough strong hockey markets to support your ultimate goal of “getting rid of revenue sharing and having strong competitive teams financially on and off the ice”.

            Revenue sharing allows all teams to reach a level financially to have the means to dress a competitive team. Look at the NFL, a league with the greatest revenue sharing while considered to be the strongest on the continent with a high degree of competitive balance. Revenue sharing does not need to be so destructive as to harm the rich teams but does need to be generous enough for all teams to be able to survive if they exist in a reasonable market. There is no reason for a league to cry poverty when the richest teams are netting tens of millions of dollars.

  • And when the cheques stop coming Bettman can start putting on the foil.

    The negotiations are going to get tougher for the NHLPA from now on.

    Plus, the wives and girlfriends are going to have zero patience with a group of lazy stay at home husbands/boyfriends who are no longer bringing home the bacon factory every month.

    Good luck with that players.

  • Poolanov

    What if the rich teams conspired the lockout so poor teams would eventually go bankrupt, thus avoiding the lawsuits against the league that contraction would surely bring. It’s a win no matter for the rich teams. Get rid of the week teams like Phoenix etc., or get a ridiculously unfair CBA from the PA. Basically, a financial win for rich teams no matter what, unless somebody is overestimating fan loyalty.

    • As far as i understand it it actually the opposite. The lockout mean way way less overhead for poor teams and they still get TV money. This essentially means they are either losing less or actually making money than if they would be playing games. It’s the big teams not getting mass amounts on gate revenue that are making less money than they would be if games were being played.

  • So. If salaries are tied to reveue, and NBC gets a free year but the owners get to pocket $200M now why wouldn’t you take the money now. $200M in your pocket today and you get to split the lost $200M in 10 years at whatever split you negotiate with the players in this cba or the next