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.
BACK TO THE TABLE
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.