WOULD YOU WATCH REPLACEMENT PLAYERS

Who didn’t secretly root for Shane Falco in the football comedy, The Replacements? It wasn’t the greatest football movie, but it wasn’t awful.

Falco’s speech in the huddle was epic. "I wish I could say something classy and inspirational, but that just wouldn’t be our style…. Pain heals. Chicks dig scars. Glory…lasts forever."

Another classic came from butter-handed receiver Clifford Franklin, "The football’s like a one-man cold to Clifford Franklin. Clifford Franklin’s the only man catchin’ it, Clifford Franklin’s the only man comin’ down wid it" What an awesome line.

Some have questioned if the NHL would look at bringing in replacement players. Would it be smart or stupid? I can’t speak for the all fans or season ticket holders. It would be wrong for me to assume if you’d pay, so instead I will ask.

Would you watch replacement players?

Before you answer, let’s look at the optics.

COST

If the NHL expected fans to pay full price for replacement players, who wouldn’t be averaging over $2million/player, then this is a moot point, because no sane fan would pay that.

Some have suggested that teams would force fans to pay or they risk losing their seats. How many cities is that a realistic option. The waiting list for season seats in Edmonton is shorter today than it was five years ago. Toronto and Montreal have the longest lists, but how many US cities could bully their fans into paying? I’d say very few, if any.

What would be a reasonable cost for you to go?

WILL IT HURT CREDIBILITY OF LEAGUE?

We likely wouldn’t know until it happens, but when the NFL used replacement players for three weeks their league didn’t suffer any long-term backlash. Eighty-five percent of veterans didn’t cross, but a few big names did. Dallas Cowboy star defensive lineman and future Hall of Famer, Randy White, didn’t strike and eventually even Joe Montana, Lawrence Taylor, Steve Largent and Tony Dorsett crossed the picket lines according to ESPN.

I remember White saying he didn’t want to lose the money. I’m sure there are some NHL players who feel the same way.

WHO WOULD CROSS?

I’m guessing veterans near the end of their careers would give it a long hard look. Nikolai Khabibulin will never recoup his $3.75 million deal, so maybe he would.

Lots of players who are making $500,000-$750,000 before taxes might consider it as well. White was making $30,000/week after taxes in 1987, which would be close to $1 million today, before taxes, when you consider inflation.

There would be a long list of players who would jump at the shot to suit up in the NHL, because many still believe they just need to get noticed.

Is there really that big of a gap between 60% of the NHL players and those who aren’t in the league? The elite top-end players like Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle are rare, but is the skill set of 3rd and 4th liners that drastically different than guys playing in Europe or the AHL?

Quanthockey.com crunched some numbers (here) and figured out that 42% of NHL players play 50 games or less. I understand that many of these players are replacing each other, but the lifespan for many NHL players is short.

Most players have a very short window to play in the NHL and earn their salary. It would be interesting to see how many would cross.

COULD IT HAPPEN?

I spoke to two NHL sources today and both said it isn’t on the horizon just yet. They said it isn’t as easy as opening their doors tomorrow for replacement players, due to many legal issues, but if they started looking at it today, it might be feasible in a few months.

WOULD YOU GO?

Before you suggest that the WHL is like replacement players, keep in mind that around 97% of CHL players never play in the NHL. Replacement players would be a mix of NHLers, former NHLers, and some career minor-leaguers who are still waiting for a break. The WHL is an unbelievable development league, but replacement players would be stronger, faster and more mature.

So if it happens, and it is a massive IF, would you go?

SPEAKING OF….WOULD YOU GO

Yesterday the Edmonton Rush drafted 6’4", 220 pound forward Mark Matthews with the first overall selection in the NLL entry draft. He is a bonafide star. Would you be enticed to watch a lacrosse game or two now that they have a legitimate offensive star?

  • When Gretzky was an Oiler he was the greatest player ever! Once he was traded, Messier became the greatest, once Messier was traded Wieght was the best player!

    I figured out after the Gretzky trade that my loyalty lied with the team. The crest on the front was more important then the name on the back.

    Hell Yes!! I would watch temp replacement players and cheer just as loud!

    After all nobody seems to mind when NHL player take’s the jobs of KHL or European players, the NHLPA justifies it, why the hell shoud I care? Why should NHL players care if others do the same to them?

    Payback’s a bitch.

  • 15w40

    Nope – wouldn’t do it. The league would be a farce then. I;m not saying that I will only watch NHL players – I just won’t watch the NHL without NHL players. CHL hockey, Chinook League, AAA Midget…….. its all good hockey. The NHL can stay away indefinitely until it has its house in order, I don’t really care.

  • Mumbai Max

    Yes I would watch.

    There are a lot of really good players in the AHL and other international leagues. Open it up and let the best ones without NHL contracts play. Also open it up to the existing players to return when they want under the new conditions. Within a year the bulk of the regulars would be back. Where else are they going to go?

    Set a cap of 40 million and a ticket cap of x to appease the fans, and go for it. It would likely be more fun than the often predictable NHL, as these dudes scrapped it out to keep their spots once the ‘stars’ started to return.

    Why does everyone love Junior hockey? The passion and the dream are alive. Wouldn’t it be the same with these kinds of players. Technical excellence is great to watch, but passion is more important.

    Bring on those college grads, AHL vets, and overage juniors. The joy might return to the NHL.

    I will watch for sure. It beats looking at game summaries of Russian and Swedish league games!

  • Mumbai Max

    I wouldn’t go. And I bet most people that went once wouldn’t go again.

    We already have hockey like this all over the city and surrounding areas.

    Go to a Golden Bears game. or a Spruce Grove Saints game. check out the Bentley Generals.

    Maybe get some more TV coverage for the Viking Cup, Allan Cup, Enerflex Cup, etc first before we fire up a second tier scab league.

  • Having replacement players would be like going back to the WHA days.

    Each team had one or two legit all stars players(Bobby Hull, Dave Keon, J.C. Tremblay, Pat Stapleton, Bernie Parent, Gerry Cheevers), a big crop of rookies that developed in to some fine Hockey players (Rob Ramage,Mark Napier, Mark Howe, Marc Tardif and Wayne Gretzky), Some european players( Andres Hedberg, Kent Nilson), a bunch of good juorney ( Paul Henderson, Derek Sanderson, Rick Dudley, Paul Schmir, Al Hamilton), aging vets ( Frank Mahovolich, Gordie Howe, Johnny MacKenzie, Ralph Backstrom) and a big bunch of grunt AHL guys.

    The league was great fun to watch! I don’t see starting with replacement player being much different. Truly an adventure which would be way better than other options like watching Lacrosse and discuss the merits of the collective bargaining agreement.

  • OilClog

    No, it’s the owners that imposed the lockout. Verbal positioning or not the players said they’d play repeated if no new agreement was reached. I’ll watch NHL hockey when it’s truly back. Maybe just not as much anymore..

  • Slapshot

    If the players do not want to negotiate,and it ends up costing the NHL the season,then the owners should bring in replacements next fall and try to break up the NHLPA,didn’t the players learn anything from the last lock out?

  • MessyEH!

    Why would I watch the top pro league, with out the top pros. The teams negotiated contracts with these players. They should have to pay the previously negoitated contracts, as they are. Owners are responsible for this mess. The players wanted a hard cap of 52 million dollars for the last CBA. and the OWNERS wanted a cap based on revenues. this is the owners lock out I would in no way support replacement players.

  • Dawn

    I suspect initially a lot of people would be watching NHL games much like they watched the NFL with replacement officials – because people are drawn to watching a slow motion train wreck. After a while, who knows. In 1987, the fans did not watch the NFL with replacement players in great numbers.

    I would probably watch games on tv just because I’m addicted. But are they going to charge $35 for lower bowl for B grade Oilers? Doubt it. I’ll stick with the Oil Kings. At least those are players I know and have a vested interest in seeing them play.

  • Aitch

    I wouldn’t pay a penny to watch. Might watch some on tv for free, but that’s about it.

    Someone mentioned about being aligned with the logo on the front rather than the name on the back. Well, that’s true to a point, but when there is no continuity between the old team (the locked-out players) and the new team (the scabs) then I would find no true allegiance to the Oilers. Keep in mind, that I already have no ties to the “Edmonton” portion of the team.

  • Coppperhead

    I would totally go. As it is, certain bargaining members of the union are overpaid babies. This time I am siding with the NHL owners. Like really who is fronting the organizations up front and the players want how much revenue sharing? Excuse me 57%? Are you out of you ****ing minds? A good taste of their own medicine would be nice but not likely….

    And for the record Krys Barch is a one man pitty party. I get it your upset, but whine because you’re a goon…

  • Coppperhead

    I would watch, but not with the same fervour as before. And the ticket prices would have to come way down (or else I would just go to the Oil Kings). Right now I happen to be thoroughly enjoying the NFL and I know that going forward I’m probably going to turn to that on Sunday/Monday/Thursday a lot more even once the NHL is back.

    That said a few points:

    – You can argue that they could replace 50% of the players in the NHL, but not 50% of the ice time. The top players get a much larger share of that pie

    – There is a big difference between a lockout and a strike. Yes I realize that this is just a thought experiment, but maybe someone with knowledge could figure out what the possibility of a player who is locked out being allowed to play.

    – Most of the players overseas are under contract and wouldn’t be able to leave. A TON of players in the AHL are under NHL contracts and would still be locked out.

  • Coppperhead

    Oiler fans that say they wouldn’t watch replacement players… what the hell do you think you’ve been watching for the last 5 years?? When 75% of the team couldn’t crack the lineup of the top 10 teams in the league then what you have is replacement players!

    • Coppperhead

      So we want to continue to watch that for how long going forward?

      There’s also the problem if the Gregor solution works out of where all our young guys end up. No contracts means they dont have to come back here they can play wherever they want. I think the whole thing would fall apart as teams try to give incentives to get the best players to sign with them.

  • Coppperhead

    How about just having AHL games in NHL cities. I think I’d prefer it to NHL right now. I think you’d see better hockey than you’re used to seeing in the NHL this time of year.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Players currently under contract would not be eligible or the lock out would effectively be broken. That would leave 20 to 30 unsigned players supported by amateur senior league players, a much worse product then initially offered by the WHA when there was a much larger player pool to draw from. It would be a mess and IMO a much better option is to watch CHA or CIS games and AHL games on line or on tv.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      I think that is the point from the NHL perspective, to encourage players to break ranks and defacto accept the terms the NHL are offering.

      If the league would go to replacement players than the league is vested in a long labour dispute that may last several seasons. In those circumstances older players reaching the end of their careers and journeymen or young players trying to establish themselves would break ranks and play, like the WHA. And there would be very little the players could do about it except retire or play in Europe since the oweners still control all the buildings.

      On another note, I don’t believe all the talk about the average player having a 4 year career. There are lots of players with long careers and a huge number that play 50 to 100 or less games. Yes it is a four year average but I doubt that there is actually very many players that play four years. Those that play over 100 will win the lottery and make lots of money over a long career, those that don’t will hardly cover their time invested. So when the players say they are fighting for those players with an average career of 4 year, I don’t believe it. They are fighting to make themselves multi millionaires on my buck. And truthfully I don’t want to finance that.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Watching replacement players would be tacit approval of the owners. I’m not comfortable with that. The Owners’ created this mess and want to lay it all on the Players’ backs.

    The Owners should ask for a rollback starting at 57% and move towards 48% (or something like that)as the Owners’ share increase from 43% to 48%. All the while there should be a 4% kitty for revenue sharing. At the same time, the Owners should ask for an immediate cut to long, lucrative contracts (>5 yrs) with a one time “I’m a stupid owner and I should have never agreed to that contract” mea culpa fine (50% of the total being cut out) paid out to the player’s contract that are being cut and resetting the contract to the equivalent of the highest year and set to a max of 5yrs (sorry Parise, Suter). Existing contracts of