NHL replacement players? Forget about it!

I have always been a big fan of Abba. Love the music, the beat and even the dancing they did in concert. However, unlike Wanye after a break up, I never cried myself to sleep listening to ‘One of Us’. Doesn’t mean I didn’t feel the passion!

I would love to see them live in concert. It would be awesome. Reports out of Sweden say they were offered a billion dollars to get back together. They turned it down, no chance of a reunion tour. Brutal! So what is the next best thing?

Replacements! Same music, clothes, beat and dancing, but still just replacements. It just wouldn’t be the same. The quality just wouldn’t be there.

Earlier in the week former Toronto Maple Leafs assistant G.M. Bill Watters suggested he wouldn’t be surprised if the NHL turned to replacement players by mid-November. Other leagues have done this before. The goal of this tactic would be to break the union by having NHLPA members cross the line.

If the NHL decided to go this route it would make life very tough on many NHLPA members. Does a guy cross or not? Who would be the first guy? How long to wait before crossing? I wouldn’t want to have to make these choices. Even though you are a member of the NHLPA at some point you have to do what is right for just you. It could mean becoming a scab.

I am less interested in the reaction of NHLPA members than I am in the NHL fans. Would they want to see scabs play? Would you?

Where would these replacement players come from? Where are the next best 750 hockey players hiding? My guess would be the AHL, the European leagues and drafted players currently playing at a junior level somewhere in the world.

Would the hockey be good? It would be about the same level as the AHL.

NHL-Caliber Players

Photo: southcentral/Wikimedia/CC BY-SA 2.0

Right off the top, the most talented players are no longer playing in the NHL. So no Crosby, Malkin, Kane, Jagr, or Parise. Eventually, players would come along to fill the star power the NHL has now but it would take time. Don’t expect it by Christmas or even in the next three years.

Could the bottom half of the roster be replaced right away? You could find guys to take those spots but they would all be missing something current third and fourth liners have. Many guys in the AHL cannot break through to the NHL because they are pretty good at a few roles required on a NHL roster but a master of none.

The bottom half of NHL rosters are made up of specialists. Even though they may not have the top end talent the top two lines have, trust me, they have plenty of talent. It is not super easy to replace them. If it is why do so many teams struggle to find a great fourth line center that wins draws? Energy players that bring it every night but can also think the game? Penalty killers that are willing to risk their lives by diving in front of Shea Weber bombs and most often not get hurt?

Trust me, the NHL-caliber player isn’t all over the place. Are there good hockey players outside the NHL? Yes. But they are not the same caliber.

The replacement player NHL would be of a lower speed and quality. Would you want to go and watch for the same price you pay now for Oilers tickets? How about fifty percent of that? Thirty percent? Fifteen percent? Now the price is down to what you would pay to see a game in the AHL because that is the level of play you would be watching.

Nope, I don’t think replacement players are the solution, compromise is. But if there were replacements players, who do you think would be the first current NHL player to cross the line and join the replacements?


  • Kodiak

    The answer is simple. The likely hood of scabs working is directly proportional to the likely hood a star player determines the outcome of the game. Due to a 20 player roster and the fact defensive systems and hard work can often neutralize a star, filling the roster with “almost”‘nhlers will be almost the same thing most nights.

  • Kodiak

    Replacement players? I am getting ready to stop watching the regular players when they return.

    All my Oiler gear (jersey, hats, gloves, magnets, socks, banners, and pictures) is in a box in the closet right now.

    I have signed on to play for two different shinny teams this year. The players have already been replaced.

  • Sure why not..at least it’s pro hockey and would be televised .
    Let the greedy owners and stubborn players fight over their cake..

    Until they can figure out how to divide millions that the fans give them to play and run their teams I would gladly watch AHL level hockey..

    I think the players are feeling like they are being bullied by the owners, and owners want what NBA and NFL have, 50/50 or close to it..owners had to settle for 43% last time now they want 50%, I think most players would accept their share going down 1% for next seven years to get to 50/50 and not taking a pay cut on current salaries but owners want a fix instantly for something that has taken seven years to get this bad..
    Players have shown how much they care about their peers by taking the jobs of players away in europe(I know they arent part of the same union but isn’t there some code of respect for taking another players job only to ditch it the second your own league is running again?)..

    Replacements here we come!
    Maybe in 10 years they will make a movie of it..could be interesting..

  • The Goalie 1976

    Bulin and that age group would be the first to cross.

    I want to know why some sort of mediator hasn’t been appointed. Both the NHL and NHLPA have to deal with them during un-resolved RFA players, so why not now. Everyone knows that a middle-ground will be the end result anyway. So why are both sides doing the finger pointing at the other. What a waste of time. I actually hate BOTH Bettman and Fehr now. They are both equally responsible to fix this mess, so shut up and split the difference, then play some hockey!

    They should each get 1 hour to present their case in front of the mediator, then a binding decision is rendered lasting 15 years. Done. The funny thing is I bet both sides would ‘overall’ be satisfied with the CBA.

  • RexLibris

    I see Markov has joined Vityaz Chekhov of the KHL – aka, the Goon Squad. Strange collaboration there.

    I hope he doesn’t injure himself in one of their staged line brawls.

  • Chainsawz

    I won’t even watch replacement players for free on a free TV. You’d literally would have to pay me my OT rate at my job to watch that. I’m not kidding.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    As previously mentioned, we’ve been watching B rate hockey here for 5 yrs already.

    Nobody has accepted substandard hockey more than this Edmonton hockey market. Pull all those old numbers out of the rafters and put them on the backs of the replacement players. Edmontonians will probably never be able to tell the difference. They finished dead last multiple yrs and were still able to raise ticket prices. They’ll buy anything, as long as they’re wearing that crest.

  • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

    I would welcome replacement players. They players aren’t going to get what they want anyways, so why not have some guys play some NHL hockey, it would be completely unpredictable, and for a change we would get to see some players, although they might be nobodies, that feel very fortunate to wear an NHL jersey, and who aren’t part of a union or aren’t hung up on the money.

    It would be kind of neat in my opinion, you would be making a ton of guys dreams come true, and even though you wouldn’t see as skilled a product on the ice, it might remind everyone how lucky you are to play at that level, and what the game means to us. That’s just my opinion, but I think it would be great just because of that.

    • Jason Strudwick

      So your blanket statement says all NHL players are not thankful for playing in the NHL? I couldn’t disagree with you more. You don’t think they know how lucky they are to be in the NHL?

      Do you know how many hours are spent preparing to get to the NHL? Each player there has earned the right to be in the NHL.

      This lockout is strictly business. That’s all. It should not be viewed as a group of spoiled brats asking for more. Last I checked they have already submitted an offer to take less.

      Be careful with your general blanket statements. Where is your proof that players don’t recognize they are lucky and are not grateful to be in the NHL. Showme specific quotes and examples, then we will have a fact based discussion. I have been inside those rooms so I have my facts. Get yours and bring them to this discussion.

      • Hair bag

        A little touchy Studs! Apparently your tank isn’t completely empty – seems to be some passion still firing in there….

        First, comments like the ones Krys Barch made the other day are what turns fans off – the fact that he says a majority of his brethern will have to work for the next 50yrs because they don’t make enough money just makes him sound stupid! Two words – Financial Advisor. Anyone making anywhere near a million a year for more than a couple years should have no trouble setting themselves up for a comfortable future after hockey is over. Yes you MAY still have to work but you still won’t be anywhere near the situation the average joe struggles with every day and if you are intelligent enough you won’t HAVE TO work, you will work because you want to.

        Second, you are right it is a business and it is about money but let’s call a spade a spade – the perception is the players got their asses handed to them in the last CBA (when in fact it turned out very well for them) and their pride won’t let them take another perceived beating. The facts are this though, the game is bigger than the players, 50-50 is a fair deal and reasonable from a player perspective and a business perspective. If at the next agreement the owners try to grind them down more then maybe I will sympathize with the players but right now not a chance, this isn’t Ted Lindsay’s NHL anymore, the pendulum has swung far the other way.

        Third, I am not a fan of the owners as they are the ones who created this mess but at the end of the day the NHL is THEIR business! I find it amusing that the NHLPA has tried to present an alternative system to do business – WELL IT’S NOT YOUR BUSINESS, YOU ARE EMPLOYEES – so work within the framework that is set out by the business owners otherwise go start your own league and run it the way you want!

      • Kodiak

        You are missing the point, Struds. The issue isn’t with the players right to be in the NHL, it’s that they come across as being entitled to big money contracts, entitled to 57% of hrr. When players make comments about how hard they work and how much effort they’ve had to put in to get there so they “deserve” millions, that entitlement is what pisses fans off and makes them come across as unappreciative. I work about 3000 hours a year and I would bet the average hockey player puts in less than half of that. There are millions of people that work as hard and take on more risks than a hockey player ever will, so the “entitled” compensation players expect definitely screams unappreciative to be in the NHL making the money they do make.

        And in what other business does the business owner have to tell his employees what he makes in the first place? Do you think Brownlee is going to open his books to his employees and shell out 57% of the revenue to them? Should the Rexall employees get together and demand 57% from Katz business revenues because he’s making lots of money off them? It sounds ridiculous in every other scenario, but somehow NHL players think it’s acceptable to extort the owners because they are making money off players. I know, I know, it’s different, because they aren’t hockey players that work so much harder than everyone else?!?

        No one is begrudging hockey players from making decent money, but when the average salary is over $2.5 million the players aren’t going to have too many fans feeling sorry for them.

        • Kodiak

          I agree with your general sentiment – millionaires and billionaires pissing on fans in turns – but your idea isn’t all that bad.

          Why shouldn’t my employer spend 57% or even 60% of revenue on me and the other workers who make the money for him? I work up north as well, and like you, I’ve put in 3000 hour years (let’s be honest – you don’t always do this and neither do I). I’m charged out at over $100/hr. I earn less than half of that. Some of the rest is WCB and other nonsense, but I don’t see most of it.

          But as to the reason why I support the player position – if players earn less, I’m not paying one red cent less on my tickets. I’d rather my money go to the guys laying their bodies (and heads) on the line for my entertainment than Richie McDouchebag who wants 6 million dollars so he can pay the city 5 and a half million dollars back.

          • Wanyes bastard child

            Agreed with Blaque Jacque, and not only that but players should not be held accountable for pissing on the fans any more than a Costco employee should be held accountable for Costco customer satisfaction in the event of the Costco employee saying that they will not work for X dollars..

            At the end of the day accountability for the fan thing is the owners and managements responsibility, not the players.

        • Wanyes bastard child

          You’re working 60 hr work weeks? How much do you get paid? Let’s post our salaries for the world to see like NHL players do and judge whether we deserve it or not.

          Also, when you say they work half that, are you accounting for travel time and time away from their families?

          Your whole post screams I work so hard, pay attention to me, I’m unappreciated. You are what many people would refer to as a hater. Jealous and unhappy woth their lot in life so you chip at other peoples castles from your treefort.

          News flash – Hockey players get paid what they do because someone is willing to pay them for the specific services they provide, and when it comes to accepting a wage for a position everyone has the right to accept or refuse. The players have refused, and well see how it turns out.

          Why don’t you tell us about your last wage negotiation and what your job function was and well all cast judgement on whether you were right or wrong?

          • Kodiak

            Sorry, Nikklehead, but for as astute as you think you are you didn’t get the point at all. Nowhere did I say the players should roll over in this negotiation and give in to the owners. I actually feel they are right. They signed contracts and those contract should be honored.

            My point was don’t try to justify and have that entitlement of the salaries they make by saying it’s because they work so hard and have all these risks, because in Alberta there are thousands of people that work way harder, putting in way more hours with way more risks. It wasn’t about me personally, as I’m one of many. I’m not a hater or jealous at all, I just don’t like the portrayal that they are hard done by and just regular working stiffs trying to look after themselves.

      • I don’t agree that players are not thankful, I think they truly are.

        I also agree that this is a business, and like I said on my previous post, if you think this lockout goes into a second year your dreaming.

        As mentioned above, it would take the league 3-4 years to become elite again with no NHLers. A lot less when over 50% of the players return or cross over.

        What choice would they have? What choice do they have?

        The NHLPA does not have a whole lot of power the longer this goes on, next month the players start to loose a lot of money.

        Once the league starts talking alternative players and contraction, the NHLPA won’t have many options left.

        It’s not about the name on the back but the crest on the front!

      • Big Cap

        Its their “right” to play in the NHL???

        They should be thanking their lucky stars each and every day they are playing in the NHL.

        Every single reader and poster on this site would do almost anything to be in their situation.

        I’m not against them making millions and millions, living a dream lifestyle and making money off of endorsements. However, maybe they should just keep their months shut, take the money and run…

  • No Crosby-Malkin-OV8???

    Your argument is the top 2 % percent of the league? in Edmonton we see them once ever year? Possible two?

    50% of NHL players never even played a full season last year, another 100 or so players may never play in the NHL again. The rest of the players you mentioned the bottom 6 or even the bottom 3 make less then 2 million a year.

    With the exception of the “specialists” who may make a little more.

    The Oilers basically have rebuilt there roster in 3 years and not all with NHL players I might add.

    You mention scabs? Lets say the Oilers draft Lazar? Would he now be mentioned as a scab? Would Yakupov be a scab? How about Bunz or Roy? Schultz?

    These are he players the Oilers for instance would recall first if the NHL decided to use an alternative method of playing games, not replacement players but drafted players supplementing current AHL players and European players.

    These players have never played in the NHL only drafted by the NHL, I think your caliber of players are way off, NHL teams would rebound fast!!!

    How is it ok that NHL players can take the jobs of players in Europe the AHL and KHL but the mention of using alternative players in the NHL gets met with such a bad reaction??

    Not to mention once this happens, it will be like dominios how fast the others would return. Of course those top players such as Crosby-Malkin-OV8 and Parise can go ahead and start there own league.

    Think about this, what happens if the NHL decides that hockey is not working in DAL-PHX-NASH-CBJ-NYI and decide to contract these teams as well.

    If there is no hockey this year I will guarantee there will be hockey next year, lockout or not.

  • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

    seems to me the fist players to cross over would be those who may not have another year left in them – Nikolai would probably lead the pack!

  • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

    Has there been any major league that used replacement players? That probably answers that question.

    Also, I watch the Oilers because I grew up with the team over the years; Weight, Staios, Comrie, Selivanov, BoBo, CuJo, Hemmer, Kovalenko, The Kid Line, now Ebs, Hallsy, NUGE, etc. Why would I watch strangers play?

    • Ron Peters

      1987 NFL (pretty major league, huh)
      3 weeks of replacement players

      1995 MLB owners went as far as they could about getting replacement players (Dennis boyd amongst others), but a judge issued an injunction