Ever wondered what it’s like when an owner runs into a player he’s had under contract during or after one of these protracted CBA disputes in the NHL?
Take the Vancouver Canucks, for instance. What’s it like for Manny Malhotra, who is fairly prominent in the players’ negotiating hierarchy, to run into Francesco Aquilini at a function or in the hallway of Rogers Arena once things are settled?
The reason we ask here is simple. Aquilini is one of a group of 30 people who will be meeting next week to discuss their strategy whereby they are essentially trying to re-write contracts which they have already signed with Malhotra and his teammates in an attempt to weasel the aforementioned player out of somewhere between five and seven per cent of the money they’ve already agreed to pay him.
What would the player’s response be? What would you normally expect them to say to somebody who has just arbitrarily decided not to pay them what he had agreed to pay, sometimes as early as, say, 15 days ago, as would be the case with Jordan Eberle?
Wouldn’t the normal response be “What the bleep are you trying to pull off, pal?” or some such greeting? But here’s where the hypocrisy comes in. Chances are, the players smile sweetly, remember they still work for the guy and say, “How you doing, boss?” Just how lame is that when it comes to the integrity of their own behaviour? Or does it just come under the umbrella of: “That’s business.”
“Fortunately I never see Francesco,” Dan Hamhuis said Wednesday, taking the easy way out when asked what his reaction to running into one of the owners might be.
“We saw a lot of Mike [GM Gillis] and Laurence [assistant GM Gilman] on the fishing trip last week and we talked about how we wished they’d get it settled, but other than that...”
Malhotra takes a somewhat different tack, but at the end of the day, you still have to ask whether that’s just as hypocritical as the player who bows and scrapes.
“I don’t think that all 30 owners are at anywhere near the same level of agreement with what’s going on,” said the chiselled Malhotra, pointing out that each team has different interests with respect to how the negotiations are handled.
“But the individual owners aren’t allowed to say what they think about what’s being set out by the league, and many of them have very different views than what’s being said.”
He’s right about that in that Aquilini might have a different approach to things than Bettman would, and the owners of well-off teams are not going to be amused at losing a whole season this time around.
Take the Leafs, for instance. They make a profit of about $80 million per year. What’s the point of missing out a whole year’s profit to save say $8 million on salaries? It would take them 10 years to make up for the lost one. If they took less and got a deal done, they’d still make, say $85 million per year for instance, and not miss a beat. But the owners of the less-profitable teams, which tend to call the tune Bettman sings, obviously have a different view.
Having said that, however, Aquilini will still make out like a bandit if Bettman is successful at getting the players’ percentage of hockey-related revenue down significantly and the revenue sharing structure among the owners doesn’t change.
If, for instance, the salary cap goes from $70 million to say $60 or $62 million by the time the bulldozer stops for another six years, that eight or ten million dollars per year the Aquilinis will be able to slide into their jeans will essentially make their revenue-sharing payments.
So the Canucks’ owners will be huge winners here, as long as it doesn’t take them a cancelled season to get it, particularly if they actually care about winning a Cup as much as they say they do.
Sure, the owners have different interests. But at the end of the day, are they all that different?
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What’s it like for Manny Malhotra, who is fairly prominent in the players’ negotiating hierarchy, to run into Francesco Aquilini at a function or in the hallway of Rogers Arena once things are settled?
Photograph by: Jeff Vinnick file photo, NHLI via Getty Images