Sunday, December 12, 2004

24%, luxury tax, and shootout

Again, with the hockey.
I was quite impressed with the offer that the NHLPA laid on the table on Thursday. I have some optimism about it because the NHL didn't automatically dismiss it, but decided to wait 'til Tuesday to make their counter-offer. Hell, this was good simply because the two sides were talking. After exactly 3 months of silence, they got some substantial talks going. Although I didn't want to say this at first, I'll say now that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is a complete jerkwad if he doesn't give this offer serious consideration.
The major detail is that the players have offered to roll back their salaries by 24% across the board. That's huge. Major savings everywhere. They have also offered a hefty luxury tax for teams that go over a certain spending limit, which escalates the further it gets over the limit. Not quite the salary cap that the league is looking for, but it's close. Also included in the union's offer is a revenue sharing plan. Now, I'm not an economist, but this seems to be a really promising offer. However, I can see how the league would see this as a band-aid on a sucking chest wound. It does offer some immediate financial relief, but the key thing the league is looking for is long term relief, mainly in the name of a solid cap on payrolls. The union is offering what amounts to a very flexible cap. At any rate, it's a good offer, and I hope it is given a chance.
Meanwhile, in Toronto, Brendan Shanahan was holding a summit on Tuesday to discuss how the game can be improved. It looks like some good things came out of that. He invited the groups of people he deemed to be most important to the game: current players, coaches and officials. I dunno, but I thought it was a little offensive that he was forgetting about the fans. If you want to improve the game, there should be some input from fans. I know, I know. It would be impossible to have two or three guys being the voice of millions of hockey fans across our continent, but I don't see how it could have hurt to have a random fan in on the talks. For instance, I think most fans would like to see legal hits on goalies who leave their crease to play loose pucks. As far as I can tell, they didn't discuss this. The idea for bringing the goal line back (making less space behind the net) is okay. I'll admit that my understanding of the rules change history is very limited, but I think they moved them out in the first place was because Wayne Gretzky was a scoring machine, and nobody could stop him. They decreased the attack zone ice space to make it more fair. This "new" idea calls for more attack zone ice, and most likely, more offense. If you look at the statistics, goal scoring has decreased steadily while average NHL salaries have increased steadily. This is a situation that most fans hate. I'm undecided on the idea of having a shootout at the end of a tied game. Nobody likes to see a game end in a stalemate, but the shootout seems so inorganic. I will say, though, that I really hate the current system wherein teams are given a point in the standings for an overtime loss. A loss is a loss. No points.
Goalie pads... They always talk about the reduction in the size of goalie pads. I suppose this is some sort of effort to allow more goals. More goals are good, but I really don't care about goalie pads. I don't care about the width of the blue lines. I don't care about the width of (or existence of) the red line. I don't care about tag-up off-sides. I don't care about most of the rules changes they discussed. What I and most fans care about is that they should quit treating the goalies like they're made of glass. I have always wished that a goalie who comes out of his crease to play a puck be designated as a "skater", and therefore free game for checks.
I'm done.

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