Monday, December 17, 2012

the mathematics of the NHL lockout

I was thinking about the NHL lockout recently. It occurred to me that a lost season would be far worse for the players than the owners.

The reason is because of time frames. The owners can take a long term view. They will still be around both individually and as a group 10, 15, 20 years from now. So for them it is in their interest to say lose this season to get an advantage as they can make it back and more over the longer term.

For the great majority of players, losing a year's pay is a disaster. Many NHL careers are short so any season is a major percentage of the money you will ever bank playing hockey. Many careers are only 1-4 seasons so to lose one of those iterations after all those years you worked unpaid to reach the NHL is a terrible result.

Look at some of these brothers of famous players. This is how long they were in the NHL

Alain Lemieux 119 games
Brent Gretzky 13 games
Gilbert Dionne 223 games
Brett Lindros 51 games

Basically for anyone in the second half of their career - which is half the players, it is better to leave some money on the table now, even 15-20%, in order to settle and salvage the bulk of the money they would have made this season. Even for young stars like Toews, Crosby, Giroux, with concussions they can't be sure how long they will around, their careers may already be more than half over.

The only players who can benefit from losing a years pay are young, very good players early in their careers who confidently have 10+ years to play. For them getting an extra say 5-10% from sitting out one season is ok as they will make it back over their careers. There are very few NHL players in this group, perhaps 15%

A friend from work at lunch did make an interesting point about players late in successful careers. Guys like Chara, Alfredsson, Selanne. At this point they should already be wealthy, so for them they might be willing to give up a years pay they can't get back for the long term good of the union, for future players who aren't even in the league yet.

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