Will we Ever get the NHL Back Here with the Current Lockout?

Will we Ever get the NHL Back Here with the Current Lockout?


An opinion piece by Peter Stuart

Last month, amidst much fanfare, (it was in the middle of a Provincial election after all), the official sod-turning ceremony took place in Quebec City for our new and highly-anticipated future NHL hockey arena, with both candidates for Premier being present. 

Fast forward a month and a half and we now find ourselves in the midst of yet another NHL labour dispute, this time a lock-out. The future of the season looks bleak, we may not have hockey at all this year again, like during the 2004-05 season. 

Being someone with a university education, who works four part-time jobs to make ends meet, I can’t help but feel just a tad resentful towards these young men such as Scott Gomez, who’s paid $7,000,000 per year and who scored just one goal over a 98 game period. 

If my labour productivity in any of my four jobs was that poor, (and I earn on average $18/hr!), I’d have been fired and out on my keester looking for work a long time ago. To me this just goes to underscore just how blown out of all proportion the salaries have gotten to be in the NHL and pro sports in general. 

St. Paul said it quite succinctly when he said that  ‘for the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.’ (1Timothy 6:10) I think it’s rather foolish to be giving young men, barely out of puberty, who’re hormonally-challenged to say the least, that much money that early in their lives. It is a recipe for all manner of testosterone-induced, alcohol, drug, and sexual-type of negative behaviour which is unbecoming of a gentleman and an athlete who is supposed to be a role-model for the youth of our nation. 

When I was growing up, I remember reading in the Montréal gazette about Ken Dryden, the star goalie of the Montréal Canadiens, signing a three year contract for $150,000. That was for three years! Not that amount for each year! I mean $50,000/year!

I don’t think Guy Lafleur ever earned those extravagant salaries, and the tickets to go watch him play, along with Dryden, Steve Shutt, Jacques Lemaire and company, were well within reach of the more common of mortals such as a young lad as me, who played minor hockey in Sillery. 

Our team raised money by having a skate-o-thon and going door to door to get sponsors to raise money, and we bought some seats up in the nose-bleed section at the Forum in Montréal and paid a friend of our coach to drive us down and watch the Habs beat St. Louis 5-3. It was great.

The tickets were still affordable enough to do such a thing back in 1979. Nowadays, with salaries so ridiculously high, the average wage-earner can only hope to get a free ticket given out by his employer who has a season’s ticket in a corporately-sponsored section of seats at the rink, or who knows somebody who’s well-connected who can get him in, or who quite literally spends money that he doesn’t have to go watch a bunch of overpaid, spoiled-brat young men skate around and chase a puck while antagonizing each other by trying to provoke each other to be the first to drop their gloves to start a fight, so that the player who starts the fight will get the major penalty, but the players who spent most of the game holding, cross-checking and generally dishing out all sorts of cheap shots to the other guy won’t get penalized because the refs don’t want to slow down the game by calling all sort of penalties! 

So we end up with rule changes which encourage bad behaviour on the ice and which only goes to provoke fights, which is what the league essentially wants to portray with its US-style of marketing to promote the game in America, which is wrong. It goes against the spirit of the game. Fights in hockey have always existed, but now they’ve become structurally-institutionalized aspects of a heavily marketed entertainment and leisure product which is mostly focused on selling beer, junk food and NHL Brand-name merchandise to the public. 

I think at some point there won’t be enough people anymore with enough money to spend on these kinds of discretionary forms of leisure and entertainment expenses, as the American economy continues to be ravaged by a shrinking middle class and a widening gap between the haves and the have not’s, which is now spreading to Canada. 

I think that the wage roll-back being proposed by the league is only appropriate, considering the sacrifices that most people in North America are being asked to make in these tough economic times, regardless of the ‘special talent’ they possess as star athletes. With the contacts they’ve made as they’ve risen up the rungs of the sports hierarchy to make it into the pros, I’m sure these young men will have ingratiated themselves sufficiently, (or should have), to enough people that at the end of their careers in the pros, however short or long that may be, that they will be able to land on their feet somewhere in the community so as to continue to earn an honourable living. 

There’s an old expression which says that we should be nice to the people we meet on our way up the ladder in life, because we may very well meet them again on the way down! 

Just a few thoughts in the wake of a few shovels full of dirt being tossed a couple of months ago by some politicos: We may be closer to getting an arena, but how will we manage the salaries of our players once we get a team?

I wonder what St. Paul would say to Timothy today? Or to Régis or Pauline for that matter?

Have a blessed day folks!

About the author:

Peter Stuart is a freelance writer based in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.
He has a degree in Canadian Studies from the University of Ottawa.
He has written Op-Ed pieces for the last ten years for publications including: Le Soleil, La Presse, Quebec Chronicle Telegraph and Impact Campus.
Peter writes in both French and English, and and has published his first book, entitled ‘The Catholic Faith and the Social Construction of Religion: With Particular Attention to the Québec Experience’.

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