Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Now, Back to our Regularly Scheduled Hockey Lesson

The distraction: The NHLPA's collective bargaining agreement.

Why I chose it: Because I want to know exactly how someone like Lou Lamoriello thought he could route around it. And for that matter, why all the other long-term deals out there were allowed to go down virtually undetected by the NHL's radar.

Perhaps I'll just read the CliffsNotes: This one might take a while: It's 475 pages and 50 sections long.

So let's start at the beginning. A very good place to start: Yes, I love "The Sound of Music." Get over it. Now, to the agreement: Article 1, Definitions.

If the "League Year" Starts in July, why can't hockey just keep going after June?: The "League Year" means the period of July 1 of one calendar year and including June 30 of the following calendar year or such other one year period to which the NHL and NHLPA may agree.

For all those players living in sin with models, actresses and country singers: "Living Companion" the criteria for Living Companion status is as follows: a) the persons are not related by blood, b) neither person is married, c) the persons share a primary residence, d) the persons have been living together for at least six months, and e) the persons are at least 18 years of age.

A little kibble for all of us living in junior hockey towns: "Major Juniors" or "Juniors" means the Canadian Hockey League, including the Western Hockey League, Ontario Hockey League, and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

Go and be free. Sort of:

"Free agent" means a Restricted Free Agent and/or an Unrestricted Free Agent.

"Restricted free agent" means a player whose standard player contract (SPC) has expired, but who is still subject to a Right of First Refusal and/or Draft Choice Compensation in favor of his prior club as described in Article 10 of this Agreement.

"Unrestricted Free Agent" means a player who a) has either never signed an SPC or whose SPC has expired, or has been terminated or bought out by a Club; and b) who otherwise is not subject to any exclusive negotiating rights, Right of First Refusal, or Draft Choice Compensation in favor of any Club (including, without limitation, Players who referred to in Section 10.1 or 10.2(a)(iv) of this Agreement or a Player who becomes an Unrestricted Free Agent as a result of the Club exercising its walkaway rights under Article 12 of this agreement.)

Morals of the story:

The game: I think I see now why players need an entourage just to get to the rink. No wonder the "League Year" goes all year instead of just the regular and playoff season. The well-oiled machine that is the collective bargaining agreement never sleeps and I'm guessing, neither do its enforcers.

Life: In corporate America, unrestricted free agents are pretty much CEOs who just get to run a company into the ground until it spills oil into the world's oceans for the next 5 decades or leaves miners in a small hole for six months at a time. And the rest of us restricted free agents sort of have freedom in terms of when we go to lunch, and getting vacation now and again. But like this agreement, none of us are really free, are we?

I want to be an unrestricted free agent, and not be subject to negotiating rights over my salary, the size of my office or termination if I don't follow company rules. And under my leadership, we'd all leave at 3 every day to make it home in time to watch the East Coast games that start at 4 Pacific on Center Ice, and have offices big enough to accomodate our fatheads and bobblehead collections and a small mini-bar to keep the beer chilled. Anyone who decides they want to work until 5 and sit in gridlock for two hours will be subject to penalties as outlined in the company manual, including but not limited to termination for being a hockey non-appreciator and suspension without pay so you can go home and get properly acquainted with the sport before returning to paid, active duty.

Next up on 9/1: Article 2, Recognition. Article 3, Duration of Agreement.

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