Inside the Flyers: Locked-out NHL players not taking the long view

Flyers stars Danny Briere and Scott Hartnell have seen their salaries rise sharply since the 2004-05 lockout - Briere's by 306 percent and Hartnell's by 296 percent.
Flyers stars Danny Briere and Scott Hartnell have seen their salaries rise sharply since the 2004-05 lockout - Briere's by 306 percent and Hartnell's by 296 percent. (YONG KIM / Staff)
Posted: October 29, 2012

NHL players need to have a different perspective as they battle the men who have made them very rich.

But before delving into the specifics of that statement, let's look at where we are: The owners and players are locked in a labor stalemate that has caused the cancellation of all games through Nov. 30, with the Winter Classic and All-Star Game next on the chopping block.

There is plenty of blame to spread around. On both sides.

At the center of the so-sad-it's-comical dispute is (what else?) finding an equitable way to divide the money.

When both sides recently said they had arrived at the supposed magic number - a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenue (HRR) - the NHL responded with its best Keith Jackson impersonation.

"Whoa, Nellie!"

At which point, NHL representatives stormed out of the room, a mere 15 minutes after turning down the proposal from Donald Fehr and the players' union.

The NHL said the union's proposal was superficial. In essence, it gives the players 56.7 percent of the HRR in the first year because the union doesn't want any money paid through future escrow installments.

And so, we have been waiting for both sides to make another move.

And waiting.

And waiting.

The NHL's proposal includes a "make whole" provision that would pay players their full salaries, with some of the payments deferred through escrow and funded by future player earnings. The NHLPA doesn't want that money coming from other players down the road.

And so more games have been canceled, and a shortened season will forever stain (read: cheapen) the record books. That is, assuming there is some sort of season.

Lost in all this waiting, all this posturing, is the fact that even if the players do lose 12 percent compared with the last CBA's revenue split - again, the NHL says that won't be the case - most of them will easily make that up in their next contracts.

The players, owners of an average salary of $2.5 million, need to understand that not only will they make up the 12 percent, but, based on recent history, they will surpass their salaries by percentages that could reach the hundreds.

Take the team that hopes to again play at the Wells Fargo Center, for instance. Excluding injured players, here are the current Flyers who were playing during the 2004-05 lockout - none were in Philadelphia at the time - and some of their salary highlights since then:

Danny Briere. The diminutive center earned $1.6 million the season before the 2004-05 lockout. Briere made $5 million two years later, a 212 percent increase. Now he is on a deal that averages $6.5 million per year, a 306 percent increase since the other lockout.

Kimmo Timonen. The veteran defenseman earned $2 million in the season before the 2004-05 lockout. He is finishing a six-year, $38 million contract that averages $6.3 million per season, a 215 percent increase since his first lockout.

Scott Hartnell. The left winger earned $1.2 million in the season before the 2004-05 lockout. His salary gradually increased before he signed two long-term deals with the Flyers. The last one, a six-year pact that runs through 2018-19, averages $4.75 million per season - a 296 percent increase since the previous lockout.

Ruslan Fedotenko. He earned $950,000 in the season before the 2004-05 lockout. Three years later, he was earning $2.9 million, a 205 percent increase. The well-traveled winger now earns $1.75 million, which is an 84 percent increase since his first lockout.

Jody Shelley. The enforcer earned $600,000 during the season before the 2004-05 work stoppage and has received gradual increases along the way. He now earns $1.2 million - a 100 percent increase since his first lockout.

Andreas Lilja. A spare defenseman, he earned $600,000 in the season before the 2004-05 lockout. Two years later, he was earning $1 million, a 40 percent increase. He now earns $727,000, a 21 percent increase from the first lockout.

Some Flyers weren't NHL regulars yet during the 2004-05 lockout, including goalie Ilya Bryzgalov and defenseman Andrej Meszaros.

Bryzgalov's first full NHL season was in 2005-06, when he earned $456,000. Three years later, he was making $4 million, a 777 percent increase. He now is on a nine-year deal that averages $5.7 million, a 1,250 percent increase over his initial contract.

Meszaros made $982,400 in his first year (2005-06) and now averages $4 million per season, an increase of 307 percent.

No one is begrudging the players their salary gains over the years. They are getting paid whatever the market bears. Good for them.

But when their union leader complains about money's being deferred - or taken from future players - they need to look at the whole picture and take that new perspective to the bargaining table.

Listening, Mr. Fehr?

Didn't think so.


Contact Sam Carchidi at scarchidi@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @BroadStBull.

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