I’m starting to feel bad for NHL players – not in the same way I feel bad for the victims of Hurricane Sandy or Third-World children, but bad nonetheless.
I covered a fair bit of hockey before moving to the warmer half of the Dakota Territory, and I found the game to be thrilling to watch and the players easy to deal with. They are, in my experience, as normal as pro athletes can be in this lucrative era.
That’s probably where this feeling is rooted: A good chunk of hockey players are just regular dudes – a lot like me except with gigantic upper legs. And you know what I, Joe Regular, like to be able to do? Provide for my family by plying my gifts and energies into an occupation. Right now, NHL players aren’t allowed to do that – they’re being locked out for the second time in nine years. To be perfectly honest, I have no idea how the situation could or should be resolved. I just know that the situation makes these guys even more relateable as human beings.
If we’re to believe what we read on the Ultranets, the average NHL career lasts 5.6 seasons and the average salary is $2.4 million. That’s more money than I expected (hence the lockout?) and a longer career span. Still, it’s a small-earning window.
Let’s say a guy plays for 10 years at $2 million per – that’s $20 million (before taxes, of course) over the course of his career. But then there’s a lockout. And another. Suddenly, his career earnings drop by 20 percent and through no fault of his own.
That’s like me going without pay for eight years in the course of a 40-year career. That’s ignoring the difference in scale, of course; a hockey player will earn far more in the course of those 10 years than I’ll earn in 40 – not to mention that there’s nothing preventing them from pursuing a career after hockey.
Still, how frustrating must it be to have so much money just disappear? Here you are, in the right place and the right point in history to capitalize on your athletic excellence only to see that be compromised through no fault of your own? It’s got to bum a guy out – I know I’ve felt awful after every furlough or pay freeze that I’ve been through. That’s money – i.e. security and comfort for your family – that isn’t coming back.
Again, I’m sure they’ll be fine. Perhaps the break will extend some careers or be viewed as a chance to spend more time with the kids. But it’s less than ideal. These are time-sensitive talents, and it’s a bummer to see them go to waste.