In every pro sports league, there are things the league simply doesn’t want you to know or simply wants you to forget about. Now, more so than ever before, professionalism is at an all-time high in every pro sport. Even the UFC has turned into a billion dollar company, while polishing the brand within.
In terms on controversy, the NHL has done a great job in steering away from it. Compared to a league like the NFL, the NHL seems like that quiet kid in your class who gets good grades and never gets detention. However, despite that, the league does have some issues pertaining to their employees.
This article will touch base on exactly what those things are. The article will look at some ridiculous statistics for their players compared to others in various other sports leagues. We’ll also document some other controversial situations that the NHL surely wants you to forget about their employees.
Without further ado, let’s begin. Here are the top 15 things the NHL wants you to forget about their players. Enjoy the list and let us know which point you find the most alarming.
15 Player Contracts Compared to Other Sports
One thing the NHL surely wants to keep on the down-low regarding their players is their salaries in comparison to other sports. Let’s take the highest paid players in the league, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. The two franchise forwards are two of the top players in the league and make the highest payroll at $10.5 million per season. Although this might seem pretty high in comparison to other NHL contracts, it truly is nothing when you compare this deal to other sports.
Let’s take the NBA for example. DeMar DeRozan of the Toronto Raptors just signed a new deal worth $139 million over five years. So to put that in perspective, DeRozan averages $27.8 million per season, which is more than both Kane and Toews combined. Let us not even begin to discuss MLB and NFL contracts. The outcome in comparison is just as bad.
14 Players Playing Overseas
Over the last couple of seasons, the NHL has lost some star players to leagues overseas. Just recently, Detroit Red Wing Superstar Pavel Datsyuk parted ways with the team last summer, inking a two-year deal with KHL team St. Petersburg SKA. The deal also didn’t come cheap, as Pavel will be making $7.6 million per season, a salary similar to his days in the Motor City.
The KHL league isn’t afraid to spend money and that might entice even more employees in the future. Former NHLers like Ilya Kovalchuk, Linus Omark, Chris Lee, Nigel Dawes, Matt Gilroy and Peter Regin are all enjoying excellent seasons in the league while making some decent coin. Look for this problem of players departing to play overseas to continue as the years move along.
13 Player Popularity in the United States
When assessing the NHL’s expansion plans in recent years, it’s pretty obvious that the league is still trying to increase the game's popularity in the United States. Placing a team to Las Vegas is yet another example of the NHL trying to grow the league in the States, however, the game is still nowhere near the level of success of the other major leagues in the United States; MLB, NBA and NFL.
This all begins with the league's television rights being poorly distributed. For years, the NHL hasn’t been able to reach a formal agreement with ESPN. The network did however cover the World Cup of Hockey, which turned into a disaster rather quickly as the United States plummeted out of the tournament quicker than anticipated. The result only hurt the status of the league in the US. Without a doubt, the NHL surely wants you to forget about the lack of popularity their players have in the United States in comparison to across the border in Canada.
12 Today’s Salaries Compared to the 90s
Before the salary cap came into play after the lockout, NHL contracts were quite different in comparison to the contracts we see today. Players were wealthier in the 90s, just take Sergei Fedorov for example. The silky smooth Russian got an offer sheet from the Hurricanes which offered the Wings forward $38 million for six years. I know what you’re all thinking, that’s not so bad, but wait, there’s more. Sergei would receive an extra $14 million just for signing the contract, so when all was said and done Fedorov would have made $12 million per season on average. That’s $1.5 million more than what the top earners in the league make today. The Wings were forced to match the outrageous deal as they unwilling to part ways with their Superstar.
Other deals were quite similar and were well over today’s norm. Again, the league probably wants you to forget about this dramatic salary decrease in recent years. On the bright side, however, it does seem to be going up as of late with the cap rising.
11 Player Deaths
In comparison to other sports, the NHL has done a decent job in cleaning up the league. Comparing the NHL to the likes of the NFL, the league looks squeaky clean.
However, the NHL has still undergone some tragic passings in recent years. The league was under some heat when NHL enforcers started to pass away in quick succession. The likes of Wade Belak and Rick Rypien took their own lives after they struggled with depression over the course of many years. Other NHL enforcers including Bob Probert and Derek Boogaard lost their lives as well, with Boogaard passing away due to an accidental overdose. These deaths opened up a whole new can of worms as the league began to take a closer look at the role of an enforcer and the pressures that come with it. Slowly, the league has put rules into place that have slowly made the position extinct.
10 Players Arrested
Like any other major sports organization in the world, the NHL's goal is to stay away from controversy as much as possible. For the most part, the NHL and their employees follow this mantra quite nicely with minimal examples of employees breaking the law. However, this isn’t to say it never happened.
The likes of Mike Richards and Slava Voynov have all been arrested Even recently, Jarret Stoll was clipped with a charge of possession carrying around cocaine during the off-season.
The biggest recent altercation took place with NHL poster boy Patrick Kane. The situation dealt with an alleged sexual assault charge against Kane for an incident that had occurred in the past. The situation created a lot of controversy for the league, but was thankfully dropped after the accuser tampered with the evidence.
9 Different Hockey Markets Result in Different Payouts
Whether the NHL wants to admit it or not, geographical location does play a part in how much money you will make. Hockey markets like Montreal and Toronto are loaded with financial possibilities for players. Such hockey markets feature a variety of endorsement deals in comparison to a place like Carolina. Basically, true hockey markets offer more of an opportunity to turn an employee into a brand, like P.K. Subban experienced during his days as a Montreal Canadiens player.
Location can also play a role financially in another way. Taxes are another crucial component for employees. A place like Montreal has a terrible tax deduction fee in comparison to Florida which has greater benefits. A player like Steve Stamkos chose to stay put in the Tampa area because of the great tax margins. For Stamkos, signing an eight million dollar deal with TB was the equivalent to signing a $10 million dollar deal with a team like the Leafs, for example. But again, the league probably doesn’t want you to know this about their employees!
8 Brutal Travel Schedule
The NHL often showcases the road team looking well groomed and impressively polished. Take Henrik Zetterberg for example, as he's been travelling for over a decade now and he's into his late 30s, however, the guy's still looks flawless with his perfectly fitted suits and well groomed beard walking into a foreign arena on any given night. What the NHL fails to mention about their employees, however, is the brutal travel it took to get there, from the plane ride to the uncomfortable bus that brings the team to the rink. Travel is a crucial component the league tends to leave behind when discussing the game.
Can you just imagine the days when the Wings played in the West, having to travel into different time zones week after week? Man was that ever brutal, but thankfully the Wings were able to cope with a star-studded cast for years.
7 Olympic Issues
This issue seems to be one that’s been going on for years. Every time the Olympics roll around, the league breaks a sweat in trying to assess how their players will be able to partake in the festivities. The negatives of NHL players going to such an event include player fatigue, injuries and the fact that the league needs to do some major restructuring to their season, which leads to a later finish (and a shorter summer for players).
The NHL has recently spoken out about not going to the next Winter Olympics if they're not compensated properly. For that reason, the league decided to bring back the World Cup of Hockey every four years. Not all players took the bait however, as mega star Alex Ovechkin claims he’s going whether the league allows him or not. All we can say is it’s going to be an interesting build up to the winter games in the next couple of years.
6 Draft Busts
It’s inevitable, in all pro sports, that some draft picks are just not going to work out. As a matter of fact, more times than not, players that are drafted end up becoming mediocre players.
Nowadays, the NHL is a young man’s game, so the pressure to produce young stars is stronger around the league. The days of drafting an Alexandre Daigle-like player are no longer good enough and franchises now fully expect a good player in return. Though, even today, it simply doesn’t always pan out that way. Look at Nail Yakupov. At one point, the guy was compared to Alexander Ovechkin. The poor guy hit a wall and somehow found his way out of Edmonton via trade to the St. Louis Blues. Their numerous draft busts are something the league wants you to forget about!
5 Most Player Aren’t Promoted By ESPN
Unless you’re a wonderkid like Sidney Crosby or Connor McDavid, chances are ESPN won’t even look at you. When it comes to hockey, the network only exposes the best of the best and that’s something that has infuriated the league for years.
The NHL’s prime in the United States occurred when ESPN was covering the game. The league had a far greater reach in the US and NHL employees were endorsed more than ever in the American market. Nowadays, those things don’t happen unless you’re a megastar like the names we previously mentioned. Judging by the lack of success the network had with the World Cup of Hockey, this dream seems like a distant one. Hey, at least they have NBC right? That channel we all go to for sports....
4 Players Dislike Gary Bettman
Not only do the players dislike Gary Bettman, but most fans absolutely despise the poor guy. Seriously though, how is Bettman still handing out the Stanley Cup after all these years of disastrous boos? Does the league not have another representative that they can send in his place? The cup ceremony has now become one of the most peculiar ones in all of pro sports and that’s because of the reaction poor Gary gets every time.
Many fans and players would agree that the reaction is warranted. Bettman hit a new low with the players when the league was forced into a labour stoppage due to Bettman’s decision-making. Others also believe Bettman is only concerned in growing the league in the States while pre-dominantly being viewed as a money hungry Commissioner.
3 The Off-Season Party Life
Yes, that’s eight girls surrounding Alex Ovechkin during his off-season “strength and conditioning” prep. The league truly wants you to believe that the players are busy getting stronger for next season, but the truth is that most prominent stars are out getting blasted until early August. The likes of Alex Ovechkin and Tyler Seguin have been known to party pretty hard during the summer. Ovie and Seguin were actually both spotted in Vegas living it up and enjoying the sun while downing a couple of drinks. Ovie seems to be a mainstay in Vegas. as he was also seen partying with his good friend and DJ, Tiesto.
There certainly is no rule telling you what to do during the summer break. However, the league certainly wants you to forget about this aspect and wants us to believe that the players are still hard at work. Please, don’t insult our intelligence! Someone get Ovie a shot!
2 Endorsement Deals
The amount NHL players make in endorsement deals is absolutely laughable compared to other pro sports. Sidney Crosby owns the most lucrative endorsement deal in NHL history, signing with Reebok on a deal worth $1.4 million for a term of five to seven years. Crosby also has other minor endorsement deals with the likes of Bell, Gatorade and Tim Hortons.
That wage is absolutely laughable compared to others. Coming out of high school, LeBron James was able to cash-in on a $90 million dollar endorsement deal with the sports giant, Nike. Reebok and Adidas were also in the mix but ultimately Nike won the sweepstakes and has made a boatload of cash with LeBron.
So to put it into perspective, the face of the franchise in the NHL barely makes over a million while the best NBA employee happily made an easy $90 million out of high school. Yikes. We just dropped the microphone, there’s nothing else to say.
In all pro sports, concussions seem to be a hot topic and something every sports league is trying to diminish. The NHL in particular has lost several employees to such an epidemic. Players like Johan Franzen haven't hit the ice for an NHL game in years because of constant setbacks from concussions. Even the great Sidney Crosby has been sidelined more than once for concussion related issues.
The game is played at such a breathtaking pace, and when you mix that in with physical contact, that injuries are bound to happen. The league has made improvements by trying to take head shots and blindside hits out of the game, but many believe the NHL reacted far too late as many of their former employees were forced to stop playing the game they loved dearly. For years down the road, concussions are going to remain a sensitive topic for the league and their employees.