William Nylander and the NHL’s Convenient Embrace of Socialism

October 4, 2018 by Darren Clarke (Photos via Wiki Commons)

“We’re all working together, that’s the secret.”

Sam Walton, Wal-Mart founder

“… when I get together with some of my old teammates from Cup years in Detroit we talk about winning together and growing together and that’s what we remember looking back. At the end of the day we all found a way to fit with each other…”

Brendan Shanahan, Toronto Maple Leafs

Prior the Toronto Maple Leafs first game of the 2018 season yesterday team president and hockey Hall of Famer Brendan Shanahan openly lamented that the team would be without restricted free agent forward William Nylander to start the season due to an impasse in salary negotiations. With Nylander and the Leafs still looking to find agreement on his salary going forward Shanahan, somewhat passive aggressively, nibbled around the edges of suggesting that Nylander’s unwillingness to sacrifice for the greater good was detrimental to the team. Shanahan went on to wistfully harken back to his playing career and the supposed financial sacrifices made by himself and his teammates to build a championship team suggesting that the health of any team was predicated upon sacrifice and sharing. 

Which brings us to the salary cap. 

“In a completely free market, high-revenue teams would bid each other up to high figures for elite players, but salary caps serve as an insurance policy against each other.” 

Jim Pagels, Priceonomics

In 2004-05 the NHL owners locked out the players in pursuit of significant changes to the collective bargaining unit. At the top of the owners wish list was the desire to cap player salaries on both team and individual levels with a link to league revenue. The league was so adamant about their need for a cap that the season ended up being cancelled before completion due to the work stoppage.

When the NHL resumed play in 2005-06 it was with the salary cap, a structure that by design is socialist in nature. A structure that suggests a community cannot be healthy and sustain itself with an entirely free market. 

So who are these merchants of socialism, of civic minded responsibility?

“Tar sands have been dubbed the largest – and most destructive – industrial project in human history. And Canada is on the forefront of their exploitation.”

Tzeporah Berman, The Guardian (November 2017)

“Why is it that the United States pays, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs?… In the richest country in history of the world, why is it that nearly 1 out of 5 adults in America cannot afford to fill prescriptions…?” 

Bernie Sanders, US News (August 30, 2017)

“Wal-Mart’s business model is pretty simple… The company pays its workers poverty wages. It offers few benefits, and it manipulates workers’ hours and understaffs its stores. That low-wage business model serves one purpose: It’s so the company can maximize profits that go to some of the wealthiest people on the planet.”

Amy Traub, Associate Director, Demos, CNBC (April, 2017)

In March of 2018 Business Insider published an article, “The 23 Richest Billionaire NHL Owners- and How They Made Their Fortune.” The list presents Billionaires from across the business spectrum- Communications, Technology, Investment, Real Estate and Manufacturing. It also includes folks attached to the pharmaceutical industry, the Tar Sands in Alberta and Wal-Mart.  

And all these billionaires warn us via the salary cap and revenue sharing mechanisms they fought hard to introduce of the dangers presented to the greater whole when excesses are afforded to the few.

Unless of course that few is them.  

So, Brendan Shanahan elects to preach to Michael Nylander who, per Cap Friendly has earned a total of 3.6 million dollars  in his career, about financial compromise, about sacrifice, instead of say, Larry Tanenbaum, 25% owner of the Leafs, whose net worth is 1.5 billion (via Business Insider) about the hypocritical market constraints placed upon player salaries by the captains of the free enterprise system. 

Socialism, it’s a good gig when you can get it.