NHL lockout: Checks not in mail; no claims of poverty
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Most NHL players do not live check-to-check.
Bodycheck-to-bodycheck, maybe, but existing on a paycheck-to-paycheck basis shouldn't be an issue for guys working in a league where the minimum salary in 2011-12 was $525,000 and the average pay was about $2.44 million.
Consequently, most players -- especially those who have spent a significant number of years at this level -- presumably didn't feel any immediate sting when the lockout that has shut down the NHL the past two months prevented them from receiving their third check of the 2012-13 season Thursday.
"At this point of this lockout, I hope nobody's hurting for money," Penguins winger Pascal Dupuis said after joining nine teammates for an informal workout at Southpointe.
"We got an escrow check back from last year, and we're making enough money to, hopefully, not be in financial trouble right now."
Of course, considering that there haven't been any negotiations since Sunday and that no bargaining sessions have been scheduled -- the league actually has proposed a two-week moratorium on talks -- players probably shouldn't be counting on a deposit in their bank accounts on the 30th, either.
"It's not looking good," Sidney Crosby said. "As bad as it's looked at some points, I've always tried to find little glimmers of hope that one day everyone will wake up and find a way to do it.
"But that hasn't been the case so far."
For players such as Crosby, who has received about $46 million in salary -- to say nothing of bonus and endorsement money -- since he broke into the league in 2005, the earnings he has lost during this labor dispute haven't had a significant effect on his life.
He has gone weeks without being paid, but the financial impact on him likely won't be felt even if this labor dispute stretches for months. Maybe years. Possibly decades.
But Crosby is one of the NHL's high-end performers, in terms of talent and take-home pay. Consequently, he has an immunity to the fiscal pinch of the lockout that many of his peers do not.
"I'm fortunate, obviously," he said. "I haven't had to worry about [not being paid]. It is a reality, for sure, for some guys."
Fourth-line center Joe Vitale, for example, has just gotten established as an NHL regular. He was paid $525,000 last season and was scheduled to earn the same amount in 2012-13.
While that obviously is far more than the average wage-earner pulls in, Vitale doesn't enjoy the same financial cushion that some more experienced -- and better-compensated -- teammates enjoy.
Consequently, while he certainly isn't being forced to choose between, say, paying his electric bill and buying groceries, Vitale acknowledged that he has been a bit more prudent about some purchases lately.
"You just obviously have to prioritize a little better, as far as getting the on-sale bread instead of the whole-grain," he said. "Little things like that. But that's the only change, financially."
Everyone involved in the lockout has absorbed some level of financial setback, and whether that will persist through the winter remains to be seen.
While there are conflicting perspectives on how close the league's owners and the NHL Players' Association are to settling on a new collective bargaining agreement, it's a reality that a deal won't happen unless the sides get negotiations going again.
"It can get done in two days," Dupuis said. "It's a matter of talking. Obviously, right now, we're willing to do it. We're ready to talk. It's on their side."
When discussions resume, there are several major issues to be resolved if a part of the season is to be salvaged. The sides still haven't agreed on how to divide revenues and must work out a number of contract-related issues and how to handle the financial aspects of a lockout-shortened season.
"I think we're pretty close on some issues, which is good," Crosby said. "I feel like some of those things could be negotiated pretty quickly, hopefully. But other things seem like they're pretty far apart."
Until agreements are reached on those, the Penguins can expect to have the same kind of interactions with fans away from the rink that they have for a number of weeks now.
"The [most frequent question] is, 'Hey, when is this thing going to be over? When are we going to get back to playing hockey?' " Vitale said. "I always tell them the same thing: 'We're working our hardest to get a fair deal in place. No one misses the game more than we players do.' "
First Published November 16, 2012 12:00 am