The St. Louis Blues and most of the NHL that is in a playoff spot are ready to go. However, there is always a hurdle to step over.
The St. Louis Blues have generated plenty of good will in recent times. Beyond just winning the Stanley Cup, much of that good nature comes from the fact their leadership group on the ice has been outspoken about wanting to return to action.
Most sensible fans understand the difficult nature of this current situation. Most are sympathetic to the worries about health and safety.
As baseball has proven, however, fans are not sympathetic to any concerns over money when most pro athletes get paid more in one year than your average person will earn in a lifetime. To this point, the NHL has avoided those arguments.
Yet, as the tagline to Jaws once said, just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…
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There is nothing concrete to worry about just yet. Nevertheless, there is a growing concern by players over the escrow percentages and also the collective bargaining agreement.
To this point, at least publicly, the NHL has kept the focus on safety issues and returning to play. Money dictates everything in the world, sadly, but the league and the players association has done a good job of keeping that side of the story out of the media focus.
Unfortunately, that might change if things get a little more contentious. According to an article on The Score, discussions on returning to play are linked to extending the current CBA through this uncertain period.
That makes sense, but there is growing tension about the escrow. Ryan Kesler and Artemi Panarin have been outspoken on player frustration with escrow being used to bail out owners, while the players take all the losses.
You would be hard pressed to make a case that Panarin and Kesler are alone. They are just the ones that have spoken up this far.
I’m not going to pretend I fully understand the concept of escrow. In The Score article, they say the NHL uses it as a method to ensure hockey-related revenue is split evenly between teams and players. Even then, the idea seems a bit odd.
Regardless, the owners need to not play hardball in this situation. The NHL has done a great job of keeping its image clean with the fans, but this is not baseball.
The NHL cannot afford to miss out on the playoffs if not for health reasons. If hockey can be played, the teams need that funding coming in from television and advertising.
I won’t pretend to know all the math, but I have to believe that revenue would either be higher or more important than a few extra percentage points in escrow off player salaries.
Players such as Vladimir Tarasenko and Alex Pietrangelo have been outspoken about wanting to return and get games going. It would be such a shame if the players and league got on the same page about restarting only for money to get in the way as it was for MLB, until a league-mandated schedule was put into place.
The NHL and its players need to get that ironed out or else the league and its fans will suffer because of it.