Guest Author - Kevin Thorburn
Attending a National Hockey League game is expensive. Where does all that money go? In reality, there’s not enough room in this relatively short article to highlight everything, but the fans obviously have to pay for the players’ salaries. When taking in a hockey game, do we get our money’s worth?
First some statistics: the minimum salary for an NHL player is $500 thousand. The maximum salary is $11.36 million and the team’s salary cap is $56.8 million. That’s a lot of money being thrown about.
The top five salaries in the NHL are: Vincent Lecavalier with $10 million; Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Alexander Ovechkin with $9 million; and Chris Drury with $8.05 million.
Is anyone worth that amount of money to play a game? It becomes easy to justify hockey salaries when comparing them with other sports, hockey is much more physically demanding than most sports, but the business of sport is entertainment. How can giving someone that much money to entertain us be justified? Clearly there is no easy answer to that, if there is any answer at all.
Has it always been this way? Using the Bank of Canada’s inflation calculator, Newsy Lalonde’s salary of $1,300 in 1917 would be worth $18,980 today. $3,500, the 1923 salary of Howie Morenz, would be worth $44,923. Jean Beliveau’s salary from 1953 to 1958 was $21,000 annually. That’s $162,437 in 2010 with 1958 as the base year. In 1968 Bobby Orr’s salary was $35,000, which equates to $216,296 today without allowing for the difference in United States and Canadian dollars. Then in 1977 Bobby Hull was given $1 million to play in the World Hockey Association (WHA). That would be $3,445,427 in 2010. Now, that’s a little closer to what’s happening today. Of course, that salary was considered exorbitant at the time.
All those numbers are fun and it can be seen that players’ salaries grew steadily over the years, even taking inflation into account, but at what point did it become acceptable to hand out such outrageous sums of money to play hockey?
That is, if those salaries can actually be considered outrageous. Hockey is not a job that someone can work at until that magical retirement age of sixty-five. Thus, it is only right that they be paid higher than a normal profession. Does that justify $10 million per year? Does that justify the minimum of $500 thousand per year?
There is only one way to answer these questions and that is either by continuing to shell out the big bucks for tickets and merchandise or deciding not to do so, since the fans pay the salaries.