Rejecting Dollars And Sense

Superstar winger Ilya Kovalchuk is once again an unrestricted free agent, as an arbitrator upheld the NHL’s rejection of Kovalchuk’s 17-year contract.

I must say I am astonished that the rejection was upheld. Kovalchuk’s sharp decrease in the final years of his multi-year deal significantly reduce his cap hit; however, other NHLers are guilty of the same ploy and their contracts were not rejected. Such NHLers include Marc Savard, Miikka Kiprusoff, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Daniel Alfredsson, Chris Pronger, Vincent Lecavalier, Ryan Malone and Roberto Luongo.

I pity the NHL and the arbitrator who chose to uphold their decision. How can the NHL be taken seriously by fans in the United States when they are run by hypocrites? The NHL has allowed 11 players to sign contracts using the same ploy as Kovalchuk and the Devils. Why is only Kovalchuk singled out? Does the NHL have a wish that the Devils not contend for the Stanley Cup? Are they hoping for Kovalchuk to sign with a bigger market like the New York Rangers or Los Angeles Kings? Whatever their reason(s) for rejecting the contract, it certainly isn’t for the reason they claimed: salary cap circumvention. They enabled 11 other players to get away with salary cap circumvention, so I’m not buying that excuse.

How else can the NHL expect to be taken seriously when they do a poor job of marketing one of their brightest stars? The NHL needs to realize that there is more to their glorious sport than Sidney Crosby or Alexander Ovechkin. Players like Kovalchuk deserve more recognition. When a superstar like Kovalchuk isn’t used to market the game at all, you have to feel bad for how nonexistent other good players appear to be. Fine players like Patrick Sharp, Jordan Staal, Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Semin, Marian Gaborik, Patrice Bergeron, and many others will receive very little recognition and attention to new fans of the game. How can new fans appreciate the merits of these players when the NHL refuses to acknowledge great players such as Evgeni Malkin, Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and other stars?

As long as the NHL remains a league run by hypocrites and a league which puts two players on a pedestal, they will never achieve the growth they seek in their fan base. The NHL needs to remember that while Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux were the major players who carried the league, it was the abundance of talent they had in the 1980s and 1990s that made their fan base grow. The impact felt by Lemieux and Gretzky would have been less if it weren’t for players such as Mike Bossy, Bryan Trottier, Mark Messier, Pavel Bure, Steve Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov, Eric Lindros, Jeremy Roenick, Pat LaFontaine, Mike Modano, Patrick Roy, Martin Brodeur, Ed Belfour, Dominik Hasek, Paul Kariya, Peter Forsberg and countless others who contributed to the game’s greatness.

I am disgusted with the NHL and its hypocrisy and lack of foresight. If I were Kovalchuk’s agent, I would advise him to send the NHL a big “screw you” by signing with the KHL. While the NHL’s games will still go on, they will surely miss one of their brightest stars overseas. Until the NHL starts developing common sense, more star players will be seen leaving for the KHL over the next few years. I only hope the NHL comes to their senses before it is too late.

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