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Smith says losing contract rights makes players “like puppets”

Nov 29, 2012, 2:33 PM EST

Mike Smith Getty Images

Add Coyotes goalie Mike Smith to the list of players that have come out and said the NHLPA will stand strong on contract rights.

“The contractual stuff is something that as players we’re not going to mess around with,” Smith told ESPN on Wednesday. “That’s our livelihood. That’s a big part about being a professional athlete. You have those rights. When you take all that away, it kind of makes us more like puppets than anything.”

The league wants to place a five-year cap on contract lengths and for players to become eligible for unrestricted free agency a year later (age 28 or eight years of NHL service) than permitted under the last CBA.

The NHL is also demanding a limit on the amount an annual salary can vary from year to year on a single contract. (The players have proposed their own way to punish teams that front-load deals in order to subvert the spirit of the salary cap.)

Of course, the battle for contract rights is about more than the actual rights. For the players, it’s also about retaining what they bargained for in the last CBA. It’s about showing they won’t be bullied. It’s about getting something.

For the NHL, the question is whether it’s worth losing a season over.

Related:

Crosby: Why change contract rights of “the most competitive league in the world”?

NHL has reason to fight for maximum contract lengths

  1. General Lee 1175 - Nov 29, 2012 at 2:34 PM

    one year wonder , fluke needs to keep his mouth shut.

    • elemeno89 - Nov 29, 2012 at 2:45 PM

      better player than you im sure. time to go back under your bridge…

      • General Lee 1175 - Nov 29, 2012 at 2:48 PM

        wow if that wasnt a 3rd grade reply then nothing is! , you think up that all on your own? , while it took you a whole 5 minutes to bend down to tie your shoelaces cause you’re so fat, obese and out of shape

      • elemeno89 - Nov 29, 2012 at 2:50 PM

        your maturity is baffling. why hate on the guy, hes talking about contracting rights. nowhere in this article is a stance on statistics, or skill level. why even say such a thing to begin with.

      • General Lee 1175 - Nov 29, 2012 at 2:54 PM

        If he was a somebody in this League then Id take him seriously but he’s not . Why are you even replying to me? maybe cause I struck a nerve? ignoring a ‘troll” as you referred to me as is rather easy… try it if my remarks bother you so much

      • elemeno89 - Nov 29, 2012 at 3:01 PM

        nah, you didn’t strike a nerve so don’t flatter yourself. just pointing out that you’re being rude for no reason other than you’re a little mad that there’s no hockey. trust me we’re all sick of hearing these thing whether we agree with them or not.

      • General Lee 1175 - Nov 29, 2012 at 3:05 PM

        Trust me , I’m not mad there’s no hockey , I’m just trolling for a few minutes .

      • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Nov 29, 2012 at 4:36 PM

        I can’t believe you all took the time to reply in earnest to a guy who calls himself ‘General Lee.’

    • thailer35 - Nov 29, 2012 at 3:16 PM

      I hate the fact that mother Gary has prevented you from being proven wrong yet.

  2. travishenryskid - Nov 29, 2012 at 2:50 PM

    Part of being a professional athlete? No, Mike. It’s only part of being a hockey player. If you stink it up in other professional sports, you get cut. If you stink it up in the NHL, we’re stuck with you. These contract rights are bad for the game. Why do fans have to be stuck with Scott Gomez or Ville Leino when in other sports they would just be cut and sign a new exciting player? The more the players talk, the more clueless they sound.

    • ThatGuy - Nov 29, 2012 at 3:00 PM

      The only sport that doesn’t have Guaranteed contracts is the NFL. NBA and MLB do.

      • travishenryskid - Nov 29, 2012 at 3:08 PM

        And which model is the most successful? If they are going to lose a season, fix the damn thing! Don’t just put a band-aid on. Player movement and transactions are HUGE for fan interest. These contracts hinder the sport. Its a performance based league. Players should be required to perform well. That’s not too much to ask.

      • ThatGuy - Nov 29, 2012 at 4:05 PM

        Non-Guaranteed contracts have little to do with the NFL’s success. Gambling/Fantasy Football/National TV presence/16 game schedule(meaning every game is live or die) is the combination that leads the NFL’s success.

        The NHL has non of those, and really the only one it has even the slightest chance of getting is a national TV presence. Need a season for that though.

      • travishenryskid - Nov 29, 2012 at 4:23 PM

        While your points are valid as to reasons why the NFL is more popular, please explain to me why guaranteed contracts are better for the fans and the health of the NHL.

        Out of the four major pro sports, individual hockey players do the least to sell the game. There are only a handful of players that actually sell tickets. Nobody ever bought a ticket saying, “you know that Michael Del Zotto is playing tonight, I really need to get a ticket.”. Compared to other sports, these players should have the least guarantees. Hockey fans buy tickets for the logo on the jersey, not the name on the back, more than any other sport.

  3. fikuserectus - Nov 29, 2012 at 3:41 PM

    He plays a kids game and earns millions of dollars yet balks at contract restrictions. Thinks he would be “a puppet” if there were contract restrictions on length and size of contract. Well I personally don’t agree with this players assessment.

    He needs to go out and get a real job and see how he likes it. You know. A job where you actually do work. Playing hockey is not work. It is a game and a privilege. He is lucky to be paid for such “work”. The fact that the NHL wants to restrict contracts is fine with me. I say lock the players out until they change their tune and agree to these restrictions. If it take years for them to come around then so be it. These players are already overpaid. How silly.

    By next September these players will change their tune and allow this. Just wait until all the money runs out and they have their sports cars repossessed and their girlfriends leave them for a wealthier Baseball player.

    • polegojim - Nov 29, 2012 at 11:09 PM

      Exactly – it doesn’t make them puppets, it makes them ‘employees’, which is exactly what they are.

      Hate to hear just how ‘horrible’ they have it… I’ve lost my ‘player empathy’.

  4. sjsharks66 - Nov 29, 2012 at 4:09 PM

    Smith needs to learn to keep his mouth shut. Watch out, we got a big shot in Arizona.

  5. spydey629 - Nov 29, 2012 at 4:15 PM

    The contract issues are the only thing I agree with that the players are fighting for.

    A deal is a deal. It should be honored, somehow, someway. But that is literally negotiable.

    The League has gone a little too far with what they want to use a controls. The 10% raise per year idea OR contract length should be enough. Not both. IMHO, I think seven years is fine. It is the 10-15 year deals that are creating the problem

    The problem is that this entire farce is no longer about common sense. We could solve the problem by giving Bettman and Fehr a gallon of water, waiting 45 minutes, and getting a tape measure…

  6. fortwaynekomets - Nov 29, 2012 at 5:22 PM

    as much as I hate the guy… he’s right. the owners are at 1000% fault here. I wish the NHL would operate like a normal league instead of squeezing the guts out of all the players like some sort of farm animals. it makes me sick to be honest. I feel for all those players.

    on the bright side however, I am thankful for America One Sports online where you can watch the ECHL, CHL, & College Hockey!!! Getting to watch every past game On Demand is amazing too! it has been getting me through the year and surprisingly top notch!

  7. acieu - Nov 29, 2012 at 10:34 PM

    The players are 1000 percent at fault here. Stomp the union. Communism at its worse. Take from the poor to give to the stars. Decertify and let chaos reign if you have the cajoles NHLPA.

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