The last time the NHL had a lockout, Jeremy Roenick endeared himself to fans by calling us "jealous" of the players' salaries, if in fact we backed the NHL's plans for a rollback and a salary cap.
Seven years later, Roenick's older, working for NBC and has the benefit of hindsight. He told "NiteCap w/ Josh Rimer" on nextsportstar.com Monday night that the 2004-05 lockout "needed to happen," even if the 24-percent salary rollback was "the stupidest thing in the history of negotiating." He believes that "the owners need to make their money," but calls their first proposal out of the gate in 2012 "a bullying proposal" and that "it can't be a bullying system in order to get that money. It has to be good negotiating tactics."
Yet when it comes to two basic points of disagreement between the owners and the player, Roenick sides with the NHL. From Rimer's show (transcript via Steve Whyno of the Washington Times):
"Split [revenue] 50-50, and protect the owners and the GMs from themselves, make it five-year maximum contracts so they don't have these stupid, ridiculous, idiotic 13, 14-year deals that are worth $120 million that we haven't seen anyone live up to yet. Let's stop being stupid and start being reasonable and put the one thing that's important in this whole thing in front, and that's the game of hockey."
The "50/50" split is ultimately a simplistic fix, as Stu Hackel noted in an in-depth look at how Hockey Related Revenue is calculated in the NHL. It's also rather stunning to hear an old warrior of the previous lockout declaring that the NHLPA should capitulate on revenue and contract term "to protect the owners and GMs from themselves" — and this guy was against a salary cap back in 2005?
That said, Roenick's never been a fan of long-term contracts, and on Monday that led to yet another round in his love/hate relationship with Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby.
From a 2009 blog on Roenick's official site, his feelings on long-term deals:
"Signing any contract in any sport for more than five years is a huge business mistake. Big business is its own worst enemy, and I am not restricting that comment to just professional sports!"
Well, time has certainly made him more radical. Now he's willing to accept five and six-year deals!
From Rimer's show:
"I don't mind the six-year deals, five to six-year deals, that's ok. When you give [Ryan] Suter and [Zach] Parise those 10, 12-year, 13-year 14-year deals, you're committing contract suicide right here. Look what happened to [Alexei] Yashin, look what happened to [Rick] DiPietro, none of these guys have lived up to these long-term contracts because this game is so hard, it's so physically demanding, it is one of the most powerful, hard-hitting, injury-filled games in the world and you're giving these 13-year contracts."
He's right: It's a risk. Beyond injuries, there are also diminishing returns. Look at the list of the longest contracts in the NHL. How many players are on the upswing now? Ilya Kovalchuk's at the top of the list, and might be on the rebound. Many are on the downside, and some — Shea Weber, Drew Doughty — are too early to call.
Which brings us to Sidney Crosby, whose 12-year, $104.4-million deal kicks in 2013-14. What does Roenick think of that?
"And then you have the Pittsburgh Penguins who give the guy who has the biggest concussion problems in all of hockey a 10-year deal or whatever Sidney Crosby got. I hope this concussion clause is in there. I think Sidney Crosby is the best player in the game, don't get me wrong, but when you have concussion problems the way that he has in the last year and a half and you give him a 10-year deal, is that smart business? I don't think so."
Thus continues Roenick's odd history with Sidney Crosby, that's included him saying Sid is "way more talented" than Wayne Gretzky, ranting on VERSUS that Crosby's concussion recovery was receiving too much coverage and claiming that Crosby and the Penguins are "untouchable" from critics or else they'll start whining.
Look, Roenick's completely within reason to question the duration of Crosby's contract given his own disdain for long-term deals. But the idea that this investment isn't smart business is asinine.
Crosby's one of a handful of players that put asses in seats. He's one of the only guys in hockey that can push product on a global scale. His jersey was the highest selling sweater last season for a player not participating in the Winter Classic.
The idea that Sidney Crosby as the face of the Penguins won't return a profit beyond an $8.7 million investment annually is inconceivable; and that's not even factoring in that the contract will be insured in some way and that there won't be any long-term cap implications if, god forbid, something happens again to his career.
There are contract that are bad in concept and contracts that are bad in hindsight. Crosby's might eventually fit in the latter category; I can't agree it fits in the former now.