NHL: A History of Money

By Josie Lemieux –Consultant – @HockeyPsyched – Mental toughness – Emotional control

During the off-season (which means summer for hockey fans), the news to follow, but still of interest, concerns the draft that will take place in Dallas on June 22-23, trades and contracts signed. Behind hockey is the player. And with the player comes the agent. And with the agent comes the money. As for the question of whether players are paid too much or too little, everyone has an opinion.

However, the price of game tickets has varied since the early days of the NHL. In 1917, one could attend a good hockey game for $0.50 ($9.80 US today) and have a seat in a loge for $1.55 ($30.35 US today).

During the 2017-2018 season, averaged across the 31 teams, fans spent approximately $149 per ticket. The Toronto Maple Leafs lead the list of expensive secondary market tickets at $317, while fans of the Colorado Avalanche, Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks fare better with an average cost of $94. Yes, you can have cheaper or more expensive in each NHL arena. And this is not the news of the century.

In March 2017, I personally paid $110 US ($148 CDN) for a ticket at the TD Garden in Boston 10 rows from the ice. I went to watch the Bruins play the Ottawa Senators. In January 2018, I paid $272 CDN ($338 US) to watch the Boston Bruins play against the Canadian at the Bell Centre in Montreal, 35 rows from the ice.

Going to a hockey game is not just entertainment, it’s an investment.

As for the players and their huge contracts, it is necessary to compare to better evaluate. The salary of the excellent player Edouard “Newsy” Lalonde, considered as the true “Flying Frenchman”, played among others for the Montreal Canadiens from 1912 to 1922. He earned $1,300 in 1917, which is $25,000 today. Maurice “Rocket” Richard, the first NHL player to score 50 goals in 50 games, earned $25,000 in 1959, or $215,000 today.

Among the Boston Bruins, Phil Esposito earned $54,000 in 1963, or $442,000 in 2018. What about Bobby Orr, who made $35,000 in 1967? That’s $262,000 today. Derek Sanderson went from $10,000 ($75,000) in 1967 to a dramatic increase: $1 million ($4,135,000) in 1977, 10 years later.

Rest assured, nothing comparable with 2017-2018, during which no player could win more than $15 M. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, of the Chicago Black Hawks, both won $13.8 M. Jamie Benn, of the Dallas Stars, earned $13M, as did Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings. Shea Weber of the Montreal Canadiens completes the highest-paid table with $12 M.

It is clear that the amounts invested in the NHL and the fees charged to fans for tickets, jerseys and merchandise will continue to fascinate and haunt us. In terms of the numbers, incomes, schedules, expenses and working conditions of some 800 NHL players, we are a long way from the average ordinary Joe and Mrs. who work 40 hours a week to make ends meet.

To be a fan, you don’t have to know everything, spend everything or go to every game. Thanks to the media and social networks that also get a large piece of the pie, we will continue to see prices and wages go up every year. As soon as the Stanley Cup is raised at arm’s length, be sure that the celebration will follow the course of inflation.

For fanatics, the 2012-2022 NHL players’ Collective Bargaining Agreement is in PDF format. Sources: cbc.ca, ticketiq.org, Canadian Business, NHLPA

Photo Credit: By Jericho [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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