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THE HOCKEY REBELLION
Dan Parker
October 28, 1957
The players have sued their National Hockey League bosses for $3 million. Here Dan Parker, the hard-hitting sports editor of the 'New York Mirror,' explains the controversy that led to the suit and cites other reasons why the owners are skating on thin ice
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October 28, 1957

The Hockey Rebellion

The players have sued their National Hockey League bosses for $3 million. Here Dan Parker, the hard-hitting sports editor of the 'New York Mirror,' explains the controversy that led to the suit and cites other reasons why the owners are skating on thin ice

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National Hockey League chief executives are chosen for their meekness in the face of authority. Clarence S. Campbell, president of the league since 1946, is a former referee who learned early in his career that if he wanted to get ahead in hockey he should never sass a magnate back. The Board of Governors, made up of a representative of each club, runs the league, usually according to plans and specifications of the Norris interests; and Mr. Campbell, who besides being league president is also the secretary-treasurer, has to do little except look respectful and nod his head in the right direction at the proper time.

Where is the NHL going from here? Perhaps to court, to answer the charges of the Players Association. However, even if their action is successful, there is little likelihood of federal antitrust prosecution. U.S. officials would hesitate to interfere with a sport that is international in character and so popular north of the border that U.S. prosecution might damage U.S.-Canadian amity.

Whatever the result of the Players Association suit, the good old status quo which has stood the NHL Board of Governors in such good stead for the past 15 years isn't likely to be much disturbed. Talk of an eight-club league is dismissed as poppycock.

"Where would we get the players?" ask the Solid Six, as if unaware of the negotiation list, the reserve clause contract, the $15,000 draft provision and all the other gimmicks they have devised to perpetuate control of their labor market. If the NHL owners got together and spread the wealth of talent evenly among eight clubs, by sale or trade, a flexible league could be organized and a new start made from scratch. The three Norris clubs certainly follow this practice among themselves and the Board of Governors doesn't seem shocked by it.

A shorter season might allow more good players to accumulate instead of being burned out prematurely by too much hockey. The NHL has a minimum salary limit of $7,000, which means $100 per game. It's easy for most of the club owners to pay this, and with the prospects of big television royalties in the offing, it should be still easier.

In any case, one-family control of half the clubs in the league is a relic of sports feudalism that should be dispensed with—and the sooner the better. The professional phase of Canada's finest contribution to sport has gone a long way since it first crossed the border but, alas, mostly in the wrong direction. It's high time for it to straighten out, skate right and grow up.

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