- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
What's wrong with offering a team a $100,000 incentive?
The Edmonton Sun reported last week that Edmonton Oilers owner Peter Pocklington placed $100,000 (Canadian) on a Ping-Pong table in the Oilers' locker room before Game 6 of the team's playoff series in April against the Los Angeles Kings. Edmonton was one win away from clinching the series when, according to one unnamed Oiler player, "He [Pocklington] just came in and laid it down and said if we win, we get it." After the Oilers clinched the series by winning 4-3 in over-time, Pocklington passed out money to everyone on the team.
Pocklington would neither confirm nor deny making a bonus offer, but he told the Sun, "What goes on inside the club, we try to keep inside the club."
The NHL, like all major sports leagues, has rules prohibiting teams from offering bonuses for winning a specific game or series. NHL bylaws call for any owner offering such an award to be fined as much as $10,000. But that isn't much of a deterrent, since by winning the series against the Kings, the Oilers advanced to another series (which they lost to the Minnesota North Stars) and hosted three more games, which brought in close to $1.2 million. The NBA has a stronger deterrent. If an NBA owner offers a bonus, he can be fined $1 million.
Why do leagues prohibit such incentives? In addition to giving an unfair advantage to owners with deeper pockets, the bonuses could create bidding wars for games. If owner A finds out that owner B has offered his team $100,000 to win a game, does owner A then have to offer his team $200,000? What's the going price for a win, anyway?
These bonuses are different from the incentive clauses included in many player contracts, which are usually tied to season-long goals, and they raise the question of why an owner would so desperately want to win a particular game. The leagues' biggest fear is that an owner will offer a bonus to back up money he has bet on his team. In Pocklington's case, besides hankering for those extra home games, he probably wanted to ensure a victory over the Kings, the team to which he had traded Wayne Gretzky in 1988.
Gary Bettman, senior vice-president and general counsel of the NBA, sums up the situation by saying, "We expect players to put forth the same competitiveness in every game that they play."
The Sham Is a Sham
A trial reveals widespread steroid use in pro wrestling