Everyone Calm Down: P. K. Subban’s Massive Deal Doesn’t Guarantee a Stanley Cup or Increased Ticket Prices

Even though Montreal bleeds hockey, there are still many people in the city that couldn’t care less about the Montreal Canadiens hockey club. For some, their devotion for the Habs is so strong, that some scholars have commented in the past that the team is not unlike a religion. Still, there are a fair amount of people in the city who don’t get the whole point of why people get swept into a frenzy anything happens with the team.

P. K. Subban signing a eight-year, $72 million contract can turn one’s apathy towards hockey into anger.

There are some who can’t comprehend why a hockey player would get paid so much money (although, compared to other major sports, that might be a bargain). Some point to the holes in the streets along with the failing infrastructure and the lack of funds to repair everything. Others will question why a hockey player should get paid substantially more than people whose jobs are fundamentally important (such as nurses and teachers).

However, that’s an unfair argument. Most of the things ailing our city and our province have to do with government spending (or misspending). The Canadiens are a private company that gets very little government support in term of subsidies. In fact, the Canadiens have one of the largest tax bills in all of North American sports. At it’s peak, the Habs were paying $11 million (in 2001 according to the CBC) although they recently won a legal battle with the city of Montreal to have the rate lowered to $8.5 million (according to La Presse).

The other comment thrown out by fair-weather fans is that the price of tickets and merchandise is going to go up. It wouldn’t surprise me if ticket prices go up but I don’t think it will have to do anything with Subban’s signing. According to capgeek.com, the Habs have spent over $60 million on salary every year since the 2008-09 season with the exception of 2009-10. Currently, as of today, the increase in payroll from this year to last year is 3.4%. Even if ticket prices rose and that increase was directly tied to the increase in payroll, that percentage increase is small compared to the increase from last season which saw ticket prices rise 9.86% (according to Forbes).

What is causing the ticket prices to increase is completely independent of signings and acquisitions. The reason why ticket prices could and probable will increase is because the Bell Centre has been sold out for every game since 2005. There is still a big waiting list to be a season ticket holder that requires potential buyers to put down a deposit of several hundred dollars to keep their seat warm in the queue. It could be argued that without signing Subban, who is one of the Canadiens most popular players, that demand could potentially decrease. However, with the long-term signing of the popular Subban, the Canadiens could raise the ticket prices over 10% from last season and still have no trouble selling out the Bell Centre every night. When it comes down to it, the most likely reason the average person can’t buy a ticket to a Habs game is not the price but because there isn’t one available (outside of buying one from a scalper).

That being said, the whole thing is quite silly and stupid. The news was dominated with Subban stories on Thursday and Friday. The saga of how the team and the player couldn’t come to terms on a deal and were headed towards arbitration. Arbitration is not a fun process. It can’t be much unlike a performance review that employers give employees. Very few reviews are uniformly positive. I had one were I was told that I was being streamlined for a promotion at the first opportunity (which happened in less than a month) but was told a bunch of things that I was doing wrong and left the meeting feeling like I was lucky to have a job.

P. K. Subban is a Norris Trophy winner and was a member of the Canadian gold-winning team at the last Olympics. However, he is far from a perfect player who can sometimes do things on the ice that costs his team wins. With an arbitration hearing where millions are on the line (compared to my performance review where only a couple of nickels per hour were at stake), everything that he has done wrong throughout his tenure in Montreal was probably brought up. After the hearing, Subban was visibly shaken and said that the whole thing was “an educational process”.

At the beginning, the Canadiens were offering $5 million for 1 year while Subban wanted $8.5 for 1 year. In the end, the two sides settled before the arbitrator came out with her decision. Subban agreed to an eight-year, $72 million deal which works out to $9 million a year on average (some years he will be paid more than other years). To go through this whole exercise where the Canadiens management must undersell their top player (according to salary) and then give him more than he wanted makes absolutely no sense. That’s like negotiating to buy a car from a dealership for a car that costs $20 000 and offering $15 000, walking away, and then coming back to buy the car for $22 000.

Whether or not the deal was a good one for the Canadiens remains to be seen. Some armchair GMs are already saying this guarantees a Stanley Cup parade on Ste. Catherine street sometime within the next eight years. Others are already saying that this deal is an albatross for the Canadiens and the Habs would be wise to trade an overrated and reckless player. Considering that most of the people that I talk to, see on Facebook, or read on Twitter have as much NHL GM experience as the can of Dr. Pepper that I’m drinking as I’m writing this, I’ll just shrug my shoulders to all of this. I’m a Nordiques fan and I know they won’t disappoint me with a crappy campaign this season.

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