National Hockey League as a Paradigm for the New Capitalism

By Shlomo Maital

 

    Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Caps

  I was born and raised in Saskatchewan, where 9-month winters mean you can skate before you can walk,  and where great hockey players get their start by skating on farm ponds (like Gordie Howe).   Hockey is a fast exciting sport.   It was almost ruined (like capitalism itself) by money.  A lockout in 2004-5 by team owners, who balked at paying high salaries, hurt the NHL’s crucial TV revenues.  Now it has revived and reinvented itself.  A strong salary cap (i.e. a ceiling on how much you could spend on players) was imposed, preventing big-market cities like New York and Chicago from dominating.  This year, all the old-time dominant clubs like Detroit Red Wings, Boston Bruins (last year’s Stanley Cup winners), Chicago Blackhawks, and Vancouver Canucks (last year’s runnerup)   are gone, out of the playoffs.  Replacing them are no-snow hot-weather teams like Phoenix Coyotes, Tennessee Predators and Washington Capitols.  The reason?  The salary cap has greatly leveled the playing field.  As John Marshall (AP) notes in his column, “parity has taken over in the NHL playoffs, raising the possibility that the Stanley Cup  could end up in a place like Nashville, Tennessee or Glendale.”

     Can the NHL be a parable for capitalism itself?  Do we need to put strong ‘salary caps’ on capitalism, to keep those with obscenely deep pockets from buying politicians, and from buying up and monopolizing the real economy?  Do we need to tax the very wealthy, to level the playing field, instead of letting presidential candidate Mitt Romney, a multi-millionaire, pay less tax than Joe Plumber – and not fully disclose how little he did actually pay? 

     Once, Pittsburgh, New Jersey, Colorado and Detroit dominated the Stanley Cup. It was boring.  Then improbably, Tampa Bay won the Cup, in 2004.  Now, the contest is open and exciting.  Marshall says the final this year could be between Washington (and its star Russian player Alexander Ovechkin) and Nashville.  Who could have guessed?  Thanks, salary cap!  Thanks,  ‘levelled’ capitalism.    

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