Anyone who’s spent even a minute down the shore can probably tell you what movie the line “just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water’’ comes from.
Jaws 2, of course, that infamous pop movie sequel from the ‘70s about the return of the toothy critter making life rather difficult for beach-dwellers.
OK, so here’s the connection to hockey: Just when you thought it was safe to get back to believing in a Stanley Cup playoffs this summer, along comes a “shark’’ by the name of Artemi Panarin.
You might know him as a star player for the Rangers. After Thursday’s little social media message, he may end up becoming more notorious for taking a bite out of the postseason.
Everything seemed to be going along fine – players had agreed to report to training camp and eventually decide a championship in two hub cities. Even health/safety protocols appeared to satisfy players and owners alike.
But wait! Cue the dun-dun-dundun-dun music. No, that’s not a great white shark. It’s a nasty little fish called “no escrow agreement.’’
Without going through the whole complicated process of why this creature could scuttle a Cup tournament, let’s just say Panarin summarized it best when he said players should not report to training camp on July 10 unless an equitable escrow system could and can be worked out.
Bottom line: The players don’t want to have their pay cut into even more if the pandemic keeps fans from attending games in the 2020-21 season, which potentially could result in big financial losses for the team owners. To no surprise, they want to pass along a big chunk of those money setbacks to the players.
This didn’t come from out of the blue. The players have been giving up about 10 percent of their salary for decades.
It should be noted the current collective bargaining agreement runs out after the 2021-22 season. The players and owners have already been negotiating for a new contract.
Generally it’s understood if the league isn’t willing to make concessions to the players on this escrow account matter, you can pretty much write off the very fragile playoff plan.
Here is the segment of Panarin’s post which deals with the escrow issue:
“I am very much looking forward to the playoffs with the New York Rangers. I have concerns not only about the health of players and their families but also about the long-term prosperity of the NHL. For nearly two decades, the players have protected the owners’ income with escrow, including throughout this pandemic crisis, even as owners’ equity continues to grow exponentially. It is time to fix the escrow. We as players cannot report to camp to resume play without already having an agreement in place. We are all in this together.’’
Anaheim forward Ryan Kesler showed some fortitude by backing up what Panarin had to say via a Twitter posting.
“It’s about time,’’ Kesler wrote. “The owners need to understand we’re done paying their debts. You run your team into the ground it’s on you. If there’s a pandemic, it’s on the owners. Figure it out, it’s not a free ride.’’
What hockey doesn’t need is an extended period of squabbling over money, which the sport of baseball went through for the better part of three months.
Our question would be this: If negotiations have been going on behind closed doors for months (baseball chose to bargain, it seemed, through the media), why haven’t the two sides been able to reach an accord?
Or is this just another one of those “take it down to the wire’’ deals and see which side blinks?
Now, with less than two weeks to go, the NHL and the Players’ Association are risking a MLB scenario where everyone winds up looking greedy at a time when 40 million people are out of work.
At least the NHL won’t have to worry about public perception and how it pertains to ticket sales.
The pandemic took care of that. An empty building can’t get any emptier.