hold·out n. One that withholds agreement or consent upon which progress is contingent.
Source: The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
Whether a player is the middle of a contract or is a restricted free agent leveraging negotiations, fans have little sympathy for holdouts. ESPN.com examined the on-ice and off-ice ramifications should either Calgary's Jarome Iginla or Montreal's Jose Theodore -- just two of many unsigned restricted free agents -- decide to withhold their services.
Below are an edited selection of viewpoints from ESPN.com users:
I can understand why a player would want to make more money as a reward for good performance. If I were in his position, I would do the same, no question. If there is a disagreement, that's what arbitration is for. If a player refuses arbitration and holds out, it means to me that he's not worth his asking price and he knows it. That includes most of the people in your list.
White Rock, British Columbia
As long as a player plays out his contract, he has the right to hold out and try to get as much as he/she can for his/her services. If a player hasn't played out his/her contract, then I have no sympathy for that player.
Noam N. Kogen
I am one fan who's tired of the anti-player stance taken up by my fellow fans, which is eaten up by sportswriters and spewed back out in the guise of the noble "love for the game." Yes, hockey is a game, baseball is a game, all sports involve men being paid to play a game. But to expect players to NOT try to get everything they can get in monetary compensation -- when they've given up nearly their entire lives as boys and young men on the tiny chance that they might be able to make it to the NHL -- and earn every penny they can? It's just not right.
People who don't understand the reason for these holdouts suffer from one of two things, the more honorable of which is simple jealousy. The other being the most despicable attitude I can think of, and that is hating the good for BEING good. If you're simply jealous, if you think "I wish I could be like Jarome Iginla or Jose Theodore so I could make that kind of money," that's much more honorable than thinking, "Those spoiled brats. They shouldn't be thinking about themselves or about the money."
Money is good. Having money is good. Wanting more money is NOT wrong. We all know it, and it's about time we stopped denying it.
Look for the Sharks Evgeni Nabokov to hold out for the first couple of months ... not so much because they can't agree on a contract, but because it is the best move for all involved. Confused? Let me explain.
Backup goalie Miikka Kiprusoff has all the tools to be a number one goalie in the NHL, and an extended Nabokov holdout will give the Sharks and the rest of the league just how ready Kiprusoff is. Kiprusoff's trade value should go through the roof. Long term, the Sharks know that Kiprusoff will not be happy being a backup, and this is the year to trade him to get that last player that pushes them over the top.
How about this scenario: St Louis struggles early without Chris Pronger, gives up on inconsistent Brent Johnson, and decides that an aging Al MacInnis is worth giving up for a number one goalie -- that would sure plug the Sharks biggest hole. Besides, giving Nabokov the months of September, October, and part of November off will help come April, May, and June.
Sometimes a holdout can help. On the other hand, Brad Stuart better be in camp.
I am probably one of the biggest Montreal Canadiens fans in Toronto, NOT FUN =). The news of stalled negotiations with Theodore disturbs me greatly. However, for once I don't see one side as being the clear winner in these talks. I see the Habs' point of offering Theo the richest contract in Habs history, and I see Theo's point simply by looking at the insane contract given to the new goalie of the Leafs for $13.5 million for two years. My feeling is Montreal should offer Theodore somewhere between $5 million and $5.5 million. If he refuses, trade him now while his value is high. I love what Jose has done in Montreal, and I was kicked off talk radio here in Toronto when I argued that Theo should have been an Olympian, but no one man can make a hockey team. I hope it all works out for the best, and Theo leads the Habs to the levels Patrick Roy once took them.
Please hold out for more guys. To play a game, you should get at least $10-20 million a year. Don't settle for less. Plus, your agent should get a bigger cut. Say 40 percent??? Currently, I'm asking my employer to pay me $13 an hour. That's a huge $1 increase over my salary last year and I'm a top-flight auto painter!!! Do you think I'm right in asking for so much? Can you paint a car? If you don't get a deal, maybe I can get you a deal here!!!
What has become pathetic in the NHL is that teams use restricted free agency as a means to avoid negotiating. They feel perfectly justified in refusing to negotiate, and then blame the player if the team has problems in the early part of the season, and threaten to penalize the player financially if he doesn't sign for what they want. Owners may think they have a process that keeps down costs. All it has done is increase the acrimony between players and owners.
These players immediately want to hold out after ONE (maybe, MAYBE two) great seasons? How do we know that Theodore wont fall apart next season? Does anyone actually believe Iginla will win the scoring title again? Their respective teams should sign all these players to one year deals. If they can repeat what they did last year, then give them that multiyear, $6 million a year deal that they're begging for. For a small market team like Calgary, would you spend a huge chunk of your payroll on a guy that might only get 50-60 points next season?? These guys are all still young, they haven't proven themselves fully quite yet. They need to be more patient!
Burnaby, British Columbia
The high-profile hold outs of Iginla and Theodore illustrate how Don Meehan is mirroring the predatory, self-interest tactics of baseball's ultimate parasite, Scott Boras. It's painfully transparent that Meehan is more concerned with the commission he'll receive from the fat contracts of these clients, than he is about the coming season's performance of these two young phenoms. Never mind if Iginla and Theodore miss training camp and possibly a portion of the regular season, and their respective clubs, who's play-off chances are so dependent on each player's involvement and success, stumble out the gate. Nah, as long as leeches like Meehan get as much jack as they can for themselves and further escalate the salary structure of restricted free agents, that's all that matters. As a mediocre, grinding forward during his NHL career, you'd think Meehan would be a little more sympathetic in terms of the impact a holdout will have on his client's team. I thought the NHL was different, but it certainly appears to be heading down the path of self-destruction paved by it's major league baseball cousins, and once again, the players and their lamprey-like agents are driving the caravan!
Under the current NHL collective bargaining agreement, a team holds a player's rights for so long that the player's only option for negotiating a new fair contract is to withhold their services until an equitable agreement can be made. This form of negotiation is usually only effective for players that are extremely talented or have a huge impact on the team. Thank goodness for arbitration.
On the other hand, a player's short-sightedness of the overall picture can be detrimental to his own career. The more money that a team is forced to pay one player, the less money they are able to spend on other talented players to support him. This looks to be the case in Calgary, where if they have to pay Iginla a huge salary, they may actually be forced to trade some good players.
In my opinion, younger players do not deserve top dollar until they consistently prove themselves year after year. Also, the missed games will hurt a player's growth. Both Iginla and Theodore had breakout years, but need to show that it wasn't a career year ... that it is their standard level of play. All of the other young, unsigned players need to get their butts in camp because they are only hurting their careers and their standing with their own teammates.
When I was younger -- 11 or so -- I couldn't understand why players would hold out. They're already receiving several million dollars, is $2 million really going to change their lifestyle? But that was when I was a kid, and I figured that it's probably more complicated than that. Nine years later, I still don't understand. If I had the skills to even play in the NHL, I'd be grateful that someone wants to pay me just to play a sport I enjoy. Teachers get paid $20K-$30K a year to educate and be a positive role model to the children of this society, while pros get paid millions to shoot some pucks into a net. The older I get, I find professional sports to be less focused on the game, and more on contracts. I'm not much of a baseball fan, but watching the Little League World Series was actually real refreshing. Finally, I got to see teams full of players, playing a sport just for the pure joy of it.
Big money and pro sports go hand-in-hand. I think everyone who follow sports understands that. I don't fault a player go after what he feels he's worth. The problem isn't greedy players, it's owners and franchises willing to pay them. It's simple, in my job, I can ask for a raise. If my boss thinks I deserve it, I get it. If he doesn't think I deserve it, I can look elsewhere. The difference is, my boss isn't going to bankrupt the company to pay me. And most other companies won't either. It's capitalism and it works. The market supports what it can bear and no more.
But in sports, it doesn't seem to work this way. Salaries are so high now that you have a handful of players taking up most of your payroll. If the team doesn't make the playoffs or does poorly, they're losing money. There is very little room to make a mistake. (Unless you are the Yankees or the Rangers). I think players and owners need a dose of common sense. I'm a Bruins fan, and I knew the day the season ended the Bill Guerin wouldn't be back. I think he's the best player the B's have had since Cam Neely, but I also understand that he was asking for a ton of money. Is he worth that much simply because others out there have made that much? That's a question I can't answer. It broke my heart to see him go, I don't even want to go to a B's game this year. At the same time, I feel that in today's economic climate, with so many unemployed people, and the problems in the world, that it is difficult for me to sympathize with players getting $5 million a year instead of $6.5 million.
Now, if the owners want to make $10 million in profits instead of $8 million by not paying a player, I'm kinda upset. But I don't expect them to invest millions and millions and not get a return on their investments. From what I read, it seems to me that hockey and baseball have some teams in serious financial trouble. The answer is painfully easy. Let them go out of business and start eliminating teams. Players want a huge salary? Fine, if they're worth it and you can afford them, pay 'em. If you can't afford to have a team, then sell it and move on. Because the talent is so diluted out there now it's sad. I'd rather see 16 incredibly talented teams with players killing themselves to make the cut (and the money) then seeing 30 with one or two stars per roster. Enough to put out maybe one or two exciting lines, the rest is glorified AHL hockey.
Holding out is pointless. If a player claims to be looking out for himself in the long term, he is either foolish or lying. Players usually lose more money than the difference between management's offer and their agent's demands due to the time they miss. I also do not understand why Iginla thinks he can command the kind of money Jeremy Roenick received when Roenick was an unrestricted free agent. Roenick also has had four 40-goal years to Iginla's one. Sorry, Jarome, I don't care if Bobby Holik got $5 million more than he was worth, you aren't going to.
I've got no problem with restricted free agents holding out at the end of their contracts. That really is the only leverage they have in negotiations. I do have a problem with Yashin's holdout while he was in Ottawa. If a player is under contract, he should honor that contract. They purportedly sign these long term deals for security for their family, but then when someone else signs for more money than they're getting suddenly they want to renegotiate. Certainly they have the right to request a renegotiation but if the team says no, sorry Charlie.
Imagine you were due for a pay raise at the end of the year; let's call it a December salary review. Imagine you decided you were one of the most important cogs in the machine. Imagine you walked into the office of your boss, or bosses, in mid May, and announced that you would no longer be coming in to work or otherwise attending your duties unless that salary review happened right then and there. Oh, and don't forget to demand anywhere from a quarter of your previous pay, all the way up to five times your previous pay, as your new salary.
It's a pretty safe guess you'd be pounding the pavement or collecting EI in short order.
But in professional sports, holdouts are always rewarded. Even when owners/managers try to make an example of a player demanding more money (i.e. Boston simply refusing to pay Dimitri Khristich his arbitration award a few years ago), another team will come along and snap that player up, usually for the amount they are demanding. It's just another example of "the golden rule" tilting the playing field 45 degrees. Those who have money sit at the top, those who don't? Well, you know what they say proverbially "rolls down hill."
People love sports, and hockey in particular, because it appeals to them on many levels. One of those levels is that it provides, in essence, a "dream job" scenario -- getting paid well to play a game, to do something one loves doing for a living. To see players hold out is the equivalent of listening to someone win a lottery and then complain about having to pay taxes. It's hard to feel anything but resentment. Even worse is when players try to justify their actions by claiming money isn't the root of their motivation. Please! Every player who holds out is "trying to keep up with the Joneses" of their chosen profession. The fact is, not everyone should be in the Joneses neighborhood. And, when the non-super stars and utility players start making Jones-like money, the upper echelon balks and demands more money to move to a new neighborhood, this one somewhere just below the stratosphere.
It's a vicious cycle, and the cost of doing business in professional sports. As a fan, it gets hard watching a bunch of millionaires play half-heartedly through 40 games of the season, only to really try during the playoff drive. Watching them demand more money to coast 40 and play 40 (playoffs optional) is an almost impossibly bitter pill to swallow. Especially when it's us, the fans, who take it in the wallet. The truth is, if most fans donated to charity what it costs to buy season tickets, poverty in cities with major sports franchises could probably be wiped out. Knowing this makes the fans feel even worse, dirtied somehow, by the greed that taints the game.
All told, it's a situation that basically sucks. And I think it's safe to say that the fans are tired of it. If the players strike in 2004, I hope the league folds.