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SBD/11/Leagues Governing Bodies
WOULD A HOCKEY ROOKIE SALARY CAP BE BAD NEWS FOR NFL & NBA?
Published January 11, 1995
In Boston, Michael Gee examines the likely NHL rookie salary cap and its potential effect on other sports leagues. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman's "victory will almost certainly spawn an antitrust suit with the potential to cost the NHL owners far more than they'll ever save from any of the concessions they wring out of the current players. And such a suit could wreak havoc" with the NFL and NBA. Gee notes that the player draft is the most "obvious example of restraint of trade to be found in American commerce." A potential employee cannot freely choose his employer. But, the NHL deal would "change the equation. It would remove the bribe that is the linchpin of the draft system." Sooner or later, there will be a rookie -- "the next Gretzky" -- who could challenge the system. Agent Steve Freyer: "If I were a top NHL draft choice, I'd certainly be considering the possibility (of a lawsuit)." The player that sues could contend that since he is an amateur, and not a member of the union which negotiated the agreement, he is yet to surrender any rights. The owners will argue that "merely wanting to play NHL hockey makes you subject to the contract that binds all the league's players." If the courts find the hockey draft illegal, "the resulting free market for amateurs will send salaries soaring" (BOSTON HERALD, 1/11).