Broke: The Ins and Outs of NHL Finance

Is it all about the money? The NHL, while being the 5th strongest professional sports league (in terms of revenue with accumulation at $3.7 billion) has money all over the place. While one can sit for hours and simply marvel at the dollars thrown into something as simple as a game, why not divulge further? My greatest interest while researching such a broad topic is: what money are the players making and how do they retain it without blowing it on anything and everything? Taking a deeper plunge into the major money of professionals, not all hockey players have managed to stay out of the “broke” category, meaning groups of pro athletes that have blown their massive amounts of money and wasted their fortunes, becoming “broke.”

Salaries & Contracts

While these athletes may not neccessarily be in the game for the money, it sure boosts the enthusiasm and accentuates the crazy influx of cash a sport like hockey can attract. According to Forbes, the average NHL player’s salary is $2.4 million a year, third in comparison of the 3 other major professional sports leagues: NFL, NBA, and MLB. Multiply that by the average career of 5.5 years, the collective gross of the average player is $13.2 million for a full career without endorsements, bonuses, and other additions to salary. However this is simply an average. Even though most of the numbers are 100% accurate, monetary numbers are only released by third-party sites. The NHL refuses to release official player salary numbers. Commissioner Gary Bettman’s explains that he’s not keen on disclosing player salaries, and would rather fan focus on the on-ice product. Yet while these figures aren’t official, we do know some facts.

We know Jagr has accumulated the most money currently of any player in NHL history ($117.8 million). Are you really surprised? The guy was drafted in 1990..

We know that Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin inked a 13 year, $124 million dollar contract, the largest monetary contract in NHL history.

We know that the Ottawa Senators hold the highest total salary at $74,892,470 and defenseman Shea Weber is the current highest paid player in the league at $14.1 million per year, with the highest possible amount reaching at $14.6 million.

Furthermore, we know that the current minimum salary is a “measly” $575,000 a year. Chump change, am I right?

I think everyone knows that New York is a top sports market city regardless of team record or success, so it comes as no surprise that the Rangers boast the most valuable NHL franchise at $1.2 billion.

Broke?

So how does this lead to me to my next point? Throwing stats and figures around allows a peak inside the financial state and flexibility of professional hockey. The numbers are high and large in even what many consider to be the 4th, maybe even the 5th legitimate pro sports league. With the worst of players making 6 digit figures and the best players collecting a fortune, why is it when I do research… I find players turning up broke? Some have excuses, some simply threw themselves into the flames with poor decisions.

Jack Johnson entrusted his parents with his finances and they caused him to file bankruptcy.

Sergei Gonchar was a part of a group of 19 players scammed out of investments in Mexico properties as a Phil Kenner fraud to trick the players out of more than $25 million.

Bryan Trottier ran his money into the ground after retirement with poor investments, specifically in an ice skating rink business.

Theo Fleury practically ruined his career and financial opportunity with substance abuse and depression, attempting to make his way back in the league but failing and losing all sense of a career.

Even the all-time great Bobby Orr was screwed out of wealth by a scam agent, Alan Eagleson. Eagleson led Orr practically into bankruptcy with constant control of his schedule, finances, and life as a whole. Orr grew to rebuild his money by becoming a player-agent hoping to help younger players avoid the mistakes Orr made as a young player.

And the National Hockey League isn’t even the owner of most athletes who have blown their fortunes. 78% of NFL players and 60% of NBA players are bankrupt or dealing with financial stress in 2-5 years out of retirement according to Time.com. Many more NHL players come from more middle class households versus the opposite with NFL and NBA players coming from urban roots and poor beginnings, leading them to make worse financial decisions. But the fact remains clear, there are still considerable amounts of NHL players losing their wealth and it personally just blows one’s mind.

It truly makes us wonder: If an all-time legend can blow $3 million dollars, how careful should we be with our own bank accounts?


 

Drew Bishop is the “Hockey America” columnist for Good Night, Good Hockey. You can contact him on his email: abishop@huronstudents.com

 

 

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