New York Rangers’ Artemi Panarin and fellow NHLers: Get a clue

With all due respect, New York Rangers’ star Artemi Panarin and his NHL brethren need a reality check.

New York Rangers’ standout Artemi Panarin yesterday tweeted that without a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) in place and escrow issue resolved, players should not report to training camps that are scheduled to open on July 10.

Here is Panarin’s statement:

“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. Also, I know the process for selection of the Hub Cities is ongoing. I sincerely wish that my teammates and I could train and play games at MSG and bring employment and economic opportunity safely back to New York City for Ranger fans and all New Yorkers.”

Panarin apparently has the support of his brethren. Anaheim Ducks’ center Ryan Kesler quickly followed Panarin’s statement with his own: “It’s about time….. 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 ⁦@NHL⁩ ⁦@NHLPA” Said Chicago’s Jonathan Toews: “All I see is that I’ve signed a contract and to me, it’s not exactly being honored. So I don’t care what business you’re in, to me, that’s kind of ridiculous.”

Are these guys for real? They signed the current CBA (which expires after the 2021-22 season). It’s on the players to fulfill their obligations. The owners have every right to make themselves whole. As we’re told over and over, professional sports are a business. So then why are players entitled to more money just because the owners make so much? Millions of people make peanuts compared to their employer’s compensation. If they don’t like it, they can quit. Workplace rules and job roles change all the time. If employees don’t like it, they’re free to leave.

Look, I don’t like to see anybody lose money, regardless of how much. And I’d love nothing more than to take a break from our new reality and watch playoff hockey.

But the pandemic has been a life-changer for many professions and families. Many have lost their jobs through no fault of their own, but because their employers have lost far more revenue than they made before the pandemic hit. Others have agreed to pay cuts, realizing that a job minus a fraction of their previous salary is better than no job.

Players are concerned about their safety. Fair enough, but who among those fortunate enough to be employed isn’t? There are millions of healthcare workers and delivery drivers who MUST risk their health in order to make a living.

On a personal level, several teacher friends of mine have been laid off by their school districts. A close family member lost his job after pouring 50 hours a week and four years into his company; his bosses were heartbroken to relay the news to him, but they just had to make cuts.

Colleges and universities have cut staff and implemented hiring freezes. Some are still doing both. Barbers, restaurant owners, etc., who somehow absorbed huge financial blows by not being allowed to open are considered “lucky” compared to those who were forced to shut for good.

My barber, the provider for his wife and kid, was forced to shut down for more than three months. He had to rely on unemployment benefits that yielded far less than what he’d have earned cutting hair.

Meanwhile, parents have had to scramble to make their kids’ online learning work while trying to keep their own jobs. The single-parent families were hit hard. At least with their kid(s) in school, they could work and pay a sitter or for a before/aftercare program for the hour or so until they returned home from work. Parents who couldn’t work remotely were screwed, having lost their jobs because they couldn’t afford to pay the bills AND for somebody to watch their kid all day.

No other hockey league in the world pays players more than the NHL does. If the players don’t want to play, let them go get jobs outside of hockey. If the pandemic has reminded us of anything, it’s that while we may miss sports, life goes on without them.

As much as I personally love the game, I can’t stomach what Panarin and the other players are now griping about. Honor the CBA to which YOU agreed, pandemic or not. Get on the ice and be thankful you’ve still got a job and are being richly rewarded.