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Money Players: How Hockey's Greatest Stars Beat the NHL at its Own Game [Hardcover]

Bruce Dowbiggin
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

Oct. 14 2003
Incredibly, the legacy of one-time hockey czar Alan Eagleson still poisons professional hockey. The generation of players that “the Eagle” systematically abused, misled, and defrauded continues to take its revenge on his successors. When a former Boston player, Mike Gillis, suffered a career-ending injury, Eagleson, his agent, bilked him out of some $40,000 in insurance money. Gillis sued and won. What Gillis learned from the episode is that players need hard-nosed and honest representation and that no quarter needs to be given in encounters with the good old boys who run the game.

Gillis is an agent now – one of the best. The players he and other trained agents represent routinely get contracts worth tens of millions of dollars. Over the past ten years, the NHL’s payroll has shot up from nearly $200 million to more than $1 billion. Around 350 players make more than a million dollars per annum. And the league’s owners are crying the blues.

But these owners often buy up sports teams for reasons of ego and for kicks. And the general managers often are former players who like to shoot the breeze with old friends and do deals on the strength of a handshake. Neither is a match for the new breed of agent or for the players’ association president Bob Goodenow. Something’s got to give. Bruce Dowbiggin’s eye-opening report takes readers from the locker rooms to the board rooms. His inside view makes sense of the seemingly crazy labour conflict that is about to batter the NHL.


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Bruce Dowbigging's Money Players is a provocative and timely release as the expiration of the NHL's Collective Bargaining Agreement looms. The current labor crisis is pegged to the widely held notion that rising salaries are outpacing revenues. Dowbigging writes, "It's no exaggeration to say that, since Wayne Gretzky was traded to Los Angeles in 1988, the NHL has squandered every opportunity for growth that came its way." For decades, NHL owners treated their players like indentured servants. By keeping costs low, the owners had little incentive to grow revenues. In recent years, they have relied primarily on selling franchises to grow the sport as a whole, which has diluted the product, making it even less attractive to a larger audience. Many point to that infamous Gretzky trade as the moment the salary pendulum began its swing towards the players. But it was cunning agents like Mike Gillis and Rick Curran who, by exploiting loopholes in the CBA and taking advantage of salary disclosure, were the real catalyst for the meteoric rise in player's wages. And while former Players Association Executive Director Alan Eagleson was essentially a toady for the league, his replacement Bob Goodenow has transformed the NHLPA into a powerful union.

Bruce Dowbigging has long been one of Canada's most insightful and intelligent sports reporters--not to mention a gifted storyteller. His accounts of salary negotiations read like the plotting of a good suspense novel. Tales of pre-NHLPA treatment of hockey players are positively Dickensian. To say this book will provoke discussion amongst those who read it is an understatement. Money Players covers a subject most every Canadian has an opinion on and will certainly challenge reader's misconceptions regarding hockey's labor issues. --Moe Berg

Review

“The most enlightening book I have ever read about the history and current situation of hockey.”
–Paul C. Weiler, Friendly Professor of Law, Harvard University, and author of Leveling the Playing Field: How the Law Can Make Sports Better for Fans
 
“An excellent look at the men being paid huge salaries to give us hockey.”
–Ron MacLean, Host, Hockey Night in Canada

"…Money Players should be mandatory reading for serious hockey fans."
Globe and Mail

“…Dowbiggin pulled off the tricky feat of getting to the stories behind the obvious he-shoots-he-scores narratives in an entertaining but never dumbed-down style… With his latest offering, Money Players, Dowbiggin completes his hat trick of excellent hockey titles… [He] gives a well-rounded, lively look at professional hockey labour relations and economics in fine style.”
Quill and Quire

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars candid account! June 15 2004
Format:Hardcover
I found this book to be pretty much complete history of the relationship between hockey players, team managers, agents and team owners and the NHL. It shows how players salary got from being unadequate to what some people can say ridiculously high. The author definitely knows the subject and knows many people that took part in making NHL history. Although I knew most of the facts, the author puts a human face to it, narrating this through the eyes of people that played a central part in making it all happen, which makes this book a great read. I especially liked the fact that author tries to give an objective account. What's more he gives in the end of the book a few possible resolutions for upcoming lockout, one of which I found very convincing. Great book for anybody who loves the game of hockey and would like to understand the background to what looks like will be lockout for 2004 season.
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars candid account! June 15 2004
By Vahania63 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I found this book to be pretty much complete history of the relationship between hockey players, team managers, agents and team owners and the NHL. It shows how players salary got from being unadequate to what some people can say ridiculously high. The author definitely knows the subject and knows many people that took part in making NHL history. Although I knew most of the facts, the author puts a human face to it, narrating this through the eyes of people that played a central part in making it all happen, which makes this book a great read. I especially liked the fact that author tries to give an objective account. What's more he gives in the end of the book a few possible resolutions for upcoming lockout, one of which I found very convincing. Great book for anybody who loves the game of hockey and would like to understand the background to what looks like will be lockout for 2004 season.
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent insight into the NHL and its overpaid "stars" March 26 2012
By Mikey - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I read this book back in late 2004 during which time the NHL (National Hockey League) had shut down and no games were played in the whole 2004/2005 season. As far as I see it, the only people who really did suffer are the fans and the part time and casual workers employed at the various sporting arenas who lost out on work on the occasions that the 41 home games for each team would have been played. The players certainly couldn't complain. They had huge salaries, definitely TOO much. In the USA, baseball, football and basketball are the main three sports with ice hockey some way behind. In Canada it's the number one sport. But Canada only has approx 10% of the population that the USA has. How the madness of huge skyrocketing salaries went on for so long without decent revenues from a US TV network (unlike the other three sports) was a mystery to me.
This book exposes the history to what led upto the lockout and is extremely informative and, at the time of writing, very up to date. Bruce Dowbiggin certainly knows his stuff and any passionate hockey fan with an interest in the dispute behind the 2004/2005 lockout really should read this book.
A more uptodate version Money Players: The Amazing Rise and Fall of bob Goodenow and the NHL Players Association is also available. I have not yet read the newer version, but hope to sometime soon.
As a fan, even seven years after the lockout, it still sickens me that this strike ever happened at all. It all boils down to greed.
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