Guy Carbonneau signed a contract extension with the Montreal Canadiens, but nobody seems to know how much money he’ll be making over the next couple of seasons.
And that’s just the way people who run NHL teams like it. Salaries for coaches and GMs are highly secret, always have been. We hear that Barry Melrose, a guy who hasn’t coached in the NHL since the Clinton administration, is making $2 million a season to coach the Tampa Bay Lightning. That’s apparently how much it cost the Lightning to pry Melrose away from the security of his job in television.
If I represented NHL coaches, I’d be screaming that salary at the top of my lungs. Coaches and GMs in the league, the people who make some of the most important decisions with respect to the franchises and often face the most pressure, could almost certainly get more money for themselves if they simply did what the players did more than 15 years ago.
The NHL’s player salary explosion began in 1992 when Bob Goodenow took over leadership of the NHL Players’ Association. One of the first things he implemented was full salary disclosure for each and every player in the league. Doing that set a standard for everyone from superstars to fourth-liners. Players began judging their worth against the contributions of others and salaries kept going up.
Now comparables are so much a part of the bargaining process for player salaries you can’t hear about a negotiation that doesn’t bring up what similar types of players make. And back when arbitration was driving up salaries, comparables were the main tool players used to state their cases.
Coaches and GMs should do the same. Here at THN, we used to devote a cover story once a year to coaches’ salaries, but we no longer do it, in part because of the cone of silence that surrounds administrators and even the coaches themselves when it comes to divulging their yearly stipends.
Of the 61 men who are coaches and GMs in the NHL today (remember, Dallas has two of them), 13 of them played under the Goodenow regime and saw first-hand what salary disclosure could do for them and their peers. Coaches have long talked about forming an association – not a union – to help with things such as benefits and representation, but its primary objective should be trying to get coaches more money.
Now, I know GMs and coaches will never be paid as much as the players because of supply and demand. There are only 60 of their jobs open and probably a couple hundred qualified candidates. Also, I know it would be difficult for men whose job description includes handling a budget and saving their owners as much money as possible to demand more of the pie.
But that doesn’t mean somebody couldn’t compile all this information and, say, slip it to an intrepid reporter for a major international hockey publication, who would then publish it for all to see.
So guys, if you ever decide you want to improve your lot, we’re all ears…
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.