TRU law professor argues salary caps in sports should be scrapped in new book

By Chad Klassen
September 13, 2018 - 3:33pm Updated: September 13, 2018 - 4:36pm

KAMLOOPS — Professional sports and the salary cap have become synonymous with each other in the last 25 years.

The NFL was the first to implement a salary cap in 1994. An argument over a salary cap in the NHL, pushed by the owners and Commissioner Gary Bettman, lead to a stalmate in the collective bargaining agreement and eventually to the cancellation of the 2005-2006 season.

TRU law professor Ryan Gauthier, who is the co-author of a new book Cap In Hand, says parity hasn't been fully achieved with the salary cap implemented in the major sports leagues and should be scrapped. 

"With all the salary caps, with all the restrictions on free agency, with all the ways to keep players tied to their teams forever, all in the name of parity, do we even achieve the goal we want? The answer is no," said Gauthier, who's a law professor at Thompson Rivers University.

Gauthier argues the NFL, which he says has the most restrictions compared to any other league, has little parity with the same teams like New England making it to the Super Bowl or winning it every year.

"It's the New England Patriots, it's the Indianapolis Colts, it's the Pittsburgh Steelers as the AFC finalists year after year after year," he noted. "You can set your watch to it."

The book was only released to the public on Tuesday, and both he and sports writer Bruce Dowbiggin argue the structure of the European soccer leagues is king. Players move around more freely and are paid what the market dictates with few restrictions.

Gauthier would like to see that kind of system in hockey where there would be relegation in the NHL, encouraging teams to get better to avoid being sent down to the second league. 

"Instead of just one NHL league, what you have is two leagues. You have promotion and you have relegation. The worst teams in the top league, instead of giving them a draft pick. The Edmonton Oilers had four No. 1 draft picks and they missed the playoffs last year. So instead of doing that, instead of rewarding teams that aren't good, you send them down to the second league. The teams that perform excellently in the second league, you bring them up to the first where they'll get more money from better TV contracts and more fans," said Gauthier. 

Gauthier and Dowbiggin argue the NHL Draft should be scrapped and the league should put an emphasis on recruitment and development from within.

Locally, what would that mean for the Western Hockey League and the Kamloops Blazers?

"The WHL could still exist but it would be in a different form," Gauthier said, adding that there would be no WHL Bantam Draft and players would be recruited by the pro teams to play for their junior clubs. "Instead of the Kamloops Blazers, it might be something like the Kamloops Junior Canucks or something along those lines. I think you could have it in smaller towns and it would look like they have in Europe with the minor leagues that you have there. They would be much more closely connected with the major league teams."

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