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Bourne Blog: How salary cap sucks the fun out of hockey fandom

When I was a kid watching hockey in the late 80's and 90's, I didn't have a sniff as to what each player was being paid. That generally allowed for a lot of freedom to judge each player against one another, and left me with little of the type of resentment a guy like Mike Komisarek(notes) receives today from some Leafs fans (and he's just one of many League-wide examples).

Today, we live in the land of amateur capology, and I'm as guilty as anyone. It seems that nearly every fan with some interest in the game weighs a player's worth versus his contract, and dissects their teams' financials like they've been assigned to audit them.

Thanks to sites like (the wonderful) CapGeek, it's not that hard to do.

But really, it's kind of a stupid thing, isn't it?

It can be relevant when your team is in a situation like Chicago was last year, where they overspent to the point that they had to blow up the team. But that's not exactly a common scenario. Beyond an exceedingly rare situation like that (a mess-up on qualifying offers with a near-cap team), of what interest to us should the team's payroll be?

As a fan of the New York Islanders, who are currently below the $48.3 million salary floor by something like $49 million, I should note that if they sign any single player who happens to be better than any other dude on the current roster, the team just got better. As a fan, that should be the only thing that's remotely relevant. They could sign Nikolay Zherdev(notes) (or whoever, it's an example) to a $10 million deal for next season, and all fans would have to do is say, "Yep, he's better than Trent Hunter(notes) (or whoever), so that's cool."

If we didn't know exactly what these guys were earning, I highly doubt an Olympic gold medalist who just backstopped his team to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final would get so thoroughly ripped from every angle. But since he has a good agent he's apparently "brutal." You can't blame guys for squeezing every penny out of their employer, because of that whole "capitalism" premise we've been running with for awhile now.

Obviously things have changed since the era I referenced earlier to make us pay more attention to this stuff.

It's highly unlikely that a team with Bossy, Trottier, Nystrom, Gillies, Potvin, Billy Smith (and sure, Bourne) could all play for one team under the current salary cap rules, and maybe that would mean a change would have to be made. That would be important info, so let me say again: If your team is over the cap ceiling, I get looking into things. But that's the type of information that beat writers can pass along to fans when it's relevant.

When it's not … do we really care how the team spends its money?

Amateur capology is at its thickest in the off-season. "$1.7M for Marcel Goc(notes)? Why that's at least $200K too much!" I do it as much as anyone, but I acknowledge that it would sure be nice to see more analysis of how Goc will fit in to the Panthers on-ice roster than their on-paper payroll.

If there are any fans that are going to agree with me on this, it's those of the Buffalo Sabres and Florida Panthers. The media can and should dissect their off-season acquisitions from a financial standpoint (that's part of their job) ... but the fans?

Your team was willing to spend some bucks, and because of that you got some better players. Your team is better. Your chances of winning the Stanley Cup are better. Who cares about the price tag if you can afford it?

Social media has largely been good for hockey, but the often-heated debates on the legality of a hit, and those on the value of a player versus his salary can make being a fan more frustrating than ever before.

Here we've tinkered with the rules to shape this amazing game that's better and more popular than ever, yet most of us spend more time playing armchair GM than we do to the action. That's a little more understandable in summer, but it happens year-round.

So this point is to fans, not media: If your team can afford a guy, then that's just super.

Hockey's not supposed to be a test in accounting -- it's supposed to be fun.

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