Hockey Night in Canada. It’s been a tradition around my house for years.
A roaring fire, a bag of chips and a few beers – as long as the boys in blue were playing you couldn’t get me away from the set.
It’s very early in the lockout but already I miss those nights.
Some of you may remember my cousin, Barry Wilkins. Barry played defence for the Vancouver Canucks back in the early ’70s and he was my hero.
Check the record books and you’ll see Barry scored Vancouver’s first NHL goal. It was a thing of beauty.
From the point, his slap shot deflected through two or three of their players and over the line before the goalie knew what happened.
I had visions of him becoming a 20-goal scorer that season. I think he ended up only 17 away from that magical number.
Anyway, Barry was earning very good money in those days. I’m not positive about how much, but he did own a vet and a Lincoln, so he was doing all right. I seem to remember the figure was in the $70,000 range.
Now, if that indeed was the case and by some miracle he was still playing, he’d be earning $378,240 today, based on a five per cent annual increase (which I think is very generous). Not chump change but far below the $1,800,000 average salary of today’s players.
That’s a difference of over $1.4 million. Say it slowly. One point four million dollars.
Before the league expanded, my cousin spent his time on Boston’s farm team.
In a six-team league it wasn’t easy to make the NHL, so he spent his earlier years riding buses in the central league.
He worked hard and was one of the first players Vancouver picked up in the draft.
The fact is, he probably wouldn’t have made it without expansion, yet in the end, he was an assistant captain and rated one of the NHL’s best defensive players.
Today we’re left with an inferior product, played by inferior players who want to be compensated five times more than their predecessors, who were much more talented.
It just doesn’t make sense and it’s out of control.
I miss Hockey Night in Canada. Lately, I’ve been watching “Antiques Roadshow.”
It’s not hockey but at least I can still have my beer and chips.
Maybe Don and Ron would like to join me.
Apparently they’re not doing much on Saturday nights either.
– Rob Wilkins is the publisher of Truck News and he can be reached at (416) 442-2097.