Hockey's Prisoner's Dilemma

I have loved hockey ever since my high school boyfriend introduced me to it years ago. It's fast-paced, loud, and exciting. I really do love it. So, it only slightly irritates me that hockey players, along with players in most professional sports, get paid thousands and thousands, and sometimes millions, of dollars to play a game. The owners of hockey teams are no better. They get millions of dollars to organize these games. Wow, seems like a good gig to me.

Obviously the players and owners disagree. They want more. Last Thursday, September 16, 2004, the NHL's Board of Governors locked out the players, endangering the upcoming season. The NHL Player's Association and the NHL owners can't agree on a payroll system, so nobody plays. Fox Sports warns that the longer hockey is absent the farther removed from us it will become until someday it ceases to be a professional sport. They argue that the fans are the big losers of this current scenario, but I disagree. Even the most devoted fans, including me, will eventually turn to other sports, albeit sadly, if we no longer have hockey to watch.

So who does lose from the lockout? If anybody, it's the players and the owners who lose. They are caught in a prisoner's dilemma. Ideally, each side wants the most they can possibly get from the other without giving anything in return. They could negotiate, but each side is unwilling to give any concessions to the other side for fear that they won't get anything in return. It's in their best interests to cooperate and work out a payroll system that will benefit both sides. Instead, they hold their ground and both lose. If hockey ceases to be a professional sport, as suggested by Fox Sports, the players and owners will both have to find...well, jobs!


Biancca said...

A similar thing is happening to a SPORT that I love- figure skating. Skaters used to win $25,000 at each big event, but they are cutting back the prize money, cutting back the TV coverage...(This year they are only going to show the long programs, not the short programs). So it wasn't a big surprise to me to learn that my favorite skater of all time dropped out of several events and is doing private tours instead :(

And why isn't there an ice rink in Cedar City?

Janet said...

Shouldn't hockey players be playing the game because they love it? Instead they are looking at the idea that they are not paid enough. But what is enough? Is enough the amount of owning a nice house, a nice car and being able to support their family? No. Instead it is having the biggest house, the nicest car (Oops, I mean cars) and having the biggest television.

Look at the WNBA. Women who play in the WNBA do not make enough for a living. They have second jobs in order to support themselves, let alone a family.

Years ago there was a baseball strike. Money of course was the issue. But what came out of it? We are still watching baseball aren't we? They are still getting paid millions. Maybe they should hand over some of their cash to hockey players! It all comes down to the fact that people love watching hockey and eventually there will be an agreement.

John West said...

The compensation that professional athletes get from society as a whole can sometimes be very overwhelming, but then a closer look may depict another side to the situation. True they all make a lot of money, but doesn't society also greatly benefit from having the opportunity to view and be entertained by such athletes. Sure we all don't benefit in the same way, the athletes have their mansions and Bentley's and we have a tiny t.v. in which to watch them. But if we are going to realistically critcize them for wanting more money, then we should also critcize everyone in society that works to better themselves. Everyone wants to improve their current situation in life and athletes are no different.

I will admit that salaries have reached very far fetching magnitudes, but who is to blame for it? Is it the athletes or society. I say no one, but it is the natural progression that our society has drifted to. Athletes aren't the only ones getting astronomical salaries, there are also movie star's and countless other professions that at a glance may seem unfair. I personally love sports and feel that they benefit society greatly. If a child can get involved and become a part of a team while at the same time gaining self-confidence then I say it is all worth it.

Dr. Tufte said...

There are two ideas running through the post and comments. One is if striking is a prisoner's dilemna, the second is that professional athletes are sometimes paid too much.

In general, management labor negotiations are characterized by prisoner's dilemnas. That's why arbitrators, and other neutral negotiators seem to help so much.

I don't necessarily agree that the players are paid too much. They perform an activity that is easily consumed by large numbers of people. The complete cost of a college education (including state subsidies) is about $1000 per credit hour, or about $25 per class hour. Since the typical professional sports event lasts about 3 hours and costs about $75 per ticket, they're cost is in the same range. The difference is that I can't teach economics to 50,000 people in a stadium. But a football player can entertain them. So, while a football player and I charge about the same amount, they collect from a much bigger audience pool.