Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Do's and Don'ts for your upcoming NHL arbitration hearing

A frustrated Mark Fraser reacts to the eighth time
his hearing is interrupted by a confused Dave
Nonis asking "Wait, there's a salary cap?"

There's not much going on in the NHL world these days, as we're reached the slow part of the offseason. Most of the major free agents have signed, the trade rumor mill has slowed to a crawl, and training camp is still too far away to get excited about.

But at least we still have arbitration... kind of. While it's true that most cases get settled in advance and hearings have become far less common in recent years, there are still usually a handful of cases heard each offseason. This year saw 21 players file, with six of those cases still unsettled and scheduled to go to an arbitrator over the next few weeks.

If you happen to be one of those six players, you're in luck. I've consulted with my various sources in the legal community, and come up the following list of do's and don'ts to help you win your NHL arbitration case.

DO: Think carefully about whether you wish to file for a one-year or a two-year contract, since the latter is a more significant commitment to the team.
DO NOT: Be distracted when every time you mention a two-year deal, Lou Lamoriello continually nudges you in the ribs while saying "Unless you randomly decide to retire" while repeatedly winking.

DO: Ensure that you will arrive on time by confirming that you have clear directions to the location of the hearing.
DO NOT: Let Tim Leiweke plan your route for you, no matter how awesome he keeps telling you it would be.

DO: Remind the arbitrator that you're a considered a great guy in the dressing room.
DO NOT: Mention that time you helped your teammates murder Justin Bieber for stepping on the team logo, because you all agreed to never speak of that day again.

DO: Be aware that the CBA allows teams to walk away from rulings they don't like in certain circumstances.
DO NOT: Get all semantic by pointing out that cartwheeling out of the meeting and down the hallway yelling "He's somebody else's problem now!" is not technically "walking away".

DO: If you are Trevor Lewis, attempt to impress the arbitrator during your upcoming hearing by informing him that you were recently invited to attend your country's Olympic training camp.
DO NOT: Be offended when he looks at your career stats in confusion and then says "Wow, I didn't even know Liechtenstein had an Olympic hockey team".

DO: Make a strong case that, in the right situation, you could absolutely be a #1 goaltender in the NHL.
DO NOT: Be disappointed when the team agrees wholeheartedly, but then gets all nitpicky by pointing out that the "right situation" you're describing would be in Philadelphia and also you are a center.

DO: Expect that the team will supplement their case by using modern computer technology to present detailed simulations and data-driven presentations.
DO NOT: Be surprised when the Toronto Maple Leafs computer presentation turns out to just be a never-ending YouTube playlist of fights from Blades of Steel.

DO: Emphasize your ability to play in the offensive end or in the defensive end, since every team will spend 50% of their season playing there.
DO NOT: Waste time discussing situations in which a typical NHL team will only spend 20% or 25% of next season in, like "playing outdoor games".

DO: Remember that the CBA allows a player to mention any "special qualities of leadership or public appeal".
DO NOT: Phrase your argument as "I like to quit on my team as soon as we're down a few games in a playoff series, so based on this year you can go ahead and pencil me in for a Messier Leadership Award".

DO: Be prepared for things to get personal, like in that infamous story where Mike Milbury said something during an arbitration hearing made Tommy Salo cry.
DO NOT: Forget that what Milbury actually said was "In my professional opinion, Tommy Salo will have a successful NHL career".

DO: Be respectful of the arbitrator's difficult and complex job, since he has to carefully weigh the numbers submitted by both sides and arrive at a final figure that's as fair as possible given all the available evidence.
DO NOT: Be disappointed when he just picks a number that's exactly halfway between the two submissions, like every other arbitration case in the history of the league.

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  1. the Milbury/Salo one was pure subtle gold

  2. "Messier Leadership Award"

    Well that's an oxymoron.

    -signed, Canucks fan

  3. Messier has triple the rings than Vancouver has Canucks riots.

    -signed, Reality Check for Canucks fan

    1. Wait, what's three times zero?

    2. As does Glenn Anderson, what does this have to do with leadership?

  4. Wide Right, No Goal, Forward Pass, No Goal 2, Welcome to Buffalo!July 23, 2013 at 9:31 PM

    Zing Salo!!! That's classic. But I do like to remind people Milbury had a great record at drafting NHL caliber players.

    1. And then trading them away for nothing.

    2. Wide Right, No Goal, Forward Pass, No Goal 2, Welcome to Buffalo.July 25, 2013 at 3:04 PM

      Oopsie Daisy!!! I never said Milbury was a genius general manager. Although he did have the sense the fire Milbury the coach...twice.
      As much as I'm not a fan of him I think the Milbury bashing is often misplaced. There are lots of teams that hired a lot worse.

  5. "Do's and don'ts"

    Can someone tell me how that makes any sense?

    Dos and don'ts or do's and don't's. Make up your mind and be consistent.

  6. I gauge my hockey knowledge by how much of a Down Goes Brown column I "get." Unfortunately, I still have a lot to learn. This was a tough one. Keep up the good work and Thank You!