Maple Leafs fined for offering a $600 cash incentive to players to beat San Jose

Maple Leafs fined for offering a $600 cash incentive to players to beat San Jose

A rainbow of incentive (Image: Gavin Shaefer)

The National Hockey League has fined the Toronto Maple Leafs an undisclosed amount for violating article 26 of the current collective bargaining agreement by offering a cash prize to players. On the brink of his 600th career win, Leafs head coach Ron Wilson promised $600 to his squad if they could secure the milestone victory against his former club, the San Jose Sharks, on Tuesday. As the Toronto Star’s Damien Cox notes, “It may have been only $600. But it was $600 too much.”

The problem:

Part of the cap system instituted in 2005 was intended to make sure there were no more side deals between teams and players that were not specifically part of the Standard Player Contract. Teams used to routinely keep unofficial agreements “in the drawer” that allowed players benefits, cash or otherwise, that the league never knew about… Article 26 of the current collective bargaining agreement states clearly “Neither a Club nor a Club Actor may pay or provide a Player anything of value except as provided in his (contract).”

By making it rain in the dressing room, Wilson joins hockey’s rich and time-honoured tradition of backroom deals and less-than-scrupulous player bonuses. According to Cox, one general manager even put $100,000 of his own money on the table in order to push his players to knock off a big rival in a playoff series a few years ago. Apparently, this is a big no-no that nobody in the league offices noticed.

It isn’t uncommon for players to put up cash among themselves, most often when a player is traded to a new team. When that player faces his old squad, he will tack a stack of bills on the team bulletin board, and the teammate who pockets the game winner against his former team also pockets the cash. Wilson was essentially doing the same thing—only when a coach is involved, it’s a violation of the league’s salary cap provisions. It also didn’t help their cause that after the Leafs’ 4-2 win, Wilson was caught on camera with a wad of cash in hand, and more than one player publicly commented on the illicit reward. Oops.

Perhaps there’s a lesson here (and, no, it’s not “don’t get caught,” and it’s definitely not “don’t break the rules”). With 600 loonies on the line, the Leafs beat one of the better teams in the NHL, and rather handily at that. Wilson makes millions, the Leafs make billions and, apparently, throwing the boys a few bucks may just mean an extra victory or two. A multimillion-dollar contract isn’t enough—they need to see the cash.

If $600 and a slap on the wrist is what it takes to win, then put those dollar bills on the board and bring on the fines.

• Leafs Run Afoul of Cap [Toronto Star]
• Leafs fined by NHL [Toronto Sun]
• Leafs pay for paying to win [Globe and Mail]
• Ron Wilson Reportedly Offers Cash Incentive for Leafs to Beat Sharks [AOL FanHouse]