Brad Marchand served up some more sharp criticism for the NHL and the NHL Players Association about their decision to skip the upcoming Beijing Olympics.
In a Twitter post following Bruins practice Tuesday, Marchand ripped the league for creating taxi squads for teams while not doing something similar for the Olympics:
“The NHL and NHLPA can change the rules of the CBA to add a taxi squad so that they don’t miss any games and don’t lose any money … yet they can’t do a taxi squad during the Olympics so they can honor the agreement they made so the NHL players can go … please tell me that’s not [expletive].”
On the point of taxi squads: Nothing in the collective bargaining agreement mandates a two-week shutdown for the Olympics, but that is how the league operated when it sent players to the Games in 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010, and 2014. In Olympic soccer, which is contested at the same time the world’s premier leagues are playing, star players are loaned from their clubs.
“And for all of you who want to pipe back about forfeiting pay while being gone [at the Olympics],” Marchand added, “Yah not a problem … let the players make their choice.”
In theory, forfeiting paychecks while at the Olympics for two weeks could leave Marchand’s wallet some $15,000-$30,000 lighter. His salary this season is $6.5 million, $4 million of which came in a signing bonus. Players are paid biweekly during the season. That estimate would not include escrow, which is 17.2 percent this year.
The league and players split hockey-related revenue — a major portion of which is ticket sales — in half. To make up the difference during the pandemic, the players give back more of their salaries. This year, that escrow is 17.2 percent. In 2022-23, it will be 10 percent, then 6 percent in the next three years, as the league is expected to recover from the pandemic.
Marchand also noted in his post that NHL players are already extending themselves financially this season, paying back owners in escrow until they are “made whole from what they have lost during this pandemic, regardless of how many games are missed.”
The root of his frustration: Marchand, the Bruins’ leading scorer (11 goals and 27 points in 21 games), was expected to be one of the selections for Team Canada, but the NHL and NHLPA announced they were pulling out Dec. 22 because of the recent uptick in COVID cases around the league. More than 50 games have been postponed in the last two weeks.
This would have been Marchand’s first Olympics. Marchand, who turns 34 in May, may never get another chance.
Speaking to reporters Sunday, Marchand was pointedly critical of the NHL for the missed opportunity.
“I know, at the end of the day, they don’t care about the Olympics,” said Marchand, noting that players work “their entire lives” for the chance to play in the Games. “They don’t make money on it, and ultimately it’s a business — and we’re an asset. Let’s just call a spade a spade.”
Though the NHLPA jointly announced the Olympic decision with the NHL, players around the league have echoed Marchand’s concerns.
“I read the Brad Marchand comments,” Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko told reporters. “He said it right. They promise us we can go this year and they took it away, but we still play here. I think the players are the ones who [are] supposed to decide.”
Through a spokesperson, NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr declined to comment.
Marchand’s Bruins teammate, Taylor Hall, was similarly skeptical of the league’s motives.
“Who knows if the league really even wanted us to go?” he said.
A short change?
The NBA shortened its quarantine requirement from 10 days to six for asymptomatic players who test positive. The NFL reportedly will announce a similar policy soon. If the NHL follows suit, Hall will be among those who approve.
The second-line winger, who was added to the Bruins’ COVID protocol list Dec. 18 and rejoined practice Monday, said he had no symptoms.
“I didn’t have one,” Hall said. “I’d been stuffed up for a couple weeks before COVID, and the day I tested positive, I’d stopped being stuffed up. Completely cleared up. That was frustrating to have to take time off.
“Hopefully we can start moving along with COVID. I don’t think we can move past it. Hopefully guys like me don’t have to miss 10 days of action when we don’t feel any symptoms.”
Planning for Rask
Tuukka Rask again practiced with the team, splitting time in drills with Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman. Though the 34-year-old netminder has yet to sign a contract, the Bruins have had internal discussions about a ramp-up plan.
Bruce Cassidy said Rask could see games in Providence, if he agrees to report. The Bruins will be on a two-game road trip Jan. 8 in Tampa and Jan. 10 in Washington. Their AHL affiliate has home games on Jan. 7 and 9 against Lehigh Valley, and Jan. 10 against Utica.
Though it seems like a fait accompli that Rask will sign a short-money deal in the coming weeks, Cassidy stopped short of confirming his return.
“When we get back,” he said, “is he ready to play? If so, where are we at with our goaltending?”
Brandon Carlo is expected to return to the Bruins on Wednesday. John Moore could head to the taxi squad. The Bruins are in no hurry to assign Moore, since they don’t play until a weekend back-to-back Saturday (Buffalo) and Sunday (at Detroit) ... The NHL announced that the Bruins-Canadiens game scheduled for Jan. 12 in Montreal will be played in Boston. A makeup game in Montreal will be scheduled for later in the season.