Jan
29

Op-Ed: The Economics of Professional Sports, Is Younger Really Better?

The following guest post is by Allain Roy, CMG Sports President & CEO

Allain

Allain Roy, CMG Sports President & CEO.

In today’s professional sports, a single injury can decimate a team and ruin a team’s and fan’s season. With salary caps playing a major role in sports leagues such as the NFL and the NHL and other leagues, the top players are collecting a top percentage of money that is allocated for players and as a result team depth is weakened as younger players are making up more and more spots on a roster while veteran players are feeling more and more squeezed out, unlike 10 to 20 years ago. In leagues that have minor and development league systems, such as the NHL and the NBA, building from within has become crucial.

The economics of sports today in the salary cap era, causes professional teams to develop and use younger talent at an earlier age. As a result, the quality of play in professional sports leagues like the NHL is good but is it as good as it should be? When you have 3rd and 4th line players who have played a year or two in the league rather than 8 to 10 year veterans, the quality of play will change. The pace may be quicker, but the number of turnovers may be higher. It’s a matter of opinion whether more turnovers equates more excitement, or more experienced play does.

The salary cap has closed the gap between small markets and large markets in professional sports leagues like the NFL and the NHL, but at what cost? Older players are forced to retire sooner than they would have liked when they still have several good years left to play, while some young players are rushed to develop too quickly at times. In professional sports leagues where the number of contracts are limited and the cap reigns, building a dynasty is increasingly difficult. If you look at the history of sports, there is something to be said for dynasties transcending a sport and making it memorable. Dynasties are directly related to all sports history.

In the eyes of many, the product is good but not great, and dynasties are a thing of the past. The Islanders of the 80s or the Oilers of the 90s or the Red Wings or Devils of the early 2000s simply will not be possible any longer in today’s economic climate, according to many experts. In some respects more teams may have an opportunity to win, but in another sense one season goes into the next and if you ask a casual fan who won the Stanley Cup two years ago chances are a fan won’t remember. Ask a fan who was the team of the 80s, 90s, early 2000s and you will get a different answer.

As the saying goes, younger may not always be better, but does equality trump the dynasty years? Youth cannot be a substitute for experience but in today’s world of professional sports, that’s name of the game.