Recreation and Sport Studies

Studying, Experiencing and Facilitating Kinesiology, Recreation and Sport through Wellness and Physical Activity

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Critical analysis of the National Hockey League’s “Career Ending Disability Policy”

The National Hockey League’s Career Ending Disability Policy can be found in Article 23.3 of the league’s Collective Bargaining Agreement under “Insurance Coverages”. It outlines the risks of playing professional hockey, as understood by the players and owners alike; as the CBA is an amalgamation of the two parties’ ideals. The nature of the policy is scaled remuneration based on a player’s age (upon adherence to the precursor of a minimum of 41 games played in the NHL). 41 games played denotes half an NHL season, and if that threshold is not reached, the maximum payment is $500,000. The payout system can be seen in Table 1 as followed:

Player’s Age Benefit Amount (USD)
Under Age 31 $1,000,000*
Age 31 $840,000*
Age 32 $680,000*
Age 33 $520,000*
Age 34 $360,000
Age 35 and over $200,000

Table 1: National Hockey League, 2012, p. 149

The players’ union have too negotiated proper compensation for specific disabilities; these are outlined as followed in Table 2:

Type of Disability Benefit Amount (USD)
Loss of Brain Functions $5,000,000
Paralysis $5,000,000
Organ Failure $3,000,000
Diagnosis of Terminal Illness $3,000,000
Loss of a Limb $2,500,000
Loss of Two (2) Limbs $4,000,000
Loss of Sight in Both Eyes $4,000,000
Loss of Sight in One (1) Eye $2,000,000
Loss of Hearing or Speech $750,000
Loss of Hearing and Speech $1,000,000
Loss of one hand or one foot $750,000
Loss of both hands or both feet or one hand and one foot $1,000,000

Table 2: National Hockey League, 2012, p. 150

The policy itself serves as a reminder of the human element of professional sports and their respective athletes. Upon examination of the compensation tables, one can ascertain that athletes risk not just their bodies and livelihood when working, but the quality of their personal lives as well.

Observing these tables in a vacuum and comparing them to similar insurance-based compensation packages, one can ascertain adequate remuneration; this however involves desensitizing oneself to the employer/employee relationship that the layman understands far too well. In essence, the “celebritization” of professional athletes desensitizes the population to concepts like relocation (trades), firings (buy-outs/releases), and forced retirement (career-ending injuries).

In essence, the policy fails to properly compensate players who no longer have a means of income, and whose lives have been severely impaired. The reasons for such inadequacies are qualitative and are driven by societal norms.