Indeed the employment contracts for professional sports athletes is very complicated. That is why players hire agents who know the ropes to get the best deal for the players.
I was unaware the NHL players had to wait so long for unrestricted free agency. I thought it was just 2–3 years. But let’s take your 7-year period as being true.
Jeff Shantz comes from my part of the world. He played in the NHL for about eight years; he was an average player. At the end of that eight years, he bought a farm, built a big house, and became an investor in the petroleum business. To buy all that stuff, I think he had to have earned some pretty good post-tax cash. For him, hockey (even with all the taxes he paid) was much better than working on the oil rigs. So I’m having a hard time believing that a player who really didn’t attain his free-agency status was working for next to nothing. My understanding that even the grinders of the NHL still earn $500,000 a year, even in their rookie year.
Mr. Shantz had free will up until he signed his contract. He could have said: “Nope, I’m not going to pay those high taxes. I’m quitting hockey and going to work on the oil rigs.” But he didn’t. Even after his signing, he was still putting a lot more money in the bank than your average oilfield worker. But if you want to call him a fool for accepting a deal that had him pay high taxes . . . .
Hockey players do not quit playing because the pay is low. Most would prefer to play in the NHL forever; they love the game. But the body starts falling apart — and younger players are coming up the ranks to displace them. Older hockey just can’t keep their edge. They are essentially fired. But they should know that when they sign in the early 20s. If the goal is make lots of money in their limited years, their plan should be get really good at their craft. That will build their ability to generate a lot more cash in their free agency years.
BTW, part of any cross border entertainment is subject to taxes on both sides of the border. When Mr. Shantz played for the Calgary Flames and went to Los Angeles to play the Los Angeles Kings, his earnings for that game were taxed at the American federal rate and the state of California and paid appropriately. These earnings were not subject to Canadian taxes. There is a treaty between Canada and United States that have a rather complicated formula for what part of an entertainer’s salary is Canadian and what part is American. But the entertainers are not double-taxed. With the NHL being a fairly bi-country league, all NHL players are probably paying taxes half way between American and Canadian rates.
I believe you just don’t believe in paying taxes and are using all these “poor hockey players” to justify your point.