Murphy on NHL: Money on the board

It was a pretty big story earlier this week when the Maple Leafs were fined because head coach Ron Wilson put money on the board prior to Toronto’s game in San Jose.

For those not hip to the lingo, putting money on the board is like a bounty of sorts. Wilson told his players that they would get a certain amount of cash if they beat his former club, which would also give him his 600th career victory — a cash incentive so-to-speak. Well, apparently that was a violation of the CBA.

Article 26, Section G of the CBA:

"Neither a Club nor a Club Actor may pay or provide a Player anything of value, except as provided in his SPC (standard players contract) . . . Upon a finding of this circumvention . . . the player shall forfeit to the League such prohibited payment or other thing of value."

Fair enough but that’s not going to stop it from happening. Everyone knows that players aren’t the only ones who put money on the board and there is no doubt that coaches will continue to do so. Only from now on they’ll keep it quiet.

With players, it’s a whole different story because it’s not against the rules whatsoever. It’s a fun ritual that is rarely talked about publicly. For the record, no individual wins the money. It goes into a slush fund. One player on every team is responsible for collecting the money and has to take care of the fund.

One other thing that should be pointed out is that the money from the fund is not just used for team dinners and outings. Much of it goes to charity. One club recently donated a significant amount of money to a cancer foundation after one of the trainers lost a parent to the disease. The players will also use the fund to buy gifts like the trip Markus Naslund got when the Canucks retired his number.

So how does it work? Prior to every game, just after warm-up, players will go up to the white board in the locker room and write down what money is up for grabs for that night. Almost always a player will put money on the board when he faces his former team. I’m told the minimum in the NHL is $300. Wealthier players may even write “team dinner” for a win. That’s not cheap when the wine starts flowing. One NHLer told me the most he ever saw written on the board for a win was $40,000! Obviously, that rarely, if ever, happens.

Most of the time money on the board is just a donation. When you’re playing in the rink closest to your hometown you have to throw in some dough. So when the Canucks took on the Rangers in NYC Thursday night all the Swedish players had to put money on the board because MSG is the closest NHL rink to Sweden. The Swedes also had to put money on the board because there was a Swedish referee. Aaron Rome would have had to put money on the board because it was his 100th game. You get the idea, it could be for anything.

I’m not going to name names, but some of the “cheaper” players have been known to put money on the board for a win on the second end of back-to-back games, or against teams his club has no chance of beating because he knows the odds of having to pay up are slim.

In the minors, the dollar amount for things is much less obviously. And money on the board can be for fines too. The guys in Manitoba have to throw $50 into the kitty if they fall in warm-up. Throw in another $50 if someone has made a big sign for you in the crowd.

All in all, it’s a tradition that’s been going on for a long, long time. The players have fun with it and much of the time it goes to a good cause.

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