How pro sports salaries stack up in the overheated Vancouver hockey market

Knighton took over from veteran Cannon and backstopped the Whitecaps in their first playoff game against the eventual champion Galaxy. His salary? Just $55,000

The BC Lions made the biggest splash of any local sports franchise before the Vancouver Canucks juggernaut was reactivated for the post-lockout season of asterisks.

Quarterback Travis Lulay, whose hair matches his jersey, was inked for two years plus an option at $450,000 a pop, making him the highest paid player in the Canadian Football League.

Some might say it’s a year late, after he led the Lions to win the Grey Cup at home in 2011, his first full season as the No. 1 pivot. It will keep Lulay in Vancouver until he’s 31, at which time he could seek a deal in the National Football League.

Lulay will account for 10% of the Lions’ 2013 $4.4 million salary cap. CFL players earn an average $83,018, based on a 53-man roster.

Lulay was previously at the $250,000 range, low for a CFL quarterback.

The new contract catapulted him over Montreal Alouette Anthony Calvillo and Toronto Argonaut Ricky Ray, who were the top paid at $400,000.

Lulay’s agent is a former Lions’ communications department employee, Dan Vertlieb, whose father is Vancouver lawyer Art Vertlieb. Dan Vertlieb who also represents Geroy Simon, is now based in Arizona, where he studied for his law degree.

How does Lulay stack up against Vancouver’s other top-paid pros?

He’ll earn less than the lowest-paid Canucks, Dale Weise ($615,000) and Cam Barker ($700,000). Daniel and Henrik Sedin are tops at $6.1 million apiece, while Roberto “Will He Stay or Will He Go?” Luongo is at $5.33 million.

Vancouver Whitecaps’ Scottish import striker Kenny Miller is the last designated player left, for the moment, and had a guaranteed salary of $1,239,316 in 2012. Fellow Scot Barry Robson parted ways with the Whitecaps on January 21. His 2012 compensation was listed at $596,499.92.

Captain Jay Demerit got $350,000 while veteran South Korean defensive general Young-Pyo Lee was a bargain at $174,200. Goalkeper Brad Knighton took over from veteran Joe Cannon in the second half of the season and backstopped the Whitecaps in their first playoff game against the eventual champion Los Angeles Galaxy. His salary? Just $55,000.

Robson was Vancouver’s third designated dud in the designated player department.

The marquee salary exemption is a legacy of the L.A. Galaxy’s 2007 signing of David Beckham.

French striker Eric Hassli came in like a lion and went out like a lamb, scoring the club’s most historic and spectacular goals before he was shipped to Toronto. He racked up enough red cards that I dubbed him “Eric the Rouge.”

Gambian attacking midfielder Mustapha Jarju was ex-general manager Tom Soehn’s second designated player signing in the summer of 2011. Jarju never got his rhythm and left without scoring a goal before the start of 2012 training camp, returning to RAEC Mons in Belgium.

Sellout string

The end of the National Hockey League lockout and return of the Vancouver Canucks to Rogers Arena on January 19 was dubbed the 408th consecutive sellout, despite the non-disclosure of ticket sales reports by the privately owned Canucks Sports and Entertainment.

The former 18,630-seat arena now holds 18,900, and the big crowds tend to expose some of the rink’s shortcomings. Opened in 1995, it was squeezed into the site between the Georgia and Dunsmuir Viaducts. The confined space on the main concourse is burdened by pinch points created by the long lineups at concession stands and the traffic to and from the Team Store.

Premier partnership

Canadian Tire and Sport Chek’s inking of an eight-year premier national partner sponsorship with the Canadian Olympic Committee on January 23 was a historic moment for sports retail in Canada.

Canadian Tire’s game-changing $800 million takeover of the Forzani Group in May 2011 was the first step in a strategy to prepare for expansion by an American competitor.

Now the retailer, whose “Albert” hockey gear ad remains a cult classic, also has sponsorship deals with the Canadian Paralympic Committee, Canadian Soccer Association, Skate Canada, Hockey Canada, Alpine Canada and Canada Snowboard.

The deal includes a national employment program across the company’s 1,700 stores and corporate offices for athletes. Athletes will also be featured in ads for Canadian Tire, Sport Chek, Sports Experts and Mark’s. •

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