Former NHL player Brooks Laich describes ways to develop CrossFit as a professional sport
Photo credit: Brooks Laich (Brooks Laich | Facebook)
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Former NHL player and Open Gym co-founder Brooks Laich recently made an appearance on the “Talking Elite Fitness” podcast to discuss his love of CrossFit with hosts Sean Woodland and Tommy Marquez. He also spent much of the interview discussing important issues he sees and several steps to take that could simultaneously grow CrossFit and better benefit his athletes.
Call me back: Laich played in the NHL from 2003 to 2018, primarily with the Washington Capitals. He also spent eight years as a representative of the NHLPA and played a role in collective agreement discussions. Now he focuses on the Home Office of CrossFit, the athletes who make a living in competition, and how they can improve the sport for the benefit of everyone involved.
A union of athletes: Laich has been heavily involved in the NHLPA during his career, serving on the executive council for eight years. He was instrumental in the hiring and firing of executive directors, as well as in creating agreements between the league and its players. As someone who has lost over $ 2 million due to lockout, Laich knows what can happen when the league has all the power when the athletes don’t.
- Looking at CrossFit from this perspective, “I was absolutely shocked at what I saw.Laich explained. “What is the life of an athlete in CrossFit like? Right now what I see in CrossFit is that CrossFit is giving away all the power. 100%, and the athletes have no say. They are at the mercy of everything CrossFit. “
- “It’s because there is no union. There is no repression. There is no collective among the athletes. It’s an individual sport, but I believe athletes need to find a way to come together collectively to gain leverage, to regain power.
Health and travel insurance: Among the problems mentioned by Laich was the lack of health insurance. He noted that an athlete can “blow his shoulder” during a competition, forcing him to pay for the surgery in order to return in the future. CrossFit does not offset any of these costs. Additionally, he referred to Mat Fraser’s habit of sending mattresses to hotels before competitions to ensure a good night’s sleep.
- “Currently, CrossFit athletes do not have health insurance, they don’t have a pension, they don’t have travel arrangements, basically, ”Laich said. “CrossFit athletes ship beds to the hotel they’re going to stay in because they never know what it’s going to look like, what their bed will look like at the CrossFit Games.”
- “In the NHL it’s mandatory – we negotiate that – it is mandatory that we fly first class. It is compulsory to stay in five star hotels. It is mandatory that we receive $ 120 per day for a per diem so that we can eat good food. “
A long term: Laich acknowledged during the episode that the NHL has a current advantage over CrossFit in that the league has been around since 1917. It has a long and rich history. Additionally, there is a lot more money at stake due to the league’s marketing and TV offerings. That being said, Laich explained that he was a huge fan of these CrossFit athletes and wanted them to be financially successful.
Championship pay days: As the NHL has more cash on hand, athletes earn considerably higher salaries early on and often throughout their careers. Laich compared the minimum wages for deep players to the amount of money CrossFit Games champions earn after grueling competition at Carson, Madison or Aromas.
- “I have seen thousands of NHL players in my life, and I see these CrossFit athletes, ”Laich said. “They are phenomenal athletes, they are committed and it is in all areas. The sad thing is that if you win the CrossFit Games as the fittest man and woman in the world, you will be paid half of the league minimum amount to play in the NHL.
- “The league minimum in the NHL is $ 650,000. Some players are going to win $ 650,000, and they’re going to sit in the press box because they’re spare players, they’re extra players, for 60 of the 82 games. ”
Season format: Woodland asked Laich how he was going to solve some of his problems and “tune” CrossFit to make it better for athletes and fans. The former NHL player responded by listing some top priorities. The most important of these was the season schedule and the qualifying requirements which change several times over the years.
- “Where I see big holes right now, as a sports fan, is that each year is different from the last, ”Laich said. “I don’t know how someone qualifies for the Games. I don’t know what the format is. Next year is different, this year is it, next year it is. As a fan, how am I supposed to follow this? “
- “All professional sports are not just sports, they are marketing. You are in the two professions of professional sport and you are in the field of marketing. To get there, you need some predictability. “
Commodity: Paying the athletes more money and creating a fund to provide better housing on the road is no easy task. CrossFit can’t just wish there was cash. Laich is aware of this and has come up with several ideas to offset the costs. The first focused on the athletes and their fans.
- “Here is an example: go to CrossFit.com/shop,Laich said. “Go to this website now. There is nothing on it. I cannot buy a jersey from my favorite CrossFit athlete. Go to NHL.com/shop. You can buy any merchandise. How about licensing some of these products to athletes?
- “As if I bought a jersey (Katrin) Davidsdottirshe gets a fraction of those sales and CrossFit a fraction of those sales. This will encourage athletes to stand out on social media and be more of a personality to grow. They are rewarded financially. Sport grows, it is financially rewarded. Everybody wins. ”
Premier Events: Another of Laich’s options for bringing more money to CrossFit and benefiting athletes is to take a page from golf. He explained that there are four majors every year and that the biggest names take part. The Masters Tournament, the PGA Championship, the US Open and the Open Championship make up this quartet. Laich would love to see CrossFit do something similar with his fan favorite events.
- “Imagine if you had Wodapalooza, Dubai, Rogue and Granite Games – four major events a year where I knew all the top 20 athletes would be there pitting themselves against each other, ”said Laich. “The money is going to flow in there.”
- “The networks will want to pick up this because it is also a scenario. Every six weeks we have a new competition. And maybe Snape is very heavy dumbbells and Wodapalooza will swim more. Different athletes will stand up at different competitions. “
Lend some expertise: Laich told Marquez and Woodland that he had not had specific conversations with the powers that be to discuss these changes. However, he did state that he was ready to sit down and lend his time and experience to any CrossFit athletes who wish to discuss the possibility of coming together to get some of the power, better accommodations and pensions, among others.
- “Please, all CrossFit athletes who just want to choose my brain over it all, I’m an open book for all of you, ”Laich added. “I so want athletes to be successful.”
- “Athletes have a lifespan. We have a little window, which is our best earning years mostly in our lives, and I want the athletes to get all they can during those years of retention and prepare for the pivot that they’re going to do.
The bottom line: These changes may not happen in the immediate future – or never – but Laich said he has high hopes for Eric Roza and the future of CrossFit. He explained that the new CEO listens to the community and is very receptive to ideas from athletes, fans and sponsors. His hope is that athletes come together and that the future leads to health insurance, pensions, better products and a variety of other improvements that will only further develop CrossFit as a professional sport.