Nicklas Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk from the Detroit Red Wings will not play against Columbus on Tuesday when the NHL fires back up after the All-Star game. They won’t play because both will be suspended for 1 game. They have been suspended because they did not attend the NHL All-Star festivities in Montreal. Neither is supposedly injured but both are banged up. The NHL made this unprecedented move to try and stop players from taking a pass simply because they don’t feel like going or have something better to do.
For the NHL I understand the concern. The game is a showcase to the fans of all the best and most popular players in the game. Maybe the more important part is the schmoozing with corporate sponsors at a time when they are hugely important. Like the rest of the global economy, the NHL’s revenues will be dropping simply because some corporate sponsors won’t be able to justify the expense or indeed some corporations may no longer exist. So making sure the NHL’s relationship with sponsors is strong, is very, very important to both the league and the players.
The players association is in a difficult situation because while they are partners in the business and it is important, they are also required to represent the player’s wishes and will. Some players just don’t want to go to the All-Star game. They have bumps and bruises, injuries and in some cases just don’t want to go because some feel they have done enough, others just believe the event is lame and don’t want to be bothered.
In the case of Sydney Crosby I have nothing but applause. Could not play but came to play with the sponsors and fans. The very best have a higher level of responsibility and he seems to get that and always finds a way to step up and help out.
In the case of Datsyuk, he has taken a pass on NHL awards dinners, All-Star games and other NHL functions. It appears he wants to play his game and cash his cheques and that’s it. I have a problem with that. Those cheques are as big as they are because of the NHL and its relationship with sponsors, TV networks and most importantly fans. The “I don’t feel like it” excuse is shameful.
In the case of Nick Lidstrom, he has done it all for this league. Won every award, won cups, the Norris, been to 11 All-Star games, World Cup, the Olympics and this weekend just wanted to see his son play in a hockey tournament. I have no problem with that.
This is the problem. How do you develop a one-size-fits-all policy which punishes players like Datsyuk who live by the “take but don’t give” motto, while allowing players like Lidstrom a pass because he has years and years of doing more than his fair share to grow this game.
I don’t have the answer, but I do know the way the NHL dealt with this seemed knee jerk and not completely thought out. Maybe they can deal with it in some kind of financial way since that is what seems to impact players the most. Maybe if you want to take a pass and you are not injured you have to make a half million dollar donation to an All-Star charity based in the city where the game is being played. Its easy to suggest but difficult to implement since anything like that would have to be a part of the CBA.
If the players and owners are now partners in this thing, that has to mean you are partners when its time to give not just when its time to take. There are many more givers than takers in this game thankfully, but finding a system that punishes one without persecuting the other is difficult.
See you at the rink.