Is this the signal we have all been waiting for? After all the body language interpretation and pressure point guessing could it be simple, juvenile tantrums that signal the end of the CBA negotiations and the start of the season?
If you remember back in 1994, Chris Chelios threatened the life of the Commissioner and his family and then a deal was signed. Maybe Versteeg and White are the outward expression of the players breaking point? Early in this process Zach Parise and Ryan Suter both slimed the owners as each considered the possibility that their 98 million dollar deals might be clawed back and lets not forget Krys Barch’s boozy twitter rants.
Now Kris Versteeg says Bill Daley and Gary Bettman are both “cancers” in this process. Ian White says Bettman is an “idiot” and the reason for all the bad things that have happened in the NHL including having teams in markets Ian doesn’t believe should have NHL hockey.
Lets deal with the obvious first. If Versteeg considers Bettman and Daly to be the “cancers” in this process because they wont give him what he wants, he may want to consider the opposite possibility. Maybe the NHLPA executive director is again the problem. I say again because every single executive director in NHLPA history from Allan Eagleson on, has left the job and either been charged with a crime, accused of security violations and/or ethical violations within the NHLPA. There are plenty of things I disagree with Gary Bettman about, but this type of comment is simply juvenile.
Now Ian White. After you stop laughing, lets deal with the obvious again. Bettman is still the commissioner because NHL revenues have risen every year of his tenure. Franchise values have risen steadily as has the players average salary. Ian believes Bettman is responsible for franchises being misplaced in markets which Ian doesn’t believe can support NHL hockey. That certainly has legs as a debate but lets be honest. If there weren’t 30 teams in the NHL would Ian White be in the NHL? Ian has made 9 million dollars playing in the NHL. That type of money is generally not available in other leagues for players like Ian White. Again his comments are simply juvenile.
I am not saying I don’t agree with many of the NHLPA’s assertions and proposals in this negotiation, but the name calling by frustrated players makes all players appear spoiled, out of touch and childish. I can assure you all players are not.
What current players are right now though is stubborn in their contention that they don’t want to hear from ex-players. They are traitors to the union cause. Maybe just maybe they are very loyal to the union cause and simply want to urge current players to avoid mistakes they have made in the past. 240 players never played again after the last lockout. The loss of a full season meant that 240 players lost their careers.
So far Recchi, Guerin, Hull, Lafleur, York, Therien, Donovan, O’Neill, JR, Mowers, Modano have all made comments which are not considered by current players to be complimentary or supportive of the NHLPA at this stage of negotiations. Chris Phillips specifically believes Mark Recchi’s comments don’t hold water because he is ignorant of the day to day goings on with the NHLPA.
I have not seen any quotes from any of the former players who believe the owners offers are either good or fair but simply contend that common sense dictates that the deal isn’t going to get better the more paycheques current players lose. That is not siding with the owners but rather the common sense that comes from the experience of going through lockouts and the perspective a former player gets after he leaves the bubble pro athletes live in while they are in the midst of their careers.
If I were a player three things would bother me greatly right now. The former players who have been willing to speak publicly have all said basically the same thing. Can they all be wrong? Can they all be turn coats? Secondly as Chris Therien has said, “If I were still playing I’d want to know what Fehr’s Plan B is”. What is Plan B? Just keep saying “NO” until the entire season is lost? Thirdly I would want to know about the true motivation of Donald Fehr. Former Major Leaguer and Blue Jay Greg Zaun when asked about his former MLBPA boss said “He did not come out of retirement to lose”.
For Donald Fehr; is protecting the players, their careers and their incomes the top priority or is it protecting his personal legacy? Players have always tried to insult Bettman by saying he knows nothing about hockey and then the NHLPA hires someone who knows less. There are some who contend the only reason he came out of retirement to work for hockey players is not because of any particular love of hockey or its players, but rather the love of his brother Steve. Some believe when this ends and Donald goes back to retirement, it will play out that Steve will be portrayed as the one who brokered the deal and not Donald. Steve Fehr being the hero for the players means a guaranteed offer to be the permanent Executive Director of the NHLPA when all this is over. Only time will tell if this is true, but if securing a job for his brother is even a part of the motivation for Donald then the players will have been betrayed by their leader again.
Versteeg and White would be very happy to be sure, but I can also see Gary Bettman leaving his post after this is over. Those who defend him point to all the growth for both players and owners during his reign. Those not in Bettmans corner will point to the damage to the game with all the labor strife during his tenure with him as a central figure.
I am in favor of what ever changes need to be made to bring stability to our game. You can only abuse the patience of fans and sponsors for so long before they decide they just don’t want to dance with you anymore.
See you at the rink.