Monday, March 14, 2005

 

Q & A with a Locked Out Player

A regular contributor of mine recently sat down with a locked out player who wished to remain anonymous, as does my contact...but it was a great interview. Thanks to both of them for their convictions..
Q&A with a Locked Out Hockey Player

Q - Who really runs the NHLPA?
Player - First off, let me tell you Trevor Linden is a great person,hard worker, and has tried to do the right thing for everyone but Bob Goodenow is the captain.Look, losing a complete season erased another year for me going for a Cup. I don't care about the money, making the minimum was enough for me when I was a rookie and before retirement, I need to win a Cup, that's why I played this game. Bob has to do a better job and a few of the elite players with big egos need to quit the selfish game.

Q - Will you cross the line if the NHL declares an impasse and will award the Stanley Cup?
Player - I'll think about it with my wife, family, a few close friends, and my agent.

Q - How about right now, if you had to decide?
Player - Yes, I would. Too many younger players would cross, guys in AHL, ECHL and Europe would come over. You know how bad it was for the NHLPA to send players into these leagues taking jobs, you know what they say about payback. Call me selfish, I saved my money right and I didn't work all my life to lose another year for the Cup because of the egos on both sides.

Q - What do you think about the behind the scenes lies by the PA that embarrassed Gretzky and Lemieux?
A - Guys knew Bob would go at any length to get us a good deal but no one thought he would go that low. You can understand why players in Phoenix and Pittsburgh are pretty pissed off with Bob.

Q - You are pretty critical of Goodenow and your union teammates, what about Bettman and the owners?
A - Hey, I'm a hockey player but I'm not stupid. Since Gary came, we've expanded, grown revenues, and had how many teams filed for bankruptcy. I understand the CBA wasn't completely even but these guys are supposed to be businessmen, don't know they know what a budget is. Many players are angry with Gary because of the product on the ice, when I came into the league, it wasn't a big deal if the score was 5-4, now we're lucky to get 2 goals.

Q - What do you think about the NHL's revenue-sharing plan?
A - If the owners had guaranteed meaningful revenue-sharing around $200 million, I wouldn't be talking with you right now, I would be out on the ice playing the sport I love. These owners and Gary talk about a partnership, well prove it then. These owners in New York, Detroit, Toronto, and Philadelphia have no interest in being a partner with the other owners. These guys don't have a single clue about a true partnership if they can't share $200 million of a $2 billion pie.

Q - Is Donald Fehr advising Bob and the NHLPA?
A - I don't want to get into specifics but I could give a flying you know what about their empty support!

Q - Do you think Fehr is trying to help because if you guys accept a cap, it puts pressure on baseball to do the same?
A - That's exactly why, they only care about themselves and I wish they would stay out of our business, it can only hinder our chances of getting a deal. Maybe they should worry about the ability of only a few players to win a championship, talk about a terrible system for a player to reach his dream.

Q - Considering the revenues of the sport, should any player really make more than $6 million?
A - I don't think you can cap individual salaries because some players like Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky were worth millions to opposing teams ticket sales. That's why I think revenue-sharing should be higher than the NHL's offer, you know how many cities benefit from having a great player like Mario show up at their arena to a packed house.

Q - But right now, does anyone deserve to be paid above $6 million?
A - Truthfully, no one right now. Maybe this Crosby kid in a few years but right now, no one generates the interest like Mario and Wayne did, and that's sad.

Q - Who is at fault for that?
A - Some of it is the NHL's for the product on the ice and how bad they market us and the game. Some of it is the coaches and GMs refusing to allow us to play like we can, and truthfully some of it is us. When Mario was speaking up calling it a Garage League, not a single player was willing to back him up. That's why we need a say in how the game will change on and off the ice.

Q - What changes would you make?
A - If Brodeur can play with small equipment and still be a great goalie, then why allow a guy like Garth Snow to look like a football player in pads, so yeah, reduce the equipment. I like some of the other things I've heard like tag-up, 2-line pass, moving the nets, widening the blue lines, maybe restricting the goalie movement, and I really like the idea of penalizing a team for icing the puck. I think a no-line change penalty would be great, it would stop teams from just icing the puck and losing free play on the penalty-kill would really restrict the defense.

Q - What about the shootout?
A - I know fans love it and we have to do it to bring them back but is that really hockey. I guess I can live with it as long as it isn't happening every night. I won't mind having another goal category to pad my stats.

Q - Finally, what do you want to say to the fans?
A - I'm sorry, many of us don't want to be here but the NHL refuses to negotiate a true partnership with themselves or us. I think within the next few months, we'll know the direction of the NHL and we'll be forced to make some tough decision as a union and as individuals at the picket line. I just hope and pray once this comes to an end, our sport will be better for it and we can entertain again.
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Also as best I can tell, the next rounds of talks are scheduled for Wednesday in NY.



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