National Hockey League
Thursday, March 03, 2005
CBC is carrying a story about Brendan Shanahan having no problem with minor leaguers possibly becoming replacements.
“I think it’s a two-way street and if we can go down and play in some of their leagues then they can certainly come up and be replacement players in the NHL”
“But you know what I would say to a young guy who’s playing in the East Coast or United Hockey League who has an invitation to play for the Toronto Maple Leafs? Go for it. Good luck.”
“I wouldn’t blame a guy being a career minor leaguer getting an opportunity playing in the big leagues, I would be a little resentful towards an NHL player that went across the lines.”
He added that he doesn’t think replacements are the best direction for the league to take (no surprise there), but his statements will no doubt shock the groups of people that have been anything but logical over the past few months.
The logic, of course, being - we take your job, you can take ours. It’s going to be very hard for these minor leaguers to be called “scabs” after so many NHLers have taken jobs away from other guys.
I can’t wait for the first minor leaguer to say “I just want to keep in game shape”, with a huge smile on his face.
Wednesday, March 02, 2005
It probably doesn’t need to be said, but the NHLPA meeting that was held yesterday in Toronto was not as hunky-dory as they made it out to be.
Word is Tie Domi stood up and wanted to know why they weren’t playing now. Domi, who was once a big “never under a cap” guy, wanted to know why a deal wasn’t made a couple of weeks ago and obviously wasn’t too happy about not playing right now.
NHLPA executive board member Bill Guerin was the one to tell Domi to sit down (and basically shut up). Domi asked Guerin if he wanted to “settle it”, but that wasn’t on the NHLPA agenda.
If you’re curious - Domi and Guerin have never dropped the gloves - yet.
Tuesday, March 01, 2005
Rich Chere of the Star-Ledger confirms what many in hockey are assuming. If the NHL turns to replacement players, many minor leaguers will have no problem showing up.
“I’m under contract to Philadelphia. If the Flyers tell me to play, I’d play,” said Josh Gratton, a center for the ECHL Trenton Titans and the cousin of NHLer Chris Gratton. “If it’s as a replacement player, no problem. My goal is to play in the NHL.”
Doesn’t get any more clear-cut than that. Gratton, who’s picked up 189 PIMs in 35 games this year for the AHL’s Philadelphia Phantoms, expects to fight one way or another when he gets to the league.
“I think I would be a replacement. A lot of guys would do it if the opportunity presented itself,” said Scott Bertoli, a left winger with the ECHL Titans. “Nothing against the NHL players, but a lot of guys have played in this league a long time and are never going to get a chance to play in those (NHL) buildings.
“And not just minor-leaguers. I’m sure a lot of third and fourth-line guys in the NHL would cross a picket line right now if given a chance.”
The end of Bertoli’s quote is still where the real mystery is. The NHL would most likely not have too hard a time finding players to fill rosters for teams, but will any of those players be NHL players?
It seems more and more the consensus is - yes, they would be, and that simply opening up the doors again could be the union-breaker. Imagine that, just saying “come back” and a handful show up, then more, then some more and so on. Or if the NHL were to say something along the lines of “first five back get their old contracts honored”? I’m sure the NHL has some not-so-blatantly-obvious incentives they’ll offer as well, and I’m sure that if a deal isn’t done by September we’re going to see a few of them.
Rick Westhead of the Toronto Star writes a column reminding everyone how former NHL players take in paltry pensions in comparisons to other sports.
Sipping on a scotch or beer in the clubhouse after one of his appearances in former Los Angeles Dodger Don Drysdale’s annual golf tourney, [Yogi] Berra must have loved to share with [Andy] Bathgate the details of his $120,000 (all figures U.S.) annual pension.
“He joked he didn’t even have to pay into it,” Bathgate said.
The former hockey star, meantime, must have felt like shuffling his feet when he revealed his annual stipend totals just $8,480.
Perhaps if the NHLPA was still fighting for guys like Bathgate, who played in over 1000 NHL games, and probably never made today’s average yearly salary throughout his entire career, they’d have the support of more fans. And perhaps, just perhaps, the NHLPA could make pensions more of an issue. Try and get some of today’s money for yesterday’s players - even if it means taking some money from both the league and the players (ok, ok, let’s just call it what it is - your money).
“When you’re still playing, you’ve got blinders on,” said former New York Islanders captain Pat Flatley, who has been involved in efforts to enrich the pension plan. “You tend not to look beyond your own career. I don’t think many active players are aware of the plight of some of the retired guys.”
If today’s players are always fighting for themselves and the players of tomorrow, why can’t today’s players fight some for the players of yesteryear as well? Someone should, and the first one to do so will be the first NHL winner I’ve seen in a long time.
Monday, February 28, 2005
NHL players signing with minor league teams during the lockout is nothing new. Depending on the player and his experience he’s sometimes welcomed with open arms, and in some cases a turn of the back. It’s no secret that well-experienced NHL players don’t always have minor league teammates that are happy to see them. There’s a chance that player is taking away a minor leaguer’s job, and no matter how you feel about it, there are quite a few in the minors who aren’t thrilled about the practice.
So forget about teammates and fans - Mark Eaton, Nashville Predators defenseman, found a way to irk his NHL general manager and the team staff. Eaton signed a contract with the American Hockey League’s Grand Rapids Griffins, the Detroit Red Wings’ top minor-league affiliate.
“It’s very disappointing to both myself and the Nashville Predators that Mark Eaton never called anyone in the organization to let us know where he was going or why,” Poile said yesterday. “I’m definitely very upset. Will this affect our relationship with Mark Eaton going forward? You’re (darn) right it will.”
Apparently the Preds wanted Eaton to play with some of his Nashville teammates in Milwaukee, Nashville’s AHL affiliate, but they wanted to wait until the season was officially cancelled. However, on the day the NHL declared game over, Eaton signed with Grand Rapids. Eaton’s agent, Stephen Bartlett, said it was miscommunication.
To top it off, Eaton scored the game-winning goal in Grand Rapids’ 4-2 win over Milwaukee Friday night.
More from The Tennessean:
Poile said it’s too early to determine whether the events of the last couple of weeks will determine whether or not Eaton plays again for the Predators.
“But obviously I don’t understand why a player wouldn’t pick up the phone and call us,’’ Poile said. ‘‘That doesn’t tell me much.”
Quite a situation.
On the topic of Mark Eaton: his birthplace is listed as Wilmington, DE. Have there been any other NHLers from Delaware?
Dave Andreychuk, captain of the Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning had no problems making a prediction:
Lightning captain Dave Andreychuk predicts the NHL will return in September and when it does, he will be there.
When a reporter asked, “Can we quote you on that?” Andreychuk smiled and said, “Yep.”
Andreychuk, who’s 41-years old, said he’ll be there for his 23rd season. I hope he’s right, and it’s great to hear someone who speaks with optimism.
Disclaimer: do not hold your breath. Thank you.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the Thrashers were able to avoid laying off any staff, but have decreased work hours and salaries of some:
[Team president Bernie] Mullin said the reductions affect employees in the hockey operations department, including some scouts, coaches and trainers.
“A very small number” of people are affected, Mullin said, but he would not be more specific and would not disclose the percentage by which their work weeks and salaries are being cut.
Previously, the Thrashers reduced the salaries of employees whose contracts specifically stipulated pay cuts in the event of a work stoppage.
Interesting that some employees had contracts with work stoppage clauses worked into them. It’s not that a lot of teams didn’t plan for the possible lockout (or a possible strike), but this is the first I’ve heard of such a clause in a team’s employee contracts.
Sunday, February 27, 2005
Continuing to look back on The Weekend of False Revival, Mario Lemieux spoke with the Pittsburgh Post Gazette about the players’ invitation, no deal being offered and wondering about motives.
As I’ve mentioned before: skates on or not, Mario Lemieux is an owner now and he makes no bones about it. He criticizes the players the most someone in his position can, and continues to praise Gary Bettman and Bill Daly.
Despite the non-dealings, Lemieux wants to get a new CBA done asap:
“I think a deal has to be reached in a couple of months,” Lemieux said. “After that, you start losing sponsorships. People start spending money elsewhere. Season-ticket [holders], as well. People find other things to do.”
Friday, February 25, 2005
The move comes after rumors of the NHL possibly buying the team from Disney until another buyer could be found. Obviously that came sooner than expected. It’s no secret there are a couple of other potential owners out there, but most want to wait until the dust has settled from the lockout to see what sort of agreement the league will have with the players union.
The final sale price is currently unknown, but the article does state this:
Disney paid $50 million for the Ducks to join the NHL as an expansion franchise in 1992. Samueli’s initial offer reportedly was in the $50 million to $60 million range.
The Samuelis have stated they want to keep the team in Anaheim (unlike Howard Baldwin, who is rumored to want to move a team to Kansas City). I do hope they rethink the name and logo though.
Mike Danton, who was sentenced to 7½ years in prison for trying to have his agent killed, is somewhat back in the news.
David Frost, Danton’s agent, is suing Steve Jefferson, Danton’s father (Danton changed his name), for defamation.
Jefferson didn’t comment further about the suit. He made the announcement on Leafs Lunch on 640 Toronto.