The NHLPA never ceases to amaze me.
It's been 4 seasons since the NHL and it's union (NHLPA) did the un-thinkable and cancelled an entire season which ultimately broke the NHL's player union and gave the NHL its desired cap linked to revenues. With the recent report that the union has fired current Executive Director Paul Kelly it has now gone through two additional Executive Director's since that time.
If you recall, at the time of the lockout it was the confrontational Bob Goodenow who was in charge. Ted Saskin took over for him after the players got ancy for their paychecks and Goodenow was pushed aside -- Saskin went on to negotiate the Collective Bargaining Agreement in which the league currently operates under. After allegations that Saskin read confidential player emails he was ousted and Paul Kelly replaced him.
I'm no expert on unions and am certainly no lawyer so I can only speak to this as an interested fan who closely followed the lockout of 2004... but to quote the great Herb Brooks... this looks like a monkey (explicative) a football right about now.
Some of you are probably saying... this is great and all LTL... but why should we as fans care about what a bunch of overpaid athletes and union executives do within their own union? Just play the damn games and let me watch 61 rip up the league the next 9 years.
Unfortunately that is the problem.
Word from the media is that the union would like to hire a more confrontational leader (i.e. Goodenow-clone) and that Paul Kelly played "too nice" with the NHL.
That means more head butting and less working together. That means the probability of another NHL lockout just sky-rocketed. Especially if the union decides to hire this Buzz Hardgrove character who is the former head of the Canadian Auto Workers.
I read this quote from a Canadian poster on the Globe & Mail and thought it summed up the Buzz situation pretty good:
"Ten years of Buzz and the biggest hockey market in the world will almost certainly be in Europe..."
To me Paul Kelly seemed like a pretty good hire. A guy who recognized the importance of working together with the NHL and picking the right fights. Unfortunately there seem to be way too many personal agendas involved in the NHLPA to ever make that kind of relationship work for the long term.
Now it appears we are headed back to the antiquated fight for every inch of turf philosophy that dominated the Goodenow years and rarely produced anything of significant value for the game or it's markets.
More should come out as to why Kelley was fired and perhaps there are some legit reasons. I can't for the life of me think player's salaries would be a reason. I mean the cap has grown every year but this one (and even this year it went up a tick). Maybe he's the fall guy for the rotten economy and the fact there are a few NHLers (ahem.. Malhotra) still out of work at this stage of the offseason.
It took a while but the league recovered from what many thought was an unrecoverable situation after that cancelled season. More competitive teams, the emergence of Crosby and Ovechkin and rule changes helped fuel the recovery.
With this recent announcement there is a lot of uncertainly but there is one thing I am certain of -- if these clowns are dumb enough to steer this league into another lockout, I think fans are going to jump ship faster than Adam Foote could hop on a jet out of Columbus.
...and this time I don't think there will be a lot of second chances.