If I were a member of the search committee charged with finding an executive director for the National Hockey League Players Association, I would be afraid to open my e-mail in-box. Hockey players are blunt and the words attached to messages from, say,
A little harsh, sure, and maybe even a bit of a stretch, but I've never seen the gap so clearly defined between what the NHLPA is and what it used to be.
In the recent ruling by Bloch (an arbitrator the NHLPA thought it had kicked to the curb back in 2005 because of his perceived NHL bias), the league won a decision that seemingly defies legal logic. Bloch declared that
Every protest the NHLPA made simply didn't matter. But Bloch didn't stop there. In ruling against the PA, Bloch went on to hint that the league had every right to disallow the contract and was now investigating others that it had already approved and registered. Hence, the deals of Pronger, Savard, and Luongo -- all of which are set to take effect come October -- as well as the one signed by Hossa more than a year ago are being reviewed with an eye (perhaps) toward canceling them.
And to this the NHLPA, still without an executive director, says only that it is: "disappointed."
Why not just kneel before Commissioner
In fairness to the PA, and especially advisor
If Goodenow were dead, he would no doubt be spinning in his grave. The players have no real voice now and Bettman is taking unfettered advantage of it. And who can blame him? Bettman drew a line in some very shifting sand and won.
This is no knock on Fehr, who has no official powers with the NHLPA beyond advising in a number of fields. He did not represent the PA at the arbitration hearing and though it's not known for certain if he had a hand in selecting its lawyer, even if he did, it would not have been in an official capacity because he has none. That gap has led the PA to this problem:
If Kovalchuk's defeat were the only fallout of the decision, it would be a simple "so what else is new?" for the PA. But the door has now been swung open to include retroactive powers for the commissioner, powers that did not seem to be included in the original CBA that he can now use to not only direct contracts more to his liking in the future, but delve into ones that have already been written, registered and, in some cases, executed.
That's a stunning amount of power and it certainly must strike fear into not only the hearts and wallets of Pronger, Luongo and Savard, but Hossa,
That process, though seldom used, does exist. The Devils used the court system, rather than an arbitrator, to undo the NHL's one-game suspension of then-coach
Sadly for the NHLPA, their trips to court have usually dealt with problems within their own organization (see the
It remains to be seen if Bettman has pushed too hard. Seeing Kovalchuk not get his money while other members have valid contracts reviewed and perhaps canceled, can be a huge motivating factor for the players. But if Bettman reads his cards correctly, he has very little to fear. His most notable adversary -- Goodenow -- was vanquished some five years ago and the PA has yet to put anyone of substance or duration in his place. Might as well get while the getting is good and Bettman has done exactly that.
Even e-mails to the selection committee can't change it.