'This is going to get ugly'
Marcel Dionne feels the solution to the NHL lockout rests with Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux.
JIM KERNAGHAN -- London Free Press
|Marcel Dionne during his playing days with the Los Angeles Kings. (Bruce Bennett Studios)
Marcel Dionne feels a resolution to the current NHL lockout rests with two uniquely positioned people. The Hall of Famer who carried the Los Angeles Kings on his shoulders for much of his 18-year career was showing a sports hack how golf should be played in the Subway Cardiac Fitness Institute annual tournament at Forest City National last week.
Talk naturally swung to the dispute -- and potential remedies.
"Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky could do it," Dionne said. "They have to stand up. Otherwise, it's going to get ugly. They know what's going on. They're players who have become owners and the rest of the owners will listen."
The fireplug scoring machine's 731 goals ranks him fourth behind Gretzky, Gordie Howe and Brett Hull to make him the most dominant player never to get his hands on the Stanley Cup.
The Buffalo resident keeps casual tabs on the game from afar now, immersed as he is in enterprises including event management, new home construction and memorabilia.
Dionne, whose largest contract before his retirement in 1989 called for $800,000 annually, would have earned at least 10 times that a decade later, but he doesn't begrudge the superstars their enormous salaries. It's the big-buck guys well down the talent ladder that bother him.
But it's a monster that is the owners' creation, he said.
Mainly, Dionne doesn't look back. After a career that started with the Detroit Red Wings and wound up with the New York Rangers, it was nothing physical that took him out of the game.
"I was getting tired of it all; I'd had enough," he said.
He's having too much fun to spend much time looking back on a career that shone so brilliantly yet so far out of the limelight on the West Coast. He loves to participate in golf days such as the one last Friday, even touring a course with a bad golfer in his cart.
And he really loves it when some money is raised. The Cardiac Fitness Institute, which started with six patients 22 years ago, now has more than 2,000. The tournament grossed $100,000 for the fourth straight year.
"This is what it's all about," Dionne said of his second appearance in the tournament. "You have to love it."
The man who once held the nickname Little Beaver for his faint resemblance to a wrestler of the same name has seen his business career develop from hockey roots. Always the target for memorabilia-seekers, he was running out of stuff.
His daughter suggested he get into providing other items for golf tournaments and the like. That led to sport marketing and event management that grew to include more than 80 events the past year from New York to Vancouver.
His construction operation is involved in 30 of 160 homes in a Niagara Falls development.
On top of this, Marcel Dionne Enterprises Ltd. has plenty of other irons in the fire. There's the collector's item stamp with Canada Post; there's a biography that he's working on with Ted Mahovlich, son of Hall of Famer Frank Mahovlich -- "not about controversy, just great hockey stories" -- various Hockey Hall of Fame projects and work with Subway and Rogers Cable.
Around it all, he squeezes in some golf. A lot of golf. Towering drives from a short backswing -- "hey, it comes from the slapshot" -- and a precision short game are exceptional.
Still, hockey remains part of him. That part doesn't like what's going on.
"There are guys involved who should be a little more humble," he says. "They've known this was coming for the past two years. This is going to get ugly. There's going to be dirty laundry. The game is going to lose fans and it's not going to be like baseball's stoppage.
"Hockey is going to lose a lot of fans forever. It's time for Mario and Wayne to stand up and be counted. They can take the heat."