SUN Hockey Pool

A fine line for agents

GEORGE GROSS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:06 AM ET

The dictionary describes an agent as one who acts for, or in the place of, a third party by authority from the third party. Sometimes an agent is described as an emissary. In the players-owners hockey dispute, which has been brewing for about five years, the key individuals are NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Bob Goodenow.

Bettman represents the 30 club owners who have lost a considerable amount of money, most of it through their own stupidity. They are paying exorbitant annual salaries such as $12 million US to Jaromir Jagr, $10 million to Alexei Yashin and $9 million to Bobby Holik, just to name a few. Compare these salaries to a heart surgeon's income. These doctors save perhaps more than 100 lives a year and usually earn no more than $500,000.

The players, obviously, have already lost half of their stipends by staying locked out, even as January nears its end. That's why more than 350 NHL players, who are receiving $10,000 a month from the NHLPA, have been seeking and obtaining jobs in various European countries.

Which brings us to the agents. All of them are losing money because of the lockout, and some of them are losing big money. Yet, they are staying out of the limelight in this dispute. Is it because it officially is not their battle? Is it for concern over possibly being decertified for taking a position favourable to the owners, or creating acrimony with the club GMs for taking a position favourable to the players?

Trevor Linden, the president of the players' executive committee, and thereby Goodenow's boss, was unable to sway the thinking of NHL vice-president Bill Daly and his group at this past week's meetings in Chicago and Toronto.

Most of the NHL player agents have not done anything openly to help settle the hockey dilemma. However, some are working behind the scenes through their player/clients and some newsmen sympathetic to their cause. The agents, while representing the players, must also be careful not to alienate the club GMs with whom they must negotiate in the future.

For instance, one wealthy agent chartered an airplane a couple of years ago and flew a large number of his closest friends to Ireland for a golf outing. Included in the entourage were some newsmen, NHL general managers and coaches.

The behind-the-scenes work by the agents will not save the hockey season. The greater concern for the agents will be who will they be emissaries for and towards which entity will they act?

You see, when pro hockey does return to North American rinks, neither the NHL nor the NHLPA may exist as currently constituted.

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Moscow's 2012 Olympic bid officials have been marshalling the support of famous Russian athletes, including 2004 Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova, 17, who will function as a special ambassador for the bid. Other candidate cities for 2012 include London, Paris, Madrid and New York. The winning bid will be announced at the next IOC session in Singapore on July 6 ... Paul Henderson, former IOC member and president of the International Sailing Federation, considers himself the unofficial protector of Canadian amateur athletes. The other day, he sent an open letter to part-time sports minister Stephen Owen in which, among other things, Henderson wrote: "Mr. Minister, with all due respect, Canada is a Third World country when it comes to sport. Stop jumping on every bandwagon that ingratiates Canada to the world. Canadian taxpayers' dollars should be spent on Canadians." That was Henderson's retort to Owen's statement during the Athens Olympics in which the minister said something to the effect of: "I have found many ways for Canada to give money to Third World countries to promote sport there." Yeah, and that's why Montreal lost the world swimming championships, despite the fact that Prime Minister Paul Martin played water polo at the U of T and IOC member Dick Pound represented Canada at the 1960 Olympics in Rome as a swimmer.


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