NHL damns hockey

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 12:38 PM ET

As far as insults go, it wasn't much.

But being compared to auto workers by an NHL lawyer was apparently enough of an insult to the NHLPA to help sour last-hour talks to try and save the NHL season.

A league lawyer apparently told the players General Motors doesn't allow its employees to run the business, so why should the NHL allow the players to do so?

NHLPA president Trevor Linden was insulted, pointing out the players are the product in the NHL's case.

I'd argue the game itself is the product, produced by the players with tools provided by the owners.

No player is bigger than the game since hockey has continued on through the coming and going of the likes of Maurice Richard, Gordie Howe, Bobby Orr, Guy Lafleur and Wayne Gretzky.

No owner is bigger than the game (there are something like 24 new owners in the league since the last lockout in 1994, so they come and go, too).

But that brings us to the big problem in this whole mess and that's nobody speaks for "the game."

'HOCKEY'S NOT IMPORTANT'

The owners might claim they do, but they are simply worried about how much money they have lost.

"We want the right deal," said Red Wings senior vice-president Jim Devellano. "The hockey's not important."

That pretty much sums up the NHL's attitude in this whole thing. The game itself can be damned.

It is now pretty evident the NHL owners had no interest in negotiating a fair settlement with the players. The league either wants the players to accept a salary cap or have their union broken.

The players are just as adamant they won't accept a cap.

There is no negotiating here, no willingness to compromise, no move to try something, even for a couple of years, to see if some hybrid system can work.

"The hockey's not important."

There you have it, what the NHL thinks of the game you fans love, the game you have continued to embrace despite the increasingly mundane product it was putting on the ice.

I can't wait to see what the marketing geniuses come up with to get fans back onside once the lockout is over.

chris.stevenson@ott.sunpub.com


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