July 10, 2005
Look in the mirror, fellasStrachan says the players lost their resolve
By AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun
In the years leading up to the National Hockey League lockout, Players' Association executive director Bob Goodenow visited every team at least once a year.
Often, obstacles were thrown in his way. Some player-representatives -- including the one in Toronto --were told that the meeting could not be held in the building. They would have to rent their own facility.
Sometimes, teams imposed schedule changes on the players to interfere with the union's plans.
But nevertheless, every year, with not a single exception, Goodenow met with every team to explain the bargaining strategy and to get the players' input.
So now, when players start to complain -- such as Sean Avery, saying he was brainwashed, and Manny Legace, saying the strategy was flawed -- you have to wonder where these people were when these advisory meetings were taking place.
In the case of most NHL teams, full attendance was the norm. Jaromir Jagr, another who has spoken out publicly against the NHLPA, was one of the few players who didn't bother to attend. Ditto -- in both cases -- for Tie Domi.
But for the most part, the players showed up at the meetings, listened attentively and asked pertinent questions.
With more than 650 players having been at those meetings, it's not too hard to find out what they were told.
It was made clear that there would be negative reactions from within the family. About two missed paycheques into the proceedings, the wives could be expected to start suggesting that they weren't particularly enjoying having their spending curtailed.
It was speculated that at the annual Christmas family get-together, the father would take his son aside and point out that in his day, hockey players didn't make big salaries and that he himself hadn't earned as much in his life as his son could earn in a year.
The players were warned that in such a socialistically inclined country as Canada, the fans were unlikely to evaluate the issues of the lockout. Instead, they would be opposed to the players simply because of envy.
There were no hidden agendas. There were no unrealistic promises.
Again and again, Goodenow made the point to the players: "If you go ahead with this, we can win. But you have to be prepared to sit out for at least one year and probably two."
After Goodenow's meeting with a team, there invariably would be a subsequent meeting, one in which the players discussed the issues among themselves.
There were no pockets of resistance. Nowhere is it recorded that Sean Avery stood up and declared himself brainwashed. Manny Legace, the Detroit player rep, did not suggest an alternative course of action.
But now that the players are going to wind up with less than what they anticipated, some of them are turning on the union leadership.
They would be wiser to look at themselves. They were militant in September, saying that they would stay out a year, or even two, if they had to.
But by December, they were telling anyone who wanted to listen that they just wanted to get back on the ice as soon as possible. They were just hockey players who wanted to play.
This was music to the ears of the owners who have not the slightest interest in hockey and want only to make a significant return upon their investments.
Naturally enough, the owners, who were starting to show a few cracks of their own, stiffened their resolve. It was clear the other side was losing its will to fight.
The players don't need to blame brainwashing or union tactics for the mess in which they now find themselves.
It was their own lack of resolve that did it.