Lackin' class

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 6:55 AM ET

Amid the rubble from yesterday's tumultuous news hinting the final buzzer may never sound to end the NHL labour stoppage comes this bodycheck to middle-class hockey fans everywhere: Luke Richardson is applying for a job.

The 17-year NHL veteran is, of course, financially set for life and has no intention of finding real work.

He also is understandably bitter, entering this season expecting to earn $2.75 million US, much more than most people make in a lifetime.

The Ottawa native was apparently trying to make a point in light of his disappointment the NHL season likely is over, barring him from cashing his lottery ticket that passes as a Columbus Blue Jackets paycheque.

Not only does Richardson's verbal slapshot miss the net, he's fired this one up over the glass and into the crowd.

"If the season gets cancelled, I'm going to start sending out job applications because hockey is done and they're going to have to abolish the league," Richardson said.

"If they think they're going to crush the union, they're sadly mistaken."

Richardson's odd statement, an apparent show of solidarity for his NHLPA brethren, underlines a bitter irony for everyone involved.

The players have lost touch with the people who pay their salaries.

If Richardson wants to join the ranks of the working- class public who pay his salary, let him. It would be a shock to any millionaire who's apparently forgotten how most people struggle to make ends meet, squirreling away extra cash to occasionally treat themselves to life's luxuries -- like NHL tickets.

His oversight is why the players are losing miserably in the public-relations war between the league and the union. In fact, although many hockey fans are vexed to think the NHL season might never start, many are so busy following other local hockey teams (including busying themselves with minor hockey in their own communities), the NHL labour scuffle is becoming an afterthought.

Wake us up when it's over.

As for Richardson, assuming the millionaire defenceman isn't qualified to earn a similar salary working as a brain surgeon, he's more likely to land something steady flipping burgers or driving a cab.

Both occupations are fuelled by employees who survive under their own meagre salary cap, investing their wages in the mortgage or Christmas presents instead of pricey NHL seats.

Richardson's suggestion that without pro hockey, he'll be thrown into the streets to look for work with the rest of the working-class stiffs is an insult not only to NHL fans but sane individuals everywhere.

That he wants to squeeze every nickel out of his NHL career is understandable but applying for work in the real world would provide a startling wakeup call.

Most hockey fans already view the players as spoiled beneficiaries of a sports world spiralling out of control with astronomical salaries and equally high ticket prices, while the owners have incurred all the risks investing in franchises.

That the NHL owners need to police their own spending by introducing an idiot-proof salary cap to the new collective bargaining agreement is disappointing but hardly cause to wipe out the season or, worse yet, implode the league.

If an equitable salary cap is the only way to revive the league and put players like Richardson back to work on the ice, the NHLPA should capitulate now to what they might be forced to accept after losing untold millions in salary during the lockout.

The NHLPA's Bob Goodenow said yesterday NHL commissioner Gary Bettman "knows full well a salary cap is a non-starter for this organization," leaving hockey in limbo for the foreseeable future.

Let's hope Richardson can find work this winter.


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