Jimmy Devellano’s comments were branded inappropriate and the Detroit Red Wings were forced to pay.
After the Detroit senior VP called the players “cattle” in a published report Friday, the NHL head office struck back Saturday and forced Wings’ owner Mike Ilitch to dig into his jeans to stroke a cheque for a reported $250,000 fine.
Yup, that kind of coin could buy a lot of steak.
Devellano and the Wings found out the hard way you better heed the orders to keep your mouth shut during the third lockout of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman’s career or you’re going to get more than a slap on the wrist.
So, what caused the kerfuffle?
“The owners can basically be viewed as the ranch, and the players, and me included, are the cattle,” Devellano, 69, told the Island Sports News.
“The owners own the ranch and allow the players to eat there. That’s the way it’s always been, and that(’s) the way it will be forever. And the owners simply aren’t going to let a union push them around. It’s not going to happen.”
The players weren’t exactly thrilled with being labelled as “cattle” by Devellano, but they weren’t totally shocked either as San Jose winger Martin Havlat told QMI Agency in a text message Saturday afternoon.
“The comments made by Devellano are nothing new,” said Havlat. “The players know that’s how Bettman and some of the owners think, we’re not shocked at being called ‘cattle’.
“I can tell you the players have been called a lot worse by some of the guys on the other side, it’s just never been reported publicly. I think it helps that the fans get to hear what we already know, we’re not humans in their eyes, we’re just pieces of meat that get to eat some grass for awhile.”
Now, that’s harsh.
Logan Couture, Havlat’s Sharks teammate, who arrived in Switzerland to play during the lockout, was taken aback on Twitter.
“Just read the article about a Red Wings exec calling the players ‘cattle’ at the owners ranch. Wow,” wrote Couture Saturday.
That prompted Toronto’s James van Riemsdyk to respond.
“I thought we were in the 21st century?,” he tweeted.
Devellano didn’t help matters by adding that offer sheets like the 14-year, $110 million deal the Philadelphia Flyers made to Shea Weber last summer are inappropriate behaviour.
“There is a hard cap in place as we all know. You can’t go over that .... period,” said Devellano. “If Weber gets this much, then another player gets less. Now does that mean it’s right for another team to do that? My answer is this: They (the Flyers) operated within the CBA and it’s totally legit to do. Having said that, I will tell you there is an unwritten rule that you don’t do that, but they did, and just like everything else in life, some people are great to deal with, some aren’t.”
That was enough for the league to decide they’d heard enough.
“The Detroit Red Wings’ organization and the league agree the comments made by Mr. Devellano are neither appropriate, nor authorized, nor permissible under the league’s by-laws,” said NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly. “Such comments are neither constructive nor helpful to the negotiations.”
The lockout is only a week old. There are going to be more incidents like this and there are going to be more owners forced to shell out money from their pocketbooks because it’s going to be difficult for Bettman to control everybody.
What should concern Bettman is he had to fine a board of governor who actually supports this fight. Wait until somebody who doesn’t agree with this lockout one bit - and there are some stewing in ownership circles - speaks out.
Bettman better hope money talks and this fine sends a strong message to shut up.