Ray is ready to cross the thin blue line
If NHL decides to go to replacement players, longtime enforcer will be there
By BRUCE GARRIOCH, Ottawa Sun
Ottawa Senators' Rob Ray. (Bruce Bennett Studios)
Rob Ray says he and current NHLers are ready to return as replacement players if that's what it comes to. In a wide-ranging interview, the longtime enforcer told the Sun from his Buffalo home yesterday that he'd "have to get in shape" to play in the NHL because he wouldn't be the first player to give up the fight and go back to work.
"I'd cross the line in a second. Why wouldn't I? The only thing is I wouldn't be the first one," said Ray, a 15-year NHL veteran who spent the end of the past two seasons with the Senators. "I know about 10 guys who would be ahead of me and these guys are 10 current NHL players. Everybody just wants to get back to playing."
While Ray doesn't support a salary cap to settle the current lockout, he'd like to see more members of the NHL Players' Association step up and challenge executive director Bob Goodenow to go back to the bargaining table with commissioner Gary Bettman.
"It's good to see these guys like (Mike Commodore and Pierre Dagenais) standing up and saying something because it shows they care and they want to know what's happening. They're saying something because they know they won't win from this," said Ray.
"The thing people have to realize is the people in the players' association office are going to be there a long time after these players are gone. The players who are in the league now only have a short window of opportunity to make their money and by not playing, they're losing a lot."
Ray, who had his share of run-ins with Goodenow during his career, said it's the little guy -- the third and fourth liners and the fifth and sixth defencemen -- who are paying the biggest price in this dispute.
"I went through this whole thing in 1994 when I was making $300,000 (all terms US). They got a deal done and I thought I was going to cash in big time. Well, I went from making $300,000 to $350,000. Big deal," said Ray.
ROLE PLAYERS 'SCREWED'
"Really, it's the role players on the team who are going to get screwed in all of this. Guys like Daniel Alfredsson and Zdeno Chara are going to get their money. Players like Chris Neil and Shaun Van Allen are going to get (bleeped). They don't stand to gain anything from this.
"They said in the last lockout that a bunch of guys never played again and lost their jobs. Well, I would be willing to bet if this thing goes the whole year, then it's going to be double that number."
Ray said he asked Goodenow about contraction during an NHLPA meeting in San Diego in the summer of 2003.
"He told me it would never happen because people are lining up to buy teams. I told him I'd just played for two teams -- Buffalo and Ottawa -- that had just gone bankrupt.
"(Goodenow) told me that if somebody hadn't bought those teams then maybe somebody in Houston would," said Ray. "(Goodenow) doesn't like to be challenged. Then, other guys in the union office started jumping into it. They were all over me. I was just looking for answers.
"The players have to realize they have to ask questions because Bob Goodenow works for them. Bob's done a great job for the union and he deserves credit for what he's gotten those players.
"(But) those players can't be afraid to ask the tough questions. I've gotten e-mails from players asking me what they should be asking when they go to that meeting (Tuesday) in Toronto."
Ray doesn't believe the players should just surrender, either.
"There has to be some kind of ceiling, but I don't think that has to be a salary cap," he said. "Why can't the owners talk about revenue sharing? You never hear them mention that. There are things that can be done, but the two sides have to negotiate. Not talking doesn't help anyone."