Sidney Crosby and NHLPA's Donald Fehr go way back
Pittsburgh Penguins hockey player Sidney Crosby watches as Donald Fehr, executive director of the National Hockey League Players Association, speaks at a news conference in New York September 13, 2012. The National Hockey League (NHL) remained on the brink of its third lockout in 18 years as the union representing its players turned down a take-it-or-leave-it offer on a new collective bargaining agreement on Thursday. (REUTERS/Eric Thayer)
Sidney Crosby's professional respect for NHLPA head Donald Fehr dates back at least two years.
During a one-on-one interview in Pittsburgh with the Toronto Sun back in the fall of 2010, Sid The Kid admitted being impressed with the then-incoming union head.
At that time, Fehr had just finished addressing the Penguins as part of his tour of all 30 National Hockey League teams. It was a visit that left an imprint on Crosby.
"He's really educated and on top of things, which is good to see," Crosby said back then. "In fact, everyone seems to like the direction things are going right now."
Twenty-two months later, a third lockout under the Gary Bettman regime has unfortunately come to pass. Through it all, Crosby's support for Fehr and the union has been unwavering, with No. 87 often front and centre at Fehr's press conferences.
As astutely pointed out by esteemed QMI colleague Chris Stevenson the other day, Crosby's public backing for union leadership is key. To have the face of the sport in your corner like that is an indication to both the public and the owners of just how unified the players are.
Or, in this case, how much they want to play.
Unlike previous work stoppages, the owners seem to be painted as the villains this time around, at least in the public eye. When Crosby comes out and states that the players just want to play, many fans want to know why the league is not allowing them to do just that.
Meanwhile, the owners continue to shell out money in the weeks, days, even hours before the former CBA ran out at midnight Saturday. According to QMI estimates, teams shelled out about $104 million in contracts on Friday alone, less than 24 hours before the lockout was to officially kick in.
Such free spending caused respected player agent Allan Walsh to fire off the following sarcastic tweet on Friday evening.
"Boy, this CBA must sure suck for all these NHL teams spending $106M today to get their own players signed just under the wire," Walsh tweeted, tongue planted firmly in cheek.
Judging by public sentiment, it seems the owners/league are getting very little love in this affair.
"Calling Gary Bettman!!!! I'd like to officially get involved in negotiations to help avoid a work stoppage!!!!!Let the boys skate!!!" tweeted actor Kevin Connolly, a huge Islanders fan who played Eric in the hit HBO series "Entourage."
Some critics were far more blunt in their slagging of the NHL.
During ESPN's hit show "Pardon The Interruption," guest co-host Bill Simmons, a fiercely loyal Boston sports fan, was asked about the impending NHL lockout.
"Dumbest league going," Simmons replied.
Except, right now, the league ISN'T going, Bill.
That's the problem.
Just ask Sidney Crosby.
A Tale of Two Leaders
Both NHLPA head Donald Fehr and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman are no strangers to work stoppages. This is the third such interruption under the Bettman regime, while Fehr endured his share during his time as head of the major league baseball players' union.
Here's a brief look:
Donald Fehr (Major League Baseball)
1985 - player strike; 2 days
1990 - owner lockout in spring training, 32 days
1994-1995 ¬ player strike ends season on August 12th; postseason is
cancelled; no World Series; 1995 season is also shortened to 144 games; 232 days.
Of Note: Baseball has now gone 17 years with virtual labour peace, which
many associated with the sport claim Fehr deserves partial credit for. He
was also instrumental in helping to forge baseball's drug policy in 2002.
Gary Bettman (National Hockey League)
1994-95 - lockout; 104 days; season shortened from 84 to 48 games.
2004-05 - lockout; entire season cancelled; Stanley Cup not awarded.
Of Note: It is estimated the league revenues have grown from $400 million when he first took over, to well over $3 billion today. The debate is centered on how to slice up the revenue pie. The fact that this is the third lockout in 18 years under the Bettman regime should be alarming.
With all the millions of dollars in player salaries being thrown around by
various teams leading up to the lockout, how bad off can the owners really be under the existing CBA?
Consider the list of top salaries NHLers are slated to earn for the 2012-13 season (provided, of course, there is a season). Leading the pack is
Nashville defenceman Shea Weber who, after watching the Predators match the offer sheet for Weber that initially was forwarded by the Philadelphia Flyers, is slated to earn $14 million this season.
Keep in mind that these numbers are actual salaries for the 12-13 season and not the individual cap hits their respective teams would absorb.
1. D Shea Weber, Nashville Predators - $14 million (14 years)
T2. F Brad Richards, New York Rangers - $12 million (9 years)
T2. D Tyler Myers, Buffalo Sabres - $12 million (7 years)
T2. F Zach Parise, Minnesota Wild - $12 million (13 years)
T2. D Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild - $12 million (13 years)
6. F Ilya Kovalchuk, New Jersey Devils - $11 million (15 years)
7. F Vincent Lecavalier, Tampa Bay Lightning - $10 million (11 years)
T8. F Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins - $9 million (Five years)
T8. F Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals - $9 million (13 years)
10. F Eric Staal, Carolina Hurricanes - $8.5 million (7 years)
- Source: CapGeek