"... And The Players Are The Cattle."


While NHL players have been free to talk and comment about current NHL/NHLPA negotiations, the owners have been silenced by a strict gag order imposed by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

Detroit Red Wings Senior VP, Jim Devellano (AP Photo), recently violated that order (for which he received a $250,000 fine) in an interview with Island Sports News (full text here) during which he is quoted as saying;

“The owners can basically be viewed as the Ranch, and the players, and me included, are the cattle. The owners own the Ranch and allow the players to eat there. That's the way its 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."

(To complete the metaphor it should be noted that the owners milk the players until they are dry, selling the milk and marketing the product to huge financial gain.)

Offensive to some, it should come as no surprise, as it reflects ownerships’ attitude toward the players’ since the Rangers played their first season at Madison Square Garden in 1926.

At that time the Garden was one of the few heated arenas in the league, and players complained that the slow ice not only affected the quality of play, it was also dangerous.

In response to the players’ concern Rangers owner ‘Tex’ Rickard insisted the heat stay on, his reason?  “The public was everything and the performers nothing.” (Dick Gibson, 12/17/26. “Tips & Tales, Border City Star, p.2.)

George Lewis ‘Tex’ Rickard was a colorful product of the late 19th century. A cattle rancher, gold miner and gambler, he was one of the original six.

Eighty-six years later, todays’ 30 owners are gambling the future of the NHL with the same “the performers are nothing” attitude in a game of Texas Hold-Em where ‘the public’, revered by Rickard, are certain to be the losers. There will be many victims before this situation is resolved.

One such victim, Islanders’ prospect Brenden Kichton, was featured in my post from last month, while SI.Coms’ writer Allan Muir’s excellent offering from this morning describes the effect on other players including Isles prospect Ryan Strome.

The cards the owners are playing for are the debit and credit cards that fans bring to the arenas every night and the malls and team stores every day. The owners need to realize that there are other markets available to the fans.

It is time the owners realize that it is the contented cow that gives the best milk.

It is time that both sides stop posturing for public approval, sit down and negotiate an agreement.

The revenue pie is large enough to be divided to both sides satisfaction if they would both just sit and talk.

Perhaps Yogi Berra said it best at an Italian restaurant when he was asked how many slices should be cut in his pizza and replied, “You better make it four I don’t think I could eat eight.” 


-Mike Flannery

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