The Hollow Men behind the NHLPA coup

Ryan Lambert
September 04 2009 02:12PM

dr-strangelove1

Obviously the turmoil within the Players Association is going to cause a lot of trouble down the road. A lot. A real damn lot. And while it's understandable that most hockey fans are sitting at their computers reading the latest developments with a growing sense of dread that the current CBA will run out and the players will go on strike and effectively kill the league at best, and the sport at worst.

At least we're getting a hell of a show before the league goes all Manhattan Project.

Lost, I think, in the shuffle of every horrifying twist and turn this story has taken since Sunday, is just how entertaining and petty this whole thing seems to be. It's like a Seurat painting; if you stand up close and look at every detail real hard, you're not going to "get it," but take a couple steps back and hey look, it's a bunch of people on La Grande Jatte having a grand old time.

What seems to really be at play here is that Paul Kelly ordered an audit of the PA's expenses and that, in turn, found something not-so-good.

According to sources, part of this group’s desire to get rid of Kelly also stemmed from Kelly ordering an internal audit (by a top former FBI forensic accountant) of the players' association's expenses during the previous three years before he took over. Sources claim that through the audit, Kelly discovered that then-interim leaders Penny and Lindros were spending millions of dollars of the union’s money. Lindros ended up resigning, but word is, that move fueled this attack on Kelly, and Lindros was very much involved.

That, in turn, led to the one detail that I found to be maybe the funniest and most childish thing ever done by one adult male to another. Wetcoaster, a well-connected HFBoards poster, revealed this detail:

I am told that Lindros drove Kelly nuts with constant trips to his office and memo after memo about pretty much nothing.

Even if it's not true, that's the best thing ever, if only because it reminds me of this:

But before we put levity aside and get down to what this actually means for the NHLPA, the league and the sport, let's have one more laugh at this buried tidbit from an article in the Globe and Mail (emphasis mine):

But many people inside and outside the NHLPA’s membership are pointing fingers directly at Lindros (and his parents) now, suggesting that he is the driving force behind what appears to be a budding insurrection.

And the last two details tells you everything you'd ever need to know about what this actually is: a mutiny by a bunch of third-grade girls.

And this is a bunch of third-grade girls that will surely make a bunch of short-sighted decisions about the pay level of the league's players. First point of contention: the elimination of the salary cap. The Players Association will almost certainly make this a sticking point when the collective bargaining agreement between it and the owners expires in 2011. And EVEN IF the union somehow gets that to fly without a work stoppage of some kind (read: players' strike) (read also: won't happen), all it does is hurt the league's economic stability and viability such as it currently is and salaries will once again spiral out of control until teams like the Rangers are paying guys like Bobby Holik an average of $9.225 million per season over two years — I swear this actually happened — and we get another lockout because teams in bad markets can't keep up. But I don't have to tell Calgary fans that.

Second point of contention: That jerk Gary Bettman sure is a jerk! Where Paul Kelly seemed to be taking an approach to the Cold War between the PA and League that was not unlike a fellow Massachusetts native's back in, oh, 1962, Lindros' mushy braintrust seems much more likely to approach it like Richard Nixon; who needs open dialogue when you and the enemy can just sit there with your fingers over a button guaranteed to bring nothing but mutually-assured destruction. At least you don't look like a pantywaist, kowtowing to a strange and foreign enemy whose only interest is seeing to it that your lands are ravaged and your livelihood and happiness robbed from you. The fact is, that's how some within the PA view the League, as though this was in some way not a symbiotic relationship. The enmity that exists between the sides was being thawed, somewhat by Kelly's approach and this was completely unacceptable to "hawks" like Lindros' pro-war party. The military-industrial complex that the PA had built for itself over the years leading up to the lockout, which felt it somehow profited from the ill will between the two parties, wasn't going to stand for his attitude toward achieving mutual peace in our time.

So where does this leave us, the fans? We can certainly learn a lesson from the Cold War-era propaganda. Whether or not the entire world was in clear and present danger of being reduced to ash within a four-hour window, I think we can all agree that there was a lot of overreaction. Hiding under a desk doesn't make you any less vaporized, it just means you hid under a desk like a moron while being reduced to a whiff of ozone gases and smoke. If this is the way the League ends, not with a whimper but a bright-orange, 4000-degree bang, then we can at least sit back in a lawn chair with a pair of sunglasses on and watch the mushroom clouds go up, can't we?

Let's at least get that much enjoyment from it.

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Yer ol' buddy Lambert is handsome and great and everyone loves him. Also you can visit his regular blog at The Two-Line Pass or follow him on Twitter. Lucky you!
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#1 Some real odd stuff over at FlamesNation | The Two-Line Pass
September 04 2009, 02:23PM
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[...] seem to have gone over the handlebars and careened into an endless abyss of stupidity, because this latest post at FlamesNation, about the NHLPA coup that went down on Sunday, just ended up as a bizarre mixture of odd [...]

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#2 Deans
September 04 2009, 02:35PM
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To me, it's begining to look like General Ripper ugh... exceeded his authority

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#3 Librarian Mike
September 04 2009, 02:44PM
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Great article, TLP. Did you see Roenick's comments on TSN? As usual, he pulled no punches.

I may be thick, but why are Lindros's parents in positions of power at the PA? Did somebody not notice that Eric was on the phone every time a decision needed to be made? What a f$$king mess...

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#4 ronaldo
September 04 2009, 02:54PM
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Lindros could use just one more game against Stevens.

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#5 #13 The Rat
September 04 2009, 03:10PM
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I think that Lindros is just the ventriloquist's dummy in this tragedy. Buzz and his buddies are the conspirators that fans REALLY need to be worried about. Their agenda is not going to make anyone's lives more enjoyable, especially considering the current economic climate.

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#6 jeanshorts
September 04 2009, 03:13PM
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ronaldo wrote:

Lindros could use just one more game against Stevens.

*slow clap, that picks up tempo that eventually becomes so fast and hard I smash my own hands into dust*

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#7 The Towel Boy
September 04 2009, 03:19PM
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ronaldo wrote:

Lindros could use just one more game against Stevens.

Pure gold. Pure. "Au" snap!

(periodic table jokes aren't often this funny)

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#8 danjo1
September 04 2009, 03:20PM
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@ Librarian Mike: hahaha, Roenick is gold.

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#9 Jimbob
September 04 2009, 03:43PM
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I can't say that I am surprised that Lindros and his Old Man are behind this...remember that Lindros old Man was/used to be a Big Shot Accountant and he no doubt wants to get his mitts on the Union thru his worthless son...There will be a strike by the Union no doubt and Hopefully this will end up costing the Union Everything!! Hockey Players are the most stupid Pro Athletes around and are just Sheep when it comes to their Union( it's not a Players Association) Screw No-Balls Lindros and his Family !!

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#10 MattL
September 04 2009, 03:51PM
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LOL concussions.

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#11 Pouzar
September 04 2009, 03:54PM
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I am not at all convinced that cost certainty is going anywhere, that war is over and players are still doing well now. The next big fight will be amongst themselves - even more than now. If the Lindros faction takes over they will not last long, player agents (who are generally more in tune with reality than some of their clients) will lead the offensive to get rid of him. The problem with the NHLPA is that they have too many weasels and backstabbers amoung their ranks. Back in January 2005 the likes of Iginla and Pronger as well as Tie Domi went behind the PA's back to the owners to try and cut a deal for themselves. Now nobody trusts anyone and they are a complete mess.

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#12 Curious
September 04 2009, 03:56PM
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The owners and the league are thinking no guaranteed contracts and maintaining the salary cap and the players are thinking get rid of the salary cap. Sounds like another year or two without hockey to me.

I think it is time for some players to realize exactly how lucky they are to be paid millions playing a game.

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#13 Librarian Mike
September 04 2009, 04:15PM
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ronaldo wrote:

Lindros could use just one more game against Stevens.

Stevens had the best nickname I've ever heard for a hockey player: Captain Concussion!

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#14 Rice
September 04 2009, 04:15PM
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Might there be some wrongful dismissal suit filed by Kelly? It doesn't seem as though ordering an internal audit and finding a misappropriation of funds allows for those people who were misusing said funds to fire your ass.

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#15 Rice
September 04 2009, 04:17PM
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Maybe the owners are sitting back and laughing at this "debacle of monumental proportions". I say laughing because the best way to get what you want in a dispute is to get the other side to fight amongst themselves.

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#16 Milli
September 04 2009, 05:29PM
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What a MESS. Seemed to me he was doing a good job, but, with Buzz and lindros, BIG TROUBLE

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#17 GraveDigger
September 04 2009, 06:51PM
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Does Lindros still live in his parents basement? I bet his mom still pick out which panties he is gonna wear everyday... Looks like she started to dress the rest of the NHLPA

Lets call Dana White and see if he can book a PPV with Lindros and Stevens in the octogon... I'd pay double just to see that... the undercard could be Kelly vs. Lindros' dad

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#18 Antony Ta
September 04 2009, 06:54PM
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As thickoil has already put it, just give him a concussion and you'd be done with the problem.

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#19 BigE57
September 04 2009, 09:57PM
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@ Antony Ta:

I think the rest of the PA reps are the ones with concussions here.

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#20 Partytown25
September 05 2009, 04:18AM
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When the lockout comes, the owners better take a stand on guaranteed contracts and stare down the union like they did last time. What do you think of that Oiler PA rep Shawn Horcoff????

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#21 jake
September 05 2009, 08:31AM
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I can see it now, some stupid work stoppage when the Oilers younger talented players start to come into their own and the team "turns the corner" for the future. Sort of like the '94 Expos. Uggh.

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#22 Archaeologuy
September 05 2009, 12:12PM
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Librarian Mike wrote:

Did you see Roenick’s comments on TSN? As usual, he pulled no punches.

I'm glad he said it. Everytime I bring up the fact that NHL players are under-educated millionaires with barely a highschool diploma some apologist starts spouting off about how important educating those kids are to junior teams. Its a load of crap. Making money and producing NHLers is what those teams are doing, its a sport not a scholarship program. Players in the NBA and NFL for the most part had to at least step inside a University at some point. The system after that point is hit and miss, but at least they go through the motions.

Now the NHLPA is made up of a bunch of empty headed rich kids angry that their bosses wont pay them 5 million this year even though it would put the team into bankruptcy and jeopardize their own jobs the next year. Jeremy Roenick needs to get himself on ESPN, TSN, or Sportsnet and take shots at these idiots year round.

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#23 Librarian Mike
September 05 2009, 12:58PM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

Jeremy Roenick needs to get himself on ESPN, TSN, or Sportsnet and take shots at these idiots year round.

Hell, I think he should be commissioner. Just imagine him presenting the Stanley Cup every year. Who cares who wins, I'd just tune in to hear what he says.

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#24 Joey Moss
September 05 2009, 01:06PM
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the sad thing is that as much a the PA deserves whatever hell they have brought upon themselves (and it's coming) the fans don't.

this could very well collapse the league... if these idiots being lead by Hargrove and Penny are so willing to cannibalize their own, think about what they would be willing to do to the league.

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#25 Milli
September 05 2009, 06:22PM
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It is a sad state. Roenick, as always tell it like he see's it, and I like that. Horc, as I understand it, was a kelly backer, but now, like in most unions, he is towing the company line. Anyone read Kelly's comments? The guy has always exceeded expectations, has a rock solid reputation, but that is not enough for Big E and the Buzz saw. I cannot wait to see who they chose to lead us in another hockeyless year, but, I'd bet big dollars it'll be one of these guys who said they didn't want the job when they axed Kelly.

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#26 wax for my stick
September 05 2009, 06:25PM
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Anything that involves the Lindros family is a shit show. How are these idiots involved with any to do with the NHL?

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#27 jdrevenge
September 05 2009, 08:16PM
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Any sort of Union that has Chris Chelios sitting at the top must have something wrong. The guy is a tool. Every interview that I've seen of him discussing anything regarding the union has shown me how unintelligent the guy is. I'm sure when Roenick is talking about how "they're not the brightest bulbs in the drawer", he's talking about him.

Does anyone else think its a little on the hilarious side that all the players were at this meeting in jeans and tshirts? I mean i hate ties like the rest of us but if you're operating a union that is playing for millions of dollars don't you think they could take it a little more serious than that. Maybe its just me...

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#28 Gunner
September 06 2009, 01:25PM
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jdrevenge wrote:

Does anyone else think its a little on the hilarious side that all the players were at this meeting in jeans and tshirts? I mean i hate ties like the rest of us but if you’re operating a union that is playing for millions of dollars don’t you think they could take it a little more serious than that. Maybe its just me…

I tend to agree with that line of thinking but obviously they cannot be bothered..

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#29 Skidplate
September 06 2009, 03:52PM
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It's been over 2 days without a new posting. What the heck???

Come on willis, you must have something you can give us.

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#30 bingofuel
September 06 2009, 04:30PM
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@ Skidplate:

Willis is on vacation... Ah, the Labour Day long weekend — the calm before the storm of the hockey season.

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#31 Gunner
September 06 2009, 04:41PM
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@ bingofuel: I've been refreshing like mad hoping to see something but to no avail.

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#32 The Menace
September 07 2009, 09:57AM
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jdrevenge wrote:

Does anyone else think its a little on the hilarious side that all the players were at this meeting in jeans and tshirts? I mean i hate ties like the rest of us but if you’re operating a union that is playing for millions of dollars don’t you think they could take it a little more serious than that. Maybe its just me…

At least there were no Jorts sightings in there - that would really cross the line.

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#33 Robin Brownlee
September 07 2009, 10:42AM
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bingofuel wrote:

@ Skidplate: Willis is on vacation… Ah, the Labour Day long weekend — the calm before the storm of the hockey season.

FFS, men, get out and enjoy what's left of the weekend. Take the kids to the zoo. Chase the wife around. Watch the Esks kick the Stamps teeth in. Play grab-ass with your Dungeons and Dragaons pals. Whatever. Rest assured, there'll be more content than you can handle leading into main camp and beyond. I personally intend to write 30 items in September alone . . .

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#34 KenL
September 07 2009, 10:58AM
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#13 The Rat wrote:

I think that Lindros is just the ventriloquist’s dummy in this tragedy. Buzz and his buddies are the conspirators that fans REALLY need to be worried about. Their agenda is not going to make anyone’s lives more enjoyable, especially considering the current economic climate.

I tend to disagree. Lindros parents were white collared professionals and probably the classic definition of the helicopter parents. So young Eric had the entitlement syndrome grilled into him at an early age, and was a constant in his professional career.

What continues to astound me is that NHL players feel they're contracts should be at the same level as the NFL, NBA, and MLB. While hockey is king in Canada, it's at best the 10th most popular sport in the states.

The big three have obscene tv revenue and sponsorship deals. The NHL has a deal with NBC where they only receive split money from advertising. The NHL is still primarily a gate revenue driven league. Each NFL team gets hundreds of millions from TV before they sell the first ticket. Clearly the average NHL player salary is much higher with the actual big three to the amount of revenues actually generated by the NHL.

If the players force a strike, I see the acceleration of the demise of franchises in Phoenix, Atlanta, Tampa, Florida, Nashville, and possibly Long Island. This might be good news for people like Jim Basille, who might get shut out in Phoenix. But I doubt the owners in the distressed cities would consider Basille an unfit owner when their gate revenues are non-existent and bills are still mounting.

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#35 Librarian Mike
September 07 2009, 11:37AM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

I personally intend to write 30 items in September alone . . .

I just peed a little bit when I read that. Can't wait for the training camp insanity to start.

*goes back to chasing the wife around*

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#36 Gunner
September 07 2009, 12:50PM
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Librarian Mike wrote:

I just peed a little bit when I read that. Can’t wait for the training camp insanity to start.

I didn't pee...well wait let's not go there. Exciting times in Oil Country.

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#37 MattL
September 07 2009, 03:44PM
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Did anyone go to rookie camp today? I'm twitching like a junkie for some news here...

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#38 RossCreek
September 07 2009, 05:24PM
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HOCKEY! HOCKEY! HOCKEY! HOCKEY! HOCKEY! HOCKEY! HOCKEY! HOCKEY! HOCKEY! HOCKEY! HOCKEY! HOCKEY! HOCKEY! HOCKEY! HOCKEY!

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#39 Garett
September 07 2009, 06:59PM
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My trackball on my Crackberry is bungin' up real bad and the crazy amounts of scrolling have not yet even begun! Looks like Eberle is ready and wanting to make the big step! Our team is gonna look like "all small guys" in a game of Ice Hockey on the original Nintendo Entertainment System!

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#40 Dave
September 07 2009, 07:28PM
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Is a work stoppage really that bad for the Canadian based teams? If anything the last work stoppage proved absence certainly makes the heart grow fonder. If there is a work stoppage the league should ensure there are No Guaranteed Contracts!

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#41 Matthew Hanson
September 07 2009, 07:53PM
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Personally in terms of contracts, I do feel that Hockey Players make to much money for their profession, I am a huge hockey fan, but big wage contracts is what caused the NHL strikes in the first place. I have one question though will the NHLPA have more luck or success if southern based teams either move up North to Canada, or locations that are based more on hockey like Hartford, Seattle etc.

It would be so awesome that the NHL could be a run-oiled machine instead of hearing problems with the NHL every 5 minutes....which we seem to hear

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#42 Pouzar
September 07 2009, 08:20PM
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I wonder how much longer it will be now before Buzz Hargrove starts releasing statements about the plight of Mike Modano's dog lol... Anyhow it was an awesome day out there to end the long weekend on, hope everyone enjoyed it!

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#43 BigE57
September 07 2009, 08:30PM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

Players in the NBA and NFL for the most part had to at least step inside a University at some point.

Did you hear about the kid from California who dropped out of high school to join an Israeli professional basketball team?

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#44 Gunner
September 07 2009, 08:42PM
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Dave wrote:

Is a work stoppage really that bad for the Canadian based teams? If anything the last work stoppage proved absence certainly makes the heart grow fonder. If there is a work stoppage the league should ensure there are No Guaranteed Contracts!

In a word, yes. I will be supremely pissed if there is another work stoppage and I would bet that 4 or 5 American based franchises will not survive it.

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#45 BigE57
September 07 2009, 10:50PM
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@ Gunner:

So you are pissed for awhile but the NHL rids itself of some dead wood.

I missed the NHL during the lockout but managed to get a hockey fix with the WHL, AJHL and some Senior hockey. Let the owners and players hold each other hostage. If it kills off the weaker teams great, it would suck if the Oilers fell into that group but I think Katz would find a way to keep them afloat.

I enjoy watching the best players in the world play but it's time they had a reality check.

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#46 Bar Qu
September 08 2009, 07:30AM
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Have all the writers died? Where can I send flowers?

And how do I fill my work day now that I have nothing to read here?

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#47 Petr's Jofa
September 08 2009, 08:17AM
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@ BigE57:

What guarentee do you have that the best players in the world get their reality check? After loosing the 2004-05 season shouldn't they already be coming off of a reality check?

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#48 smiliegirl15
September 08 2009, 09:03AM
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You would think the fact there was a lockout last time would make the PA think twice about another lockout. It seems very unfortunate that this corruption can happen when Kelly was, by all accounts, the best man for the job. The players don't want to be held accountable on the ice though, so why should they want to be off it as well? The owners should have a lockout again, if it comes to that, and start their teams with new players - see which ones really want to play hockey - like Iginla and company last time.

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#49 Oilersordeath
September 08 2009, 10:42AM
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Boys wheres all the Rookie camp updates! Jonsin for some news!!

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#50 Chris.
September 08 2009, 11:10AM
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@ Wayne Gretz:

Did you lockout your writers..?.. And why no offerings from the twisted mind of Wayne Gretz since August? It's not like you've got a day job and I need smoething to make mine more interesting.

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