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Owners Remain Mute

from Scott Burnside of ESPN,

What about Mike and Marian Ilitch?

The Ilitchs are icons in Detroit for their unwavering support of the beleaguered city. When it was first proposed that the Red Wings host the 2013 Winter Classic -- an event that looks more and more like it will be a casualty of this battle of stupidity -- the Red Wings insisted that the bulk, if not all, of the events take place in Detroit as opposed to Ann Arbor, where the game is set to take place at Michigan Stadium.

Yet they, too, remain mute, quietly complicit in the potential destruction of another season.

In a blue-collar community that has been hit as hard by the recession as any in the U.S., it must be galling for fans to see the NHL and their beloved Red Wings fritter away all the good will built up since the last lockout by trying to bully the players into accepting concessions to help fix a system the owners demanded and got seven years ago.

In general, fans and, for the most part, the media, remain perplexed as to how two sides with so much at stake and with so much going for it could allow this to happen.

more team owners mentioned along with Charles M. Schulz....

Filed in: NHL Teams, NHL Talk, | KK Hockey | Permalink


phillyd's avatar

Why is it a surprise that owners remain mute? They get fined for talking about the lockout. I don’t expect any owner to talk from their side until it’s over, if then.

Posted by phillyd from Southern New Jersey on 10/11/12 at 11:23 AM ET

perfection's avatar

it’s true owners can’t really speak out, but supposedly they are the ones in charge here and Gary and the league are working at their behest. so you have a situation where a handful of owners, Illitch’s included, are actually losing a ton of money via this lockout. meanwhile, there are owners who are literally making money by not playing, so what incentive do they have to make a deal?

While I know Illitch can’t comment, I do kind of wish he could put out a smoke signal of some sort showing he’s not very cool with this. How could he possibly be down with this? He funded one of the greatest lineups ever iced in 2002 and almost because of that, there was the last lockout and demands for a salary cap. This cap helped about every team in the league but the Red Wings who had to shed the majority of their salary. Meanwhile, the Winter Classic is now at stake, plus millions of revenue for the city of Detroit and millions of revenue from Illitch’s pocket. How can he possibly be down with this? I realize he doesn’t have the power as an individual to speak up or rebel against his fellow owners, but I’d just love to hear once that some unidentified source from within Illitch’s company has said he’s not happy about any of this and is urging fellow owners to make a deal. While there are only a handful of owners really losing big during this lockout, they also should theoretically have the most clout in that room since they have the most storied teams. The silence really is deafening. Maybe we just have to wait until the Tigers are done playing before Illitch turns his attention to this nonsense.

I do find it interesting that in interview after interview with Red Wings players, you will hear them take shots at “the owners”, but whenever it’s narrowed to their owner, they can only laud Mike Illitch as “the best in the league”. I think everyone knows he is NOT the driving force behind the blatantly unreasonable stance the owners have taken.

Posted by perfection from LaLaLand on 10/11/12 at 12:07 PM ET


This cap helped about every team in the league but the Red Wings who had to shed the majority of their salary.

Let’s not get melodramatic here.  Detroit was far from the only team that had to shed a lot of salary.

The silence really is deafening.

Is it?  You yourself say that the Red Wings players have nothing but great things to say about the ownership and that “everyone knows he is NOT the driving force behind the blatantly unreasonable stance the owners have taken”, so why do the Illitches need to speak out?  If everyone knows it then the only consequences would be to get fined and to draw the ire of Bettman/Daly, etc and the rest of the owners.

Posted by Garth on 10/11/12 at 12:35 PM ET


First, the cap made the Detroit Red Wings about 150 million dollars more, and they won a Cup 3 years after it was instituted.  It’s pretty hard to see how a cap hurt the Wings all that much.

Second, Burnside is missing the point here.  The reason leagues have Commissioners is for someone to get hated.  Is there a major sports league with a commissioner who is not actively hated right now?  NBA fans hate Stern.  NFL fans hate Goodell, MLB fans hate Selig.  That’s pretty much all of them.  Does NASCAR even have a commish?  I think the PGA has one, but come on.  That hardly counts.

Yes, Bettman is a smarmy jackass that’s done a moderately terrible job as NHL commissioner in a sport with a passionate, fervent fanbase that just laps up whatever he throws to them as a product.  In a CBA negotiation he is not telling 30 owners what to do.  They are telling HIM what to do.

Then, when everything is all done, the owners can go back to selling their teams to their fans and point at the evil Bettman.

I mean, seriously, why do you think Bettman makes 6-8 mil a year or whatever it is?  Because it is his job to be the focus for every piece of animus that exists in the league.  He is supposed to be hated.  It’s not like he or Goodell or Stern or Selig have some kind of higher-level insight into their sports or anything.  They are all competent corporate politicians who need to be willing to be despised by the fanbases of the leagues they ‘run’ so that the owners can function largely below the radar.

There is literally zero upside for any owner to ever talk about being in favor of a “lockout”.  Why do that?  When the “lockout” is over, all you have left is a team full of players that hate their owner and can’t wait to leave and a league full of players who hate the owner and aren’t going to play there.

So leagues get Commissioners to be used as cannon fodder for the anger of others.

This isn’t to absolve or make excuses for the litany of galactically stupid and shortsighted things Bettman has done during his tenure, but people need to start to understand the more subtle reasons why things are the way they are and stop being such easily manipulated tools.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 10/11/12 at 01:32 PM ET

Primis's avatar

Honestly, knowing that Illitch voted YES on a lockout has even ruined the Tigers for me somewhat.

I was thinking about this the other night:  The last NHL lockout was what, 05-06?  I checked the MLB records.  Did you know that in 2005 the Tigers went 71-91 and failed to hit .500 for the 12th season in a row?

THAT VERY NEXT SEASON in 2006 they went 95-67, and lost to the Cards in the World Series.  And they’ve been a contender of varying degrees ever since (save for 2008).  I don’t doubt the previous lockout and the Cap made Illitch feel he could spend more freely on the Tigers, which he has done and gotten results with.

Which is all well and good.  Except now he wants a lockout again?  Fair or not, that’s soured the Tigers for me.

Posted by Primis on 10/11/12 at 02:30 PM ET

Guilherme's avatar

Honestly, knowing that Illitch voted YES on a lockout has even ruined the Tigers for me somewhat.

I’d say that’s just a way to show the players that all owners are in it together, even if they’re not. Everyone voted “yes” so no one would try to guess who was the dissident.

Posted by Guilherme from Brazsil on 10/11/12 at 02:34 PM ET

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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