by PuckStopsHere on 12/16/13 at 02:20 AM ET
The NHL has done well in terms of public relations in their battles with the NHLPA. The NHL periodically shuts itself down depriving fans of hockey in order to force players to accept a smaller piece of the pie than they did they did the last time the league was shut down. Despite that, many fans support the NHL in these labor battles.
Here is one prime example of how the NHL achieves this. Hockey players have the right to appeal lengthy suspensions with the NHLPA working as their legal counsel during the appeal. Thus it is going to be reported in the media that the NHLPA is appealing the suspension of an NHL evil-doer. The NHL comes out on the side of law and order and the NHLPA comes out on the side of supporting a violent offender. It makes the NHL look good and it makes the NHLPA look bad. This is the kind of public relations battle the NHL keeps winning.
The alternative to the NHLPA supporting their player appeals is for no player to ever appeal a suspension and the NHL would be happy with that scenario. Nevertheless they get to pain the NHLPA as a bad guy with articles about whether or not a given suspension should be appealed.
If we look at the most recent lengthy suspension, Shawn Thornton of the Boston Bruins has been suspended for 15 games for attacking Brooks Orpik of the Pittsburgh Penguins from behind after play had stopped and punching him in the head several times. Orpik left the ice on a stretcher. Who can defend that? Thornton is clearly in the wrong. That said Thornton deserves legal representation if he wishes to appeal the suspension. Everyone is entitled to due process. The problem for the NHLPA is in representing their players they have to defend their players when they are at their worst. They do not get a chance to defend players at their best in this process. For that NHL has won a public relations battle.
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