by SENShobo on 01/24/09 at 01:30 PM ET
See below for an update to this post and note the original post date was 1/24/09 at 12:25am
It’s been a long, busy day, but here in Montreal, I’ve come to realize something, something that unlike the rest of my day, I couldn’t sleep on.
Sure, it wasn’t the most graceful of moves, leaving some with a bitter taste. But the core is there.
Bettman was right, apologies to Lidstrom, Datsyuk, and Detroit homers everywhere.
Frustrating as it may be to lose both players for a game, possibly prolonging the agony that is being a Wings fan when the Wings aren’t sitting comfortably atop the standings, it was the right thing to do.
Management sided with the players, but was it unexpected? On one hand, you could say that Detroit has something of a reputation to uphold. On another hand, you can look at this as an opportunity to stand with Datsyuk, Lidstrom, Rafalski, Hossa, Zetterberg, and Franzen, three of those players being in contract years. That’s a lot of core whose chemistry you can’t afford to mess up. Please don’t kid yourself into thinking that Bettman or the League was not interested in having those players at the All-Star Game.
You can point to their decisions not to come as being related to injury, but then again, I was reminded tonight by a fellow attendee that Marleau knew last Sunday that he was coming to Montreal, many days before Datsyuk’s slip. ‘Nagging injury’ is just too hard to buy when you’re the team’s MVP in the last pre-break game as well.
But even if it were all true, it’s about time that the League started to remind players that when they sign those contracts, it’s not just a piece of paper guaranteeing you millions upon millions of dollars. Quite bizarre, in fact, but with that kind of dough, expectations actually are higher. A new rule during the season isn’t unprecedented, though Avery’s waited until the playoffs to manifest itself. It wasn’t so long ago either that the NBA implemented their own dress code for their players, bringing them in line with the NHL, a move also having nothing to do with the game, and everything to do with the character of and example set by those who are its ambassadors.
I’ll look back on this weekend in a few days, and share what the All-Star Game has so clearly come to mean during my stay here. But right now, players need to realize that this is something special, and even if they can’t understand it or see it, it’s one of those ‘nagging’ things that comes with earning more in one game than most fans earn in a couple years. Had Detroit swamped the starting lineup as the Canadiens first appeared set to do, and had that been coupled with an All-Star absence of the Sharks and Bruins, Detroit fans could well have been crying foul in the other direction.
Showing up, despite whatever convinced them to hold back in the first place, shouldn’t be such a hard thing. This is the life you signed up for, the one that’s supposed to be a joy every day.
In actuality, when I left the players’ media availability today, it just so happened that one Red Wing did show up, despite having absolutely no shot of taking to the ice, no matter how much that would have delighted fans around the League.
That would be Mr. Hockey himself.
I do apologize to the Red Wings players and organization, because while I point out that any of them could be at fault, I doubt sincerely that they all are. Whether it be in the CBA or not, no contract can fully encompass all the duties of a player. The board stood by Bettman, and the NHLPA will not challenge. Unwritten rules are like trade secrets, not protected or written down in any way, until the hand is forced, as it was this case.
I can speak from personal experience about this issue. My mother works as an Associate Deputy Minister, and along with many others, including the Assistant Deputy Minister, those two being the 2nd and 3rd highest non-elected positions in the Canadian public institutions, they were sent on a tour to Canadian universities to recruit graduating students into governmental institutions. I don’t think it needs explanation that you would think people so high up in the structure could be better put to use than in a days-long recruiting drive, but they understood.
Whether or not individuals all appreciate the All-Star Game, it remains a part of our League. In a largely gate-driven League, this event marks one of the most sponsored events; give the Wings enough credit to know that Bud Light and all the others want all 30 markets to have a vested interest in the event, and surely want the Stanley Cup champions represented.
As well, while they may not have been voted in as starters, they were voted for, Red Wings getting a large number of votes, with some of the widest appeal, support for an entire starting lineup of Red Wings.
This is a part of the NHL, it cannot be denied. Whatever the reasons for their absence, I am forced to note all possibilities, not wanting to appear to be hiding anything. Both may be hurt, the other four who were likely all invited could have had hidden but valid reasons to decline, and as Babcock said this morning, the Red Wings are about winning, and promoting their team and their League.
The advance suspension was the unwritten rule called into play. It may seem odd that the NHL declared them unfit to play their first post-ASG game, but that was a move that the Red Wings organization could have done, but apparently did not, even as the warnings escalated. I’ll even allow for the possibility that the wise Detroit management wanted to issue their compliance with the rule in advance of the suspension, but that some technical difficulty or rogue agent prevented it. Doing that confusing runaround of suspension and League-issued medical unavailability would be a better optic for the League than risking it coming to that game, Detroit dressing those two, and an on-ice dispute coming out.
As I sit above the ice au Centre Bell, I see below me an arena with a full lower bowl and attendance for practice that rivals game attendance for half the League. If anything, if not because the League has unwritten rules, if not because the Board of Governors ruled it so, if not because of the sponsors who help lower your share of revenue-sharing payments, then for those fans of the game, that should be reason perfect enough to attend in whatever capacity you can.
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Native of Northern California. Hockey fan since 1998... sort of... there's a hiatus in there that I still can't explain.
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