NHL players' nice-guy approach falling short


How about Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby in a hot-dog-eating contest?

How about Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby in a hot-dog-eating contest?

Photograph by: Getty Images Files, The Province

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The first and essentially only sign of impatience from NHL players in the process of being milked of their cash by NHL owners came in Calgary this week when the Flames players decided not to participate fully in a charity golf tournament run by the team.

Not surprisingly, Flames president Ken King got in a little dig in his released statement. First, he said he understood, then thanked the golfers and sponsors who stayed with the event, saying that the latter two groups "totally appreciate that the heart of the event is about important fundraising for local charities," as if somehow the players don't — after donating their time for all these years for the endless events that teams think up.

Can't imagine he'll be fined by commissioner Gary Bettman for those lovely words. What made the Flames' move stand out is that it goes right to the heart of how nicey-nicey these disputes really are, even though the owners are going after the players' livelihood pretty aggressively.

Everyone is so polite and then at the end they're all back having fun together, greeting each other as if nothing had happened. Our guess here is that when millionaires face billionaires, a certain decorum needs to be maintained. To be sure, it's not a mining dispute in South Africa.

Look at Roberto Luongo's orchestrated performance at Northview on Wednesday. He sits a half-hour with the Canucks vice-president of communications T.C. Carling, who is paid by the owner who's about to try to renege on a contract, and listens to instructions on what he's supposed to say to the media. Everything comes out nicely, sweet as pie.

Works for the team. But Luongo's still sitting in a city where he knows he won't be playing, so how's it working for him? Could the players be any more like sheep?

Why are they so co-operative and passive in these matters? Sure, they're nice guys and there's no point in being miserable or small after it's over, but you have to wonder what life would be like if there was a little more acrimony and the players became a little more militant.

What if they took the position that anyone with more than this season and one more on their contract shouldn't stay in shape? In fact, how about if the NHLPA ordered them all to look like Dustin Byfuglien did at Dave Bolland's wedding a couple of months back when they report to training camp? Winnipeg's most famous boater weighed at least 300 pounds by the look of the picture.

Think of all the charity events the players could run themselves.

Imagine a Cheezies-and-popcorn-eating contest hosted by a cottaging Kyle Wellwood on the balcony where the famous picture of him was taken looking somewhat less than match fit five years ago.

Or how about an eating tour of all the great restaurants in the Northeast U.S. for fan foodies, whereby an intentionally now very large for the cause Keith Tkachuk could be the guest host?

How about an NHL players hot-dog-eating contest with Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin pitted against each other so they could keep the rivalry NBC has been so desperate to foster in the public eye?

Or how about a pie-eating contest featuring the young guns like Tyler Seguin, Jordan Eberle, Jeff Skinner and Taylor Hall so that they could roll around on the ice when play resumes, thereby allowing fans to express their rage at not being taken into consideration?

And if Mason Raymond had more than a one-year deal, he could host a keep-trim program, proceeds to charity? Fans could work out and skate with him so he could start the season looking like he's 165 pounds instead of just finishing that way.

Naturally, reason interjects here that such players might subsequently suffer career-ending injuries if forced into the lineup too quickly, and the players' integrity somehow gets in the way.

And after what the Kings did last season, virtually all teams now figure they have a shot at the Cup. So they continue on their tack of humble servitude towards their owners, patronizingly labelled professionalism by the VPs and GMs, making sure they're in the best possible shape to compliantly begin the 50-games-in-51-nights death march of a short season when ordered to do so. Then they'll passively play the playoffs — for free, as always.

Not sure this tack is working overly well for them.


How about Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby in a hot-dog-eating contest?

How about Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby in a hot-dog-eating contest?

Photograph by: Getty Images Files, The Province

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