Monday's kick in the rear came from the good people at the National Hockey League Players Association. Paul Kelly, the union's executive director for less than two years, was fired. Kelly's persona was of a peacemaker and dealmaker, of -- oh no! -- a gentleman.
Kelly had no future as a union leader, even in hockey. You know the entire enterprise is ugly when an articulate, passionate, 47-year-old hockey player is left to reading a union-manicured statement instead of letting loose, Chris Chelios-style. The NHLPA is indeed made up of many of the best people in professional sports. Collectively, they need to get their sticks together.
Now the moderate Kelly, who spoke openly of a potential work stoppage in 2011 as death to the NHL, is gone. Now hockey fans begin bracing for the next time "our game" shoots itself in the foot and everywhere else, for the next time the NHL stabs its fans in the heart.
The clock starts ticking on a lockout in September 2011, when the Collective Bargaining Agreement expires. Bank on sweating it out. A source closely connected to the NHLPA told FanHouse late Monday night, "It's impossible to picture the new boss making peace with the owners soon after Kelly was kicked out for being too cozy with them."
Now hockey fans begin bracing for the next time "our game" shoots itself in the foot and everywhere else, for the next time the NHL stabs its fans in the heart.Names like the Che-like Eric Lindros (good player, lots of hits to the head), NHLPA lawyer Ian Penny (the interim director somehow got a contract extension in the midst of chaos ... niiiice) and ombudsman Buzz Hargrove (check out his fine work in the auto industry!) have surfaced as the leaders of this mutiny and as possible replacements.
Please, a show of hands -- anyone care?
Of course not. It's just another day in the life of a hockey fan.
In Phoenix, the biggest Coyotes fans and the Greatest Player in the History of the Game have no clue about the future of their team. In South Florida, "acting" GM Randy Sexton does the best he can while ownership uncertainty and a GM-in-waiting (bet on Neil Smith) hover around the franchise. In more than one NHL city, Uncle Gary Bettman hosts frequent mediation sessions between feuding owners. Tuesday, fans learned network partner VERSUS is not on DirecTV.
In New York, it's not enough for Oct. 3 to herald the season opener between the Islanders and defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins, not enough for the date to mark the NHL debut of John Tavares. That day is also the deadline for Islanders owner Charles Wang to have "certainty" from Town of Hempstead politicians on his Lighthouse Project, the massive transformation of the Nassau Coliseum and surrounding property.
In "this economy," as league executives like to say when it's convenient, here's an idea: maybe it's time all the "good people" in hockey woke up and started thinking about the best people in hockey.