Does Anybody Really Care About the NHLPA Drama?
The NHLPA did confirm that interim executive director Ian Penny (pictured right) is no longer associated with the union. From the statement: "Ian Penny informed the NHLPA staff and the NHLPA Executive Board earlier today that it is his position he has been constructively dismissed as Interim Executive Director of the NHLPA and can no longer work in the present circumstances. Effective today, Ian Penny is no longer employed by the NHLPA." In other words, get ready for another round of "I was fired," "No, you quit."
Have I lost you yet? About ready to check out Kevin Schultz's list of the top five NHL coaches on the hot seat? Don't blame you one bit.
About all these Players Association shenanigans, I have one simple question: does anybody really care?
Oh sure, there will be a time when a lot of us in the Nation of Hockey care a lot. That's two years from now, when the Collective Bargaining Agreement expires and we may have to manage to get by without the NHL again.
But is anybody on the edge of his or her seat over the latest drama? Does even the Chris Chelios Fan Club give a flying puck how much the future Hall of Fame defenseman is involved behind the scenes?
The hysteria -- the "I got all the latest!" tweets, the passionate blog entries, the deep investigations by the mainstream -- it all pains me for two reasons.
For starters, every time aces like James Mirtle, Elliotte Friedman, Darren Dreger, Pierre Lebrun, Damien Cox, Larry Brooks and our FanHouse staff get distracted by the PA soap opera, that's time they're not more usefully deployed entertaining us with stories of Brian Burke and Mike Gillis. I mean, c'mon fellas: instead of this monotonous union story, try thinking about the rest of us. Is Taylor Hall the second coming? Who's got the edge on the fourth-line center spot on Team Canada? What job is Dave Nonis next in line for?
If hockey fans really wanted coverage of a bunch of charm-free dorks like Ian Penny, us hockey writers could just start writing about ourselves. (Reminds me of what David Lee Roth once said: "The reason music critics love Elvis Costello so much is because they all look like Elvis Costello.")
Besides losing the fun, escapist hockey coverage, I also cringe over NHLPA drama because ... well, I really like most of the union members. While I've been on both sides of the game as a former team PR VP and now a reporter, hockey players have been very gracious to me. The ones I know personally have never let me down. The ones I watch, often in awe, I believe are the most admirable athletes in major professional sports in North America. Individually, the NHL players are generous, sincere, dedicated. It's only when they try to put the collective in Collective Bargaining Agreement that they're a disaster.
Dysfunction in the Players Association is not a new thing. The union has been a fine mess for most of this decade. Even then, their good souls shine through at times. The PA's "Goals & Dreams" fund has raised over $17 million for grassroots hockey programs around the world. That's news worth covering.
But until someone takes charge and everyone falls into line, there's not much for hockey fans to see here. On Oct. 18, the NHLPA held a conference call to discuss the dismissal of former head Paul Kelly and several key issues. Although the call was on a Sunday and no NHL games were on the schedule, representatives from only 23 of the 30 teams participated. Only one, the Canucks, was said to be traveling and unavailable at the time of the call.
If the National Hockey League players don't care enough about their own Association, why should anyone else? Take the next year, boys, to figure it out on your own. Get back to us when you're ready to act like men.