Obviously the turmoil within the Players Association is going to cause a lot of trouble down the road. A lot. A real damn lot. And while it’s understandable that most hockey fans are sitting at their computers reading the latest developments with a growing sense of dread that the current CBA will run out and the players will go on strike and effectively kill the league at best, and the sport at worst.
At least we’re getting a hell of a show before the league goes all Manhattan Project.
Lost, I think, in the shuffle of every horrifying twist and turn this story has taken since Sunday, is just how entertaining and petty this whole thing seems to be. It’s like a Seurat painting; if you stand up close and look at every detail real hard, you’re not going to “get it,” but take a couple steps back and hey look, it’s a bunch of people on La Grande Jatte having a grand old time.
What seems to really be at play here is that Paul Kelly ordered an audit of the PA’s expenses and that, in turn, found something not-so-good.
According to sources, part of this group’s desire to get rid of Kelly also stemmed from Kelly ordering an internal audit (by a top former FBI forensic accountant) of the players’ association’s expenses during the previous three years before he took over. Sources claim that through the audit, Kelly discovered that then-interim leaders Penny and Lindros were spending millions of dollars of the union’s money. Lindros ended up resigning, but word is, that move fueled this attack on Kelly, and Lindros was very much involved.
That, in turn, led to the one detail that I found to be maybe the funniest and most childish thing ever done by one adult male to another. Wetcoaster, a well-connected HFBoards poster, revealed this detail:
I am told that Lindros drove Kelly nuts with constant trips to his office and memo after memo about pretty much nothing.
Even if it’s not true, that’s the best thing ever, if only because it reminds me of this:
But before we put levity aside and get down to what this actually means for the NHLPA, the league and the sport, let’s have one more laugh at this buried tidbit from an article in the Globe and Mail (emphasis mine):
But many people inside and outside the NHLPA’s membership are pointing fingers directly at Lindros (and his parents) now, suggesting that he is the driving force behind what appears to be a budding insurrection.
And the last two details tells you everything you’d ever need to know about what this actually is: a mutiny by a bunch of third-grade girls.
And this is a bunch of third-grade girls that will surely make a bunch of short-sighted decisions about the pay level of the league’s players. First point of contention: the elimination of the salary cap. The Players Association will almost certainly make this a sticking point when the collective bargaining agreement between it and the owners expires in 2011. And EVEN IF the union somehow gets that to fly without a work stoppage of some kind (read: players’ strike) (read also: won’t happen), all it does is hurt the league’s economic stability and viability such as it currently is and salaries will once again spiral out of control until teams like the Rangers are paying guys like Bobby Holik an average of $9.225 million per season over two years — I swear this actually happened — and we get another lockout because teams in bad markets can’t keep up. But I don’t have to tell Calgary fans that.
Second point of contention: That jerk Gary Bettman sure is a jerk! Where Paul Kelly seemed to be taking an approach to the Cold War between the PA and League that was not unlike a fellow Massachusetts native’s back in, oh, 1962, Lindros’ mushy braintrust seems much more likely to approach it like Richard Nixon; who needs open dialogue when you and the enemy can just sit there with your fingers over a button guaranteed to bring nothing but mutually-assured destruction. At least you don’t look like a pantywaist, kowtowing to a strange and foreign enemy whose only interest is seeing to it that your lands are ravaged and your livelihood and happiness robbed from you. The fact is, that’s how some within the PA view the League, as though this was in some way not a symbiotic relationship. The enmity that exists between the sides was being thawed, somewhat by Kelly’s approach and this was completely unacceptable to “hawks” like Lindros’ pro-war party. The military-industrial complex that the PA had built for itself over the years leading up to the lockout, which felt it somehow profited from the ill will between the two parties, wasn’t going to stand for his attitude toward achieving mutual peace in our time.
So where does this leave us, the fans? We can certainly learn a lesson from the Cold War-era propaganda. Whether or not the entire world was in clear and present danger of being reduced to ash within a four-hour window, I think we can all agree that there was a lot of overreaction. Hiding under a desk doesn’t make you any less vaporized, it just means you hid under a desk like a moron while being reduced to a whiff of ozone gases and smoke. If this is the way the League ends, not with a whimper but a bright-orange, 4000-degree bang, then we can at least sit back in a lawn chair with a pair of sunglasses on and watch the mushroom clouds go up, can’t we?
Let’s at least get that much enjoyment from it.