Whenever something positive can be seen in the NHL Players’ Association, there always seems to be at least a bit of worrisome news about the union that accompanies it.
That much was true Tuesday, when, in the midst of a players’ meeting in Colorado, the union announced the hiring of Glenn Healy as their new director of player affairs (a curious title, given the history of some members’ marital adventures).
Now, the good news for the NHLPA is, under executive director Paul Kelly, the organization is receiving the most honest and balanced leadership in its often-turbulent existence.
If my colleague Ken Campbell’s suggestion is correct and commissioner Gary Bettman and the NHL are aiming to abolish guaranteed contracts as part of the next collective bargaining agreement, they’ll quickly discover Kelly isn’t anywhere close to the pushover his predecessor Ted Saskin was, nor does he employ the bull-in-a-china-shop public relations philosophy that helped do in Saskin’s predecessor Bob Goodenow.
Bettman and the owners will surely and rightfully be painted as villains under such a scenario – and I suspect the majority of the general public will see matters as Kelly and the players see them.
That, in and of itself, would be no small victory for the union.
Nevertheless, the hiring of Healy – someone who, despite what his friends within the industry might tell him, rubs a fair number of folks the wrong way – appears to signal a more militant turn within the NHLPA that could be cause for concern among hockey fans.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for NHLers, who have an extremely limited window in which to capitalize on decades of hard work and dedication, defending themselves vigorously against some of the big-time money-grubbers who own teams.
However, when you bring aboard a guy like Healy, who still believes Goodenow’s every utterance should be carved on stone slabs and displayed at the Smithsonian Institution, you run the risk of setting up a needless showdown that could be more about massive egos clashing – which many now believe was at the root of the ’04-05 lockout – than the good of the game.
I mean, can you imagine Healy at the same negotiating table as ownership hawks like Ed Snider and Jeremy Jacobs? Something tells me a new CBA would not be arrived at quickly if matters were left to that trio.
Besides, if Healy’s showdowns with Brian Burke on TSN during the lockout were any indication, debating isn’t exactly his strong point.
Adam Proteau is The Hockey News' online columnist and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays and Wednesdays, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays, and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.
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