Gary Bettman has taken a lot of heat recently over ownership issues in Nashville. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images for NHL)
Hockey is a humble sport by most accounts. The players don’t do much bragging, teams rarely tinker with classic logos and the league prefers Americans don’t get over-stimulated by showing them games on TV stations they could watch at bars or even their homes.
But to say hockey people are honest is a stretch sometimes. There’s something lacking in several recent NHL stories that needs to be rectified. Let’s just call it The Realness. As in, “Get real, you don’t actually think we believe what you just told us, do you?”
The best recent example of this came when Jay Feaster “resigned” as GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Resigned, eh? Let’s look at the scenario: Ever since new owners Len Barrie and Oren Koules took over the Bolts, they have been the ones at the forefront of every major signing or trade. When Feaster “resigned,” the Bolts agreed to pay out the rest of his contract nonetheless. That seems suspiciously more like a firing than a resignation.
And that’s totally cool with me – the salary cap crushed Feaster, leading to the quick demise of Tampa’s on-ice fortunes. Barrie is a former NHLer, so he has at least a modicum of knowledge on spotting talent and building a team (more than you or I have, we must assume). True, the Bolts currently have about 20 forwards on the roster and just one experienced defenseman older than 29 (Filip Kuba), but whatever; it’s his team.
Just be real, guys. Admit you fired Feaster because you wanted to run things. Steven Stamkos is going to have better wingers than Sidney Crosby next year, likely because of your orchestration. Nothing wrong with that.
Another Realness mea culpa needs to come from commissioner Gary Bettman over Nashville. With the revelation William “I call myself ‘Boots’” Del Biaggio planned on taking control of the Predators in order to move them to Kansas City all the hand-wringing over Jim Balsillie’s attempt to move the team to Southern Ontario seems a little hypocritical, doesn’t it?
So be real, Gary. Admit you don’t like Balsillie and would rather drink cod liver oil than see him get a team, let alone one he would move to a location other than the vacant Sprint Center in Kansas City, which is brand new and run by Los Angeles Kings owner Phil Anschutz (Oh, and if Kansas City doesn’t work out, Anschutz’s firm is building a new 20,000 seat arena in which American city? Las Vegas. That place has been a rumored destination for the Preds, too, hasn’t it?).
You’re employed by the owners, not the fans, so do your thing and keep the boys in the boardroom happy. That’s what you’re paid for, right?
Finally, on the heels of Greg Logan’s outstanding story in the New York Newsday, let’s talk about the Islanders. Apparently, Ted Nolan will “not be returning” to the team due to “philosophical differences.”
Oh, we need some realness here.
Just say he was fired. And explain to us why you would do so not right after the season, when results could have been cited, but instead after the draft and during your prospect camp, when he had already met and began to establish a rapport with your newest recruits.
If Logan’s sources are correct, you had plenty of reasons to fire him.
Just be real about it.
Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesdays and his features, The Hot List and Year of the Ram, appear Tuesday and Thursday, respectively.
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