Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby jostle for position on the ice as well as off it. (Getty Images)
This is the craziest year ever in the history of monitoring hockey’s top movers and shakers for The Hockey News’ annual list of 100 People of Power and Influence.
Our panel of judges all agree, in 11 years of adjusting and fine-tuning the list, never has there been as much unexpected movement.
The list is always fluid, based on the news of the day with an eye and ear towards the future. Rarely did a week go by in 2009 that we weren’t shuffling people around for a variety of unprecedented reasons.
Here’s a sneak peek of what we didn’t expect would be part of the 2009-10 power list, which comes out in late December.
UNION PURGE – The dysfunctional NHL Players’ Association is in rebuilding mode meaning union executives Paul Kelly (No. 4 in ‘08-09), Glenn Healy (14), Ian Penny (38), Bob Lindquist (51) and Ron Pink (99) are down or off the list, with their replacements yet to be named. Even influential names such as Eric Lindros and Buzz Hargrove were on again, off again for extended stretches.
In the meantime, union members Chris Chelios, Nicklas Lidstrom, Robyn Regehr and Steve Montador are big movers up the list because of their importance in choosing a new direction. One new union name to the list is Donald Fehr, the former leader of the baseball players’ association. And Kelly, like the battler he is, found his way back on in his new role with College Hockey, Inc. Same for Healy, who rebounded just like those fat, juicy ones he let out in his final playing days.
PHOENIX DYING/RISING – The Phoenix Coyotes rising from the ashes of their expected demise meant the NHL’s top executives, Gary Bettman and Bill Daly, retained their positions in the top five. Both are, in fact, among the top three.
The rebuffing of billionaire Jim Balsillie, No. 6 on last year’s power list, as a prospective owner means the Research In Motion CEO is in a freefall down, but not off the top 100 ranking. It also means Larry Tanenbaum, chairman of the Toronto Maple Leafs and the veto cardholder in a franchise shift to southern Ontario, moves from the No. 18 spot a year ago to well inside the top 10.
And who would have figured Wayne Gretzky would be out of work? Don’t worry, he’s not off the list, staying omnipresent on name-power alone.
OLYMPIC INFLUENCE – Not totally unexpected, but power brokers with Olympic influence are on an upward ascent. They include names such as Steve Yzerman, Brian Burke, Mike Babcock, Ryan Miller, David Poile, Jim Johansson, Patrick Kane, Scott Smith, Mark Johnson, Hayley Wickenheiser and drug tester Dr. Christiane Ayotte. Washington’s Alex Ovechkin, No. 2 a year ago, is still a man with a lot of pull for a variety of reasons, most notably the verbal stand he’s making in regards to playing in the 2014 Olympics, NHL endorsed or not.
OWNERSHIP TURNOVER – Some sold their teams, others aren’t as influential. Tom Hicks of Dallas, George Gillett of Montreal, Tom Golisano of Buffalo and Eugene Melnyk of Ottawa are big free-fallers from a year ago.
Watch for the issue in late December.
Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior special editions editor and a regular contributor to THN.com. You can find his blog each weekend.
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