|LUCAS OLENIUK/TORONTO STAR|
|Mats Sundin and ... who do you want on the ice for the Leafs during shootouts?|
"It was a deal, like the American Dream. But now they’re getting shafted … The NHL is reneging – in somewhat spiritual terms – on a promise that it made to these guys."
So writes the always eloquent and provocative Denial in yesterday’s comments, pointing to Paul Hunter’s story in last Saturday’s paper that reports on marginal NHL role players who thanks to the new collective-bargaining agreement are looking to Europe for jobs.
I can appreciate the sentiments -- and reading through the story (three times), it’s a pretty complex beast, this little corner of the CBA -- though I don’t agree with them. In the wake of any labour stoppage, there are winners and losers. And if anyone broke a promise here, it’s the NHL players’ association for their capitulation -- and I have no doubt that the players who accepted that capitulation had little regard or even a passing thought for the possible plight of their younger or less established hockey-playing brethren. As in any pro sports league, a Darwinian social order prevails.
Besides, the NHL, in its greed-driven expansion spree that has marked the past decade and a little more, has done more to create more jobs for young hockey players (and create more bad hockey teams, but that’s another argument entirely). It’s turned marginal players into second-liners – because even on the truly wretched squads, SOMEONE has to score. And of course, the NHLPA has been with them every step of the way on this one – until the lockout forced them to take a stand. And they failed miserably.
In the bigger picture, of course, we’ll all continue to believe in the Canadian Dream – the Scrubs on Skates model, that has the latest Bill Spunska skating with the Leafs in the fall, trying for that last roster spot. But (and again, this is the bigger picture) look around the real world, where we want customer service and are connected to a call centre in India, where we go to the mall to buy clothes made in Indonesia, and on and on. Hockey players from Canada, playing in Europe, and slightly better (or more highly regarded, or CBA favoured) hockey players from Europe, playing in the NHL. Should we really be all that surprised?
Oh, and here’s one more for you to mull over: If you had to pick your five-man Leafs shootout order, what would it be? Besides Sundin and Lindros, that is.