The current NHL lockout refutes the notion of more former players in front office roles potentially preventing labor disputes between the league and the NHLPA.
A theory bandied about by some fans during the previous NHL lockout suggested as more players moved into executive roles at the team and league level, CBA negotiations between the NHL and the NHLPA might become less contentious.
Currently ten former players are NHL general managers. They are Jim Rutherford (Carolina Hurricanes), Dale Tallon (Florida Panthers), Marc Bergevin (Montreal Canadiens), Garth Snow (NY Islanders), Glen Sather (NY Rangers), Paul Holmgren (Philadelphia Flyers), Steve Yzerman (Tampa Bay Lightning), Joe Nieuwendyk (Dallas Stars), Don Maloney (Phoenix Coyotes) and Doug Wilson (Tampa Bay Lightning).
Of those, five went through a work stoppage as players. Yzerman and Nieuwendyk through the 1992 players’ strike and the lockouts of 1994-95 and 2004-05, Snow through those two lockouts, Bergevin through the strike and the first lockout, and Wilson through the strike.
Mario Lemieux is currently co-owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins, and like Yzerman and Nieuwedyk, went through the strike and the first two lockouts as a player, though in the last lockout, he was also co-owners of the Penguins.
Wayne Gretzky is no longer affiliated with the NHL, but was part-owner of the Phoenix Coyotes during the previous lockout, and went through the 1992 strike and 1994-95 lockout as a player.
Brendan Shanahan also went through the strike and the first two lockouts as a player, and is now the NHL’s director of player discipline.
A considerable number of former NHL players are part of the front office staff of every NHL team. Among the notables are Hall of Famers like Mark Messier, Joe Sakic, Chris Chelios, Al MacInnis, Luc Robitaille, and Ron Francis, who also went through at least two NHL work stoppages.
Despite the fact all the aforementioned were former members of the NHLPA – some of them influential and outspoken members during their time with the PA – it appears none of them wield any influence in the current NHL labor dispute.
Indeed, once the players hang up their skates and move from the dressing room to the boardroom, their allegiance to the NHLPA, which some of them fought so hard for in previous labor disputes with the league, seemingly comes to an end, especially when it comes to CBA negotiations.
Of course, once they work for the league or a team, they’re under a gag order not to voice opinions publicly, lest they or their club be reprimanded and/or fined by the league commissioner’s office.
It’s possible some of these aforementioned players are the so-called “moderates” mentioned in the media, though thanks to the league’s gag order, they appear to be mythical creatures, like the Loch Ness Monster or Sasquatch. Sighted for a fleeting moment, but gone before you can positively identify them.
Those players may indeed be attempting to work behind the scenes to broker a new deal and bring about labor peace. Then again, they might also be following the advice of a former wrestling star: “Know your role, and shut your mouth”.
Perhaps some of these players were assimilated like The Borg in Star Trek: The Next Generation, or like Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars, taken over by the “Dark Side”, which in this instance would be the NHL team owners.
Yes, I was being facetious in the last three paragraphs, so please, spare me the “you’re so against the NHL you believe the owners are evil” responses in the comments section to this post.
Facetiousness aside, I do believe there’s some truth in what I wrote in those paragraphs. Some of those players-turned-executives may be among the supposed “moderates” on the league side trying to reason with the more hawkish team owners and league executives. Some may have simply decided to stay out of this current fight. Some may have changed their opinions after working on the league side of the house after their playing days.
Whatever the reason, it’s clear the notion of more players in executive roles preventing more NHL lockouts was based more on wishful thinking than reality.