NHL, NHLPA walk away winners

Updated: January 25, 2005, 5:51 PM ET
By Adam Proteau | The Hockey News

The good-hearted and rational among us hope there are special, extra-painful places in purgatory for oil executives, Ja Rule, and anyone remotely responsible for the production or promotion of "The Littlest Groom."

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But if fairness and justice is what awaits us in the afterlife, the dungeon of most excessive and enduring agony will be reserved for the worst humankind has produced: the rotten, stunned, unforgivable so-and-sos who talk at top volume on their cell phones in the movie theater.

If you suspect we're about to draw an analogy between the abject self-importance of Joe Movietalker and the recent actions of Bob Goodenow and Gary Bettman, alert the authorities -- someone has leaked this column to the bloody downloaders before it was scheduled to be released.

While we're on the topic of movies, let's talk about something else common to both Hollywood and hockey this time of year: award season. Sure, the NHL's January accolades normally are of the midseason variety, but with neither games nor players to honor, we'd instead like to celebrate the gems and germs of the lockout.

So, as the Oscar nominees are being announced, we're here to unveil the inaugural Goofy Awards, a celebration of all who have helped deliver the NHL to oblivion's door. And who knows -- the way both sides are embracing what amounts to career suicide, this could turn into an annual event.

Worst Lockout Performance By A Big Cheese From The NHL or NHLPA

And the Goofy goes to ... Gary Bettman, for shouting down reporters at press conferences, commissioning a study to show how many times the league has circled the drain under his tenure, and what one anonymous NHL GM called "a general, all-around smarminess."

"People who comment about me don't know me," Bettman recently told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, referring to his growing amount of detractors. "They don't know what makes me tick."

That's the problem, Gary. Ten years in the position, and you haven't convinced players or fans that hockey -- not fiscal sanity, not brand extension, not enforcing gag orders -- is what keeps you awake at night. Ten years later, and we still have to guess what makes you tick. Is it any wonder you've ticked off so many of us?

Best Lockout Performance By A Big Cheese From The NHL or NHLPA

And the Goofy goes to ... Bill Daly, the NHL's vice president and chief legal officer, who has emerged as one of the leading candidates to replace Bettman should NHL owners wise up and dump the current commissioner.

Daly may have goals identical to his boss, but he can communicate the league's ideas without the condescension/arrogance combo Bettman has made his trademark. Plus, he's one of the few white men who can pull off the Mr. Clean lid without looking sickly.

Worst Strategic Move Of The Lockout

And the Goofy goes to ... Bob Goodenow and the NHLPA, for allowing players to embark on glorified European vacations, taking away jobs from players who actually need the money.

The NHLPA has all but waved the white flag in the public relations battle, but you have to think a union with all its members standing strong on the sidelines would curry a lot more favor with the public than a collection of millionaires ready to cannibalize one another at the first opportunity.

Best Strategic Move Of The Lockout

And the Goofy goes to...the NHL, for its effective, if not total muzzling of owners and GMs.

Granted, it's a heck of a lot easier to keep 60 men quiet than 700 men (hence the NHLPA's now-trademarked "Statement-Retractor 3000" contraption), but keeping the likes of Bill Wirtz and Glen Sather from microphones and cameras is addition by subtraction.

Throat Most In Need Of A Laryngitis Attack (Player Division)

And the Goofy goes to ... Mike Modano, who, when he wasn't complaining that a $400-per-week salary "wouldn't pay for my dogs' food for a month", was implying that the players' solidarity would be tough to maintain should the lockout extend into next season (of course, he furiously backtracked the next day.)

We like outspoken NHLers as much as anyone, but remember how Jerry Seinfeld would mutter "Newman" to himself every time his portly neighbor threw a wrench in his plans? You can bet that, around the NHLPA offices, "Modano" is used in a very similar way.

Throat Most In Need Of A Laryngitis Attack (Owner Division)

And the Goofy goes to ... Jeremy Jacobs, still doing his utmost to dissuade NHLers everywhere from donning the Black and Gold of their own accord.

Salary cap or not, why would any NHLer want his checks signed by a man who is on the record questioning the heart and professionalism of his employees? If you know the answer, Bruins GM Mike O'Connell wants to talk to you. Right away.

Best Non-Lockout Story Involving An NHLer

And the Goofy goes to ... Avalanche enforcer Peter Worrell, for trying to impersonate former Panthers teammate Andreas Lilja after being pulled over by the fuzz in Florida this past December.

Worrell is 6-foot-6 and black; Lilja is 6-foot-3 and white.

Sometimes, these items require no further comment.

E-mail Adam Proteau at aproteau@thehockeynews.com.

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