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Screen Shots: Just when things were going so well

12/7/2005

The latest bolt of bad news in the NHLPA's annus horribilis -- Latin for "the year in which we took it in the goolies on a regular basis" -- brings to mind three things: fish, a barrel and bullets.

That said, we're long past the point where criticizing the players' union makes for good-natured satire. This is a sad situation that is getting sadder by the second, and it's a situation, despite players' myriad of riches and rewards, they simply don't deserve.

Sure, it once was fun pointing out the deficits of logic in some of their strategies (i.e. "We don't believe the owners are losing money, but here's a proposed salary cut of 24 percent as our first counter-offer anyway"), and the wacky way in which they were a union less than intrigued with traditional union interests (i.e., minimizing job losses, maximizing employee safety).

However, Steve Larmer's noisy, nervy resignation from the NHLPA isn't tickling anyone's funny bone. His Dear John letter wasn't only a sign all is not golf trips and tumblers of rum at union headquarters, but also a harbinger of the hostility that's bound to build in the coming months.

But when Larmer invoked the name of Alan Eagleson, the disgraced former union head, he underscored the rancor that has permeated the organization.

Is invoking the name of Eagleson fair? To some, including many of the 30 or so NHLers who have filed complaints about the process with the U.S. National Labor Relations Board and Department of Labor, it's entirely appropriate. To others, it's more than a little over-the-top. After all, no money is being pilfered from the players, and no one-man-controls-all fiefdoms are being constructed.

But that's the kind of accusation you open yourself up to when you don't follow the rules, opening up all the criticism; the players who still think they should be sitting out, not playing and waiting for a better labor deal, those who thought Goodenow was wrong in his no-cap stance in the first place and the others who just want some semblance of procedure adhered to, a very viable reason to rant.

In that sense, Saskin and NHLPA president Trevor Linden have only themselves to blame.

Because of their stubborn unwillingness to admit what almost everyone else admits (that NHLPA executives are refusing to recognize the reality of a situation), players who pride themselves on sticking together are now on drastically different teams.

That's what's so frustrating for so many people. Saskin could end all the grousing by stepping aside and going about the hiring process the proper way.

In the end, he could easily wind up playing the role he does now. As Toronto's Eric Lindros said after Larmer's letter was made public, "I'm not saying Ted was not the right guy to lead the players' association, but I don't think the rules and guidelines of our organization were followed."

Rather than working toward transparency and due process, Saskin is allowing the current situation to fester, creating an environment where players are baring their fangs at each other. The truth of the matter is they need solidarity more than ever.

The more Saskin strives for acceptance, the deeper he drives the wedge into his constituency. And the thicker this quagmire becomes, the more lawyers that get into the mix, the more troubled the NHLPA will become.

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

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