ANAHEIM, CA — On Friday evening, there was a packed house of cheering fans, ice, and players skating on it, scoring a total of 16 goals.
To some, that might sound vaguely familiar.
Yes, for those who can remember, and that might be difficult, the game of hockey was being played at The Rinks – Anaheim Ice, where a charity game featuring several players from the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings was played on December 14, benefiting the Jr. Ducks Pee Wee AAA team, and Children’s Hospital of Orange County.
Frozen Royalty will have a story on the game and the charitable causes mentioned later this weekend. But the more pressing story was the reason National Hockey League players were available to play in the game in the first place, especially after the developments that occurred earlier in the day.
Indeed, on the 90th day of the current lockout of its players, the NHL filed a Class Action Complaint against the National Hockey League Players Association in United States Federal Court in New York.
The NHL also filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge against the NHLPA with the National Labor Relations Board.
From the NHL’s press release:
Today, in response to information indicating that NHL Players have, or will be asked, to vote to authorize the National Hockey League Players Association’s Executive Board to proceed to “disclaim interest” in continuing to represent the Players in collective bargaining, the National Hockey League filed a Class Action Complaint in Federal Court in New York seeking a Declaration confirming the ongoing legality of the lockout.
Simultaneously with the filing of its Complaint, the NHL also filed an Unfair Labor Practice Charge with the National Labor Relations Board alleging that by threatening to “disclaim interest,” the NHLPA has engaged in an unlawful subversion of the collective bargaining process and conduct that constitutes bad faith bargaining under the National Labor Relations Act.
For their part, the NHLPA responded with a brief statement.
The NHLPA has just received a copy of the National Labor Relations Board charge and has not yet been served with the lawsuit. However, based on what we’ve learned so far, the NHL appears to be arguing that Players should be stopped from even considering their right to decide whether or not to be represented by a union. We believe that their position is completely without merit.
These developments seemed to cast a bit of a pall over the mood of the NHL players who participated in the charity game.
“[The filings by the NHL] shocked me,” said Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf. “To me, it’s another [waste], spending too much time doing other things, when we could be sitting at a table, working it out.”
“It’s annoying,” added Getzlaf. “The whole process has been a little bit silly. It’s hard to understand, even you’re on the inside. I’m right in the middle of it, and I still don’t understand why we can’t sit at a table, and bang things out. Everything always has to be a certain move, instead of sitting down and figuring it out.”
Ducks superstar winger Teemu Selanne was visibly angry about Friday’s developments.
“They’re suing us,” he exclaimed. “Why?! What did we do to them?”
Selanne, 42, would be in his 21st NHL season in 2012-13. He remembers the last two lockouts, in 1994-95 and again in 2004-05.
“You know, back in 2004, I understood the reasons for the lockout,” he noted. “There were huge issues back then, and they had to be fixed. This time? No!”
Selanne was adamant that this time around, he feels the owners are demanding the proverbial arm and a leg from the players…
…and another limb or vital organ of their own choosing.
“We’ve already agreed to a 50/50 split of [hockey related revenues],” Selanne stressed. “What else do they expect us to give back to them?”
Kings left wing Dustin Penner hoped that with the league and the union entering into litigation, perhaps the process would be accelerated.
“Usually, when the government gets involved, [or the courts], they tend to move a little quicker, because now you have someone to answer to, instead of two parties who aren’t regulated by anything,” said Penner. “I think it’s part of the process. Other [players unions] have done that before—decertify. It’s all part of the [negotiations].”
“Hopefully, it’s not going to be too long of a process, but we’ll get the lawyers taking care of that,” said Ducks defenseman Francois Beauchemin.
In any case, everyone knows that the situation is bleak, and there is not much time left to make a deal before the 2012-13 season is completely lost.
“We’re still hopeful that, maybe in January, we can start, and get half a season in,” said Getzlaf. “The next couple of weeks are going to be big.”
“We still have a month to go, in my mind,” Beauchemin indicated. “Something’s got to happen in the next thirty days for us to play a season. Hopefully, it will. I don’t really know what their plans are. Nobody knows. We’ll all find out pretty soon.”
Despite the hope expressed for at least half a season to be played, understandably, the players had a mostly doom-and-gloom outlook.
“It hasn’t looked encouraging for awhile, but I try not to get caught up in the emotional roller coaster that these negotiations breed,” said Penner.
“I’m not confident at all,” Getzlaf lamented. “I’ve tried to be confident through this whole thing, but it seems that every time we’ve tried to come close, they push away.”
“Until they’re willing to come close, then there’s nothing to be positive about,” Getzlaf added. “That’s the sad truth. Unless they have a timeline that I don’t know about, where they’re suddenly going to say, ‘OK, we’ll try and work it out,’ until then, it’s not looking great.”
The players also expressed fear about the damage being caused by the lockout, especially in terms of what it is doing to their fan base.
“It’s obviously very tough on the fans,” Penner acknowledged. “You get a lot of reaction on Twitter, and on blogs, where people are upset, and rightfully so.”
“When I was a fan, and there was a lockout in 1994, you didn’t care why, or about any of the minor details,” Penner added. “You just want to see hockey, and you want to be able to watch it with your Dad, or your buddies during the weekend, sitting back, and watching the game you love. But there’s a lot that goes on, behind the scenes, that produces the game that everybody loves, and you have to go through those negotiations, trying to find something that’s suitable and profitable, for the league, the fans, and the [players].”
Getzlaf warned that fans could easily shift their interest to other sports in the area.
“It’s a big fear,” he emphasized. “That’s a huge thing, especially in Orange County, and other markets, where there are so many other options. [In Southern California], there’s two basketball teams, there’s another hockey team, there’s a football team in San Diego, baseball teams, so it’s not that they don’t have options to watch sports. These are things that definitely concern us while we’re going through this long of a lockout.”
Getzlaf admitted that the hardcore fans will be back, but the NHL could suffer huge losses in terms of growing their fan base.
“There’s always fans who are going to be there,” said Getzlaf. “It’s a matter of growing the game, and that’s where we were headed, getting new fans. We take pride in our fans, and hope many come back, or stay with us, as we had before.”
Penner indicated that we will all just to have wait and see how the process plays out, and once the game is back on the ice, rebuild the relationship with the fans.
“It’s a long process,” he noted. “It doesn’t [come right back immediately], especially since it’s the second time in seven years, and now, with lockouts in the NBA and NFL, people are just getting tired of it.”
“We don’t know how much damage is going to be done,” he added. “But like anything else in life, you just have to take it one step at a time, and try to build back that trust and that relationship with the fans.”
Penner Decides Against Heading Overseas To Play
During the lockout, many NHL players have gone overseas to play in professional leagues in European countries, or in Russia’s KHL. But many more have decided to wait out the situation at home, including Penner, who faced a very different situation during the last lockout in 2004-05.
“It’s a challenge,” he said. “The last time we were locked out, it was my first year [in the NHL, with Anaheim], so I was able to play in the minors, in Cincinnati. Now, it’s been nice, because of the season [the Kings] had—[going deep into the playoffs and winning the Stanley Cup last season].”
“I had off-season surgery, but probably a month ago, if not sooner, I was ready to go,” he added. “Now, you’re trying to find things to do.”
This time around, Penner’s options are limited. But even though the overseas option is available to him, he decided against it.
“I have my own reasons,” said Penner. “I have no problem with people going over and playing [in Europe. But] you have to fly overseas, and depending on what league you’re in, they don’t have to pay you, even though they say they will. There’s a lot of things that happen that become frustrating, whether it’s trying to get your money, or some guys get injured, like [Kings defenseman] Alec Martinez. He got hit in the face with a slapshot. He’s got six broken bones, and three plates [in his face]. If you have a family, you have to move everyone out there, there’s insurance issues.”
“One of the other reasons, for me, is that there’s a lot of guys over there, who are from that area, who get bumped down,” added Penner. “That’s another reason I don’t want to go.”
Not wanting to leave the media without an amusing comment, Penner summarized his thoughts about his decision not to play overseas this way…
“For me, to sum it up the best, the juice isn’t worth the squeeze.”
NOTE: Frozen Royalty intended to get comments from other players, including Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi, and Kings right wing Justin Williams. However, due to a mix-up following the charity game, no other players were made available to the media.
Raw Audio Interviews
(Extraneous material and dead air have been removed; click on the arrow to listen):
Francois Beauchemin (3:49)
Ryan Getzlaf (5:43)
Dustin Penner (5:45)
- Arrogance, Foolishness and Incompetence Playing Lead Role In NHL Lockout Saga
- Southern California NHL Players Help Make Charity Hockey Game In Anaheim A Big Hit
- No Pressure On NHL Owners And Players To Reach Agreement On New CBA
- Dark Cloud Looming Overhead Couldn’t Dampen Spirits At Charity Hockey Game Benefitting LA Jr. Kings
- Giving A Face To Those Caught In The Middle of The NHL Lockout
- LA Kings Broadcasters On The Lockout: “Get It Done. Let’s Start Playing”
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