Guess What? The NHLPA Is Getting Smarter

Normally, it’s the owners playing that trump card. Well, Trump card. In the end, they’ll probably still win this thing. But, right now, the players are sure learning fast.

You see, the players got to where they are by skating, shooting, stickhandling, and nothing else. The owners got to where they are by working hard and beating their competition… in the boardroom. Both sides are equally ambitious, but their skills and approaches couldn’t be more polar.

That’s why owners tend to win these lockouts. In hockey, at least. They’ve also had four chances to do so in the past 21 years, and the main figures have kept their positions.

The players, however, move in and out of their positions like they’ve hit an oil slick approaching a beaded screen door.

It’s not like the players can’t listen to their elderly peers for advice. After all, listen to an interview with Brendan Shanahan from 1994 and it’s clear the issues haven’t changed. The owners have a lot of money and want more, but are focused on the financial stability of the game. The players? They want to get what they’re worth, and they don’t want to be taken advantage of.

Now, though, it appears the players are wising up. Their noses have adjusted to the smell.

First, they had that ill-fated (but well-intentioned) play to gravitate toward’s Janne Makkonen’s anti-lockout video and claim it as their own cause. The entire NHLPA retweeted it and promoted it but, in the end, it ended up being for the fans, not the players.

Then, there was that odd Carolina Hurricanes practice, where the Staals and Co. wore NHLPA jerseys with “#ThePlayers” written on the back. Yes, because re-stating your side on Twitter will make owners cave. They must have been trembling in their snake skin boots. No, snake skin is too cheap. Beluga fin?

Of course, there was that God awful plea for help, which the players broadcast over YouTube in an attempt to compare their fortunes and daily lives with that of the common fan.

Yes, the players are sponsored by Tim Horton’s. The common fan buys┬áTim Horton’s.

But, they haven’t given up.

After Mike Modano almost single-handedly torpedoed their momentum, Jarome Iginla stepped up to the plate with a well-worded and unfairly incredible blast at NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

“Gary said last time, it was a deal that would work for everyone, but a win-win… If you had asked him, ‘Forecast the revenues and will it work?’ He’d have said, ‘Absolutely. This is perfect’… Now, we’re not talking 1% (back from the players). They’re talking 10% back, and that’s $300 million, and that doesn’t seem honest from where that was.

“So how can we trust them next time?”

Damn.

Then, on Thursday, there were 20 NHLers showing up in Quebec for a run-of-the-mill exhibition hockey tournament at an arena that seats only 1,250 people. Tickets were sold on a first-come, first-serve basis. They only cost $20.

And, for that, you could have played with or watched Josh Gorges, Brian Gionta, Andre Markov, Simon Gagne, and Jonathan Bernier.

Max Talbot. Jason Pominville. Bruno Gervais. Corey Crawford. Alex Burrows. Guillaume Latendresse. Colby Armstrong. Derick Brassard. Mathieu Darche. Steve Begin.

They came in numbers.

Normally, the players just tell┬áthe fans they’re on their side. They try and convince the fans they’re doing it for them, but they don’t show them. That’s even how they started out this time.

It appears they’re getting smarter. They’re getting better. They’re participating. They’re playing the game off the ice.

They might actually win this thing.