Earlier this week, a prominent player agent told the National Hockey Now family the players were not unanimous in their support of the leading 24-team NHL return-to-play scenario, and it would not be an easy approval. Late Thursday night, as the proposal was presented to all 31 NHLPA reps via conference call, the agent proved to be prophetic.
According to TSN reporter Bob McKenzie, the call “was spirited if not raucous.”
Voting on the proposal will continue through Friday. McKenzie believes the 24-team NHL return proposal will pass, but it will be close. And it is not guaranteed.
This week, the tightly controlled news from the inside focused on the details of the scenario. However, the agent cautioned us players weren’t unanimous.
“I wouldn’t be so sure that happens, and it’s not necessarily gonna be ‘Game On’ for the players,” the NHL agent told our sister site, Boston Hockey Now. “…it won’t be as easy as ‘Here’s the proposal’ and they automatically sign off on it.”
McKenzie echoed that sentiment late Thursday night.
“If there are enough votes to pass, it may still be a tough call. (It is an) emotional issue, as one might expect. We should have more clarity in the next 24 hours.”
McKenzie believes NHLPA head Donald Fehr has a small majority, which will approve the 24-team proposal.
Does the NHLPA want to railroad something through with a small majority and significant discord amongst the membership?
The NHLPA has been a fractured group since the 1980s when the former chief, Alan Eagleston, was caught embezzling the player’s money. The group fractured again during the 1994-95 lockout and nearly disintegrated during the 2012 lockout.
The players eventually chose Fehr to lead the organization to settle rancorous infighting.
First, the NHL players want to come back. “IF” is no longer a question, but “HOW” is the hotly contested issue.
The NHL return-to-play issues are two-fold. The players will be quarantined away from their families for months. Those players will spend six weeks or more preparing for the return then entire into a series for another two weeks, at minimum.
If the players put in that effort to return, does a team that earned a playoff berth deserve to have their season ended by a team that didn’t earn a playoff spot?
So, the 24-team format, which includes non-playoff worthy teams, is a big issue. The players know the odds are good that one or two of the third-place teams will lose, and a team that gave up chasing the playoffs back in February could advance.
That doesn’t sit well with a lot of players.
Sidney Crosby openly opined he hoped the playoffs would be four rounds of seven-game series. That’s what the Penguins earned, anyway.
Second, the family issue is enormous. Guys will be away from their families. Hockey players don’t get paid during the NHL playoffs, so they are quarantining away from loved ones for two or three months to make future money and for love of the game.
Philip Danault of the Montreal Canadiens is on record as saying no thanks. So are Washington Capitals defenseman Radko Gudas, and Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk.
The 31 NHLPA representatives not only represent the best interests of the union but the desires of the players.
It’s going to be close. Initially, we thought the agent might be echoing a minority feeling. However, now we know it might not be such a small contingent of players who aren’t digging this format or NHL return to play scenario.