Red Wings VP Jimmy Devellano has been around the NHL for 45 years and has a reputation for speaking openly but not always wisely. (Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)
By Stu Hackel
Without negotiations toward a new CBA to mull over, it’s starting to get nasty out there. The clock is ticking and the ill will is rising.
Apart from the chance that informal talks might take place on Monday evening — and they seem to contain little more than each side asking the other if they’ve budged and neither doing so — the NHL lockout entered its second week with little real movement; unless, that is, you count as “movement” more players signing to skate in Europe and the fine that the league levied against the Red Wings. We feared this would happen a month ago and predictions by some that the league could resume in time for the Winter Classic took a hit when Kevin McGran of The Toronto Star revealed last Friday that the NHL plans to cancel the game come November if no deal is in sight. The Wings’ Dan Cleary said Monday that he believes the impasse could surpass the last lockout.
So hockey fans must be content with the public relations battle between the NHL and the NHLPA. On that front, Red Wings executive Jim Devellano did the owners no favors with his rather malevolent characterization of the players — and all employees of the owners, himself included — as cattle, among other strange remarks he made in an interview.
The league whacked the Red Wings, reported by some to be $250,000, for Jimmy D.’s remarks (although David Shoalts of The Globe and Mail doubts the NHL will bother to collect the money). Regardless, what Devellano said shows the wisdom of Gary Bettman’s prohibition on anyone among the owners or their minions speaking about anything concerning labor relations.
The larger questions in this little brouhaha remain, however: how accurate is the picture that Devellano painted of the owners’ regard for players and others in their employ? And was that the worst of what Jimmy D. said?
In case you haven’t read it yet elsewhere, here’s what Devellano told Scott Harrigan on the British Columbia website Island Sports News while discussing the explosion of contracts at big salary levels the owners doled out just prior to the lockout: “It’s very complicated and way too much for the average Joe to understand, but having said that, I will tell you this: The owners can basically be viewed as the Ranch, and the players, and me included, are the cattle. The owners own the Ranch and allow the players to eat there. That’s the way it’s always been and that’s the way it will be forever. And the owners simply aren’t going to let a union push them around. It’s not going to happen.”