Crosby's role in NHL lockout is significant
Historically, when you look back at lockouts and other labor strife in the NHL, many of the league’s superstars were either uninvolved or silent passengers hiding in the background.
Forget the unmitigated disaster that unfolded Thursday night in New York City between the players and the union.
What’s important is that the two sides are closer than they have ever been to resolving the lockout, which enters its 85th day Sunday.
And one of the reasons they have gotten closer is because the face of the game -- from a player’s perspective and not the NHLPA itself -- was involved: Sidney Crosby.
The Penguins star did what the greatest player in the game is supposed to do. He got involved.
As close as he is to Mario Lemieux, as much as Crosby emulates what Lemieux meant to the NHL, the example that lay before Crosby wasn’t Lemieux.
It’s his childhood idol, Steve Yzerman, one of the all-time leaders in Detroit, who knew when to take the mantle in Motor City and run with it.
It doesn’t matter that a deal didn’t get done -- yet. The fact that Crosby changed the dynamics within player-owner involvement through Pittsburgh owner, Ron Burkle, was important.
A year from now, the hard feelings, the anger, everything else associated with last Thursday will have been forgotten.
What won’t be forgotten is the significance of one team’s star player sitting down across the table for his owner and trying to make a deal.
That’s what Yzerman would have done.
“I care about the game like everyone else,” Crosby said when asked whether his status elevated him to do this.
“I love to play. You have to take interest in it if you want to find out what the process is and what is going on.
“That is just a means of trying to be educated and find a way to make it work and share your opinion, too. We’re all part of this union. We have to make sure our opinions are heard. As far as [my involvement], I am just trying to do the right thing.”
Minutes after Crosby spoke -- on the heels of union executive director Donald Fehr expressing outright optimism and joy that a new CBA appeared to be just days away -- everything disintegrated before our disbelieving eyes.
Not only did the NHL reject the player’s counter-offer, they pulled their offer from the table and announced negotiations were done, for the time being.
The Commish, Gary Bettman, had a super snit of a presser unloading on the union and, in particular, the Fehr Bros., Donald and special counsel, Steve.
Crosby didn’t comment until the next morning when he met local reporters at the Penguins' practice facility, which the players are renting in Southpointe, outside Pittsburgh.
“To go through all that and to get a response like that is pretty devastating,” he told reporters.
“Gary said at his press conference that they’re drawing a line in the sand. Then just say that [in negotiations]. Don’t waste guys’ time there discussing stuff for three days of trying to make something work and then come out and say that.
“I’m disappointed. This whole process shouldn’t be to this point. I really thought we made progress over the few days.
“Both sides were clear on what they wanted. We found a way to move their way. If that’s the position they’re going to take, don’t have everyone go discuss stuff and then throw it out the window like that.”
Virtually no one we talked to on either side believes the talks are dead or that the season is going to be canceled.
All that has happened here is that the league assured at least one more week, if not more, of CBA talks. The target date to play a 50-plus game season is Jan. 1.
Yes, the league would like the players to agree to a one-time play date of Christmas Day, but realistically, we’re told it’s Jan. 1. Perhaps a series of rivalry games across North America to celebrate hockey’s return.
“The foundation [for a deal] is there,” Crosby said. “I don’t think those talks were for nothing.”
And he doesn’t regret his involvement, either.
“Not at all,” Crosby said. “I think we all have the best interest in mind, and that’s getting the game back on ice.”
It will happen, but not before more bloodletting. E-mail Tim Panaccio at email@example.com