I See What Mark Recchi is Saying About the NHL Lockout, But...

By Emma Harger
John E. Sokolowski – US PRESSWIRE

Apparently, it’s Mark Recchi Day. Not only is this the anniversary of when he broke through the 1,000 penalty minutes barrier and became the 30th NHL player to ever rack up 1,000 penalty minutes and 1,000 points, but in an interview with the Boston Globe, he spoke out about the NHL lockout and took an interesting stance.

Basically, he advised players to take whatever deal the league is offering them right now, warts and all, because he feels it’s only going to get worse for them the longer they hold out:

“The longer they’re out, the revenues are going to go down and down,” he said. “Corporate sponsors aren’t going to be lining up…so there goes that money. The schedule isn’t going to be 82 games, I don’t think, at this point. That’s more money lost. So, how are you going to get a better deal? Personally, I think the best time is now.”

He also discussed concerns that the players could look like the ones who caved and lost the battle if they take a deal now:

“They’re always going to get paid, no matter what. Look at that last deal. We ended up with the cap and everyone thought it was a bad deal. But it ended up great, right? No matter what the system is, or has been, the players get their money. No matter what the contract, the owners always find a way to pay them more. That’s why I say, get a deal and get back in there…the money’s always there.”

He does speak from experience, having been in the league during the 1994-95 and 2004-05 lockouts, the second one establishing the salary cap under which the players live today. He is also part of the ownership team of the WHL Kamloops Blazers, so he knows the other side of things–though of course a WHL team is very different from an NHL team–and said that the Blazers have lost money every year he’s been on the ownership team.

But I think he’s got it wrong in this situation and before Boston Bruins fans, or fans of the myriad other teams Recchi called home during his long career, start calling for him to be canonized over his opinion, let’s think about it.

First of all, the owners seem to be waffling on the idea of even honoring the contracts they already made up for players before the lockout began. Why are they going back on the promises they put into words and signed their names to now? Will the players always get paid? Sure, I suppose so. Will the players get all the money they are entitled to from their contracts? It’s not looking so certain at this point unless the two sides work something out at the bargaining table.

That’s a little easier said than done when the league flat-out refuses to negotiate on certain points, rejects NHLPA proposals in less time than it takes to play a full period of hockey and makes it clear that they’re unwilling to have a deal unless the union agrees to every single change to contract rights down to every little comma.

Second of all, why does Recchi suddenly have all the answers to the labor woes now? As Chris Botta pointed out, Recchi was a member of the NHLPA from 1986 to 2011. “NOW he speaks up and has all the answers?” he asked somewhat rhetorically.

A French-language reporter, Pierre Trudel, put it a little more strongly when he said (per Google Translate, with slight grammatical errors fixed):

“Mark Recchi advises players to sign. [He] works for [the] owner[s] now? He lost a good opportunity to shut up.”

The Recchi thing could be part of a desire for the league to turn the anti-NHLPA rhetoric up to 11 and divide and conquer the fandom. Why not bring in a guy who will surely be in the Hall of Fame sooner rather than later–by the way, anyone see the tepid reception Gary Bettman got at the induction ceremony?–and a guy that many people really do like and trust to kind of take the league’s side of things? I of course do not think that someone was behind the scenes whispering talking points in Recchi’s ear for him to say, but this is just another arrow in the league’s quiver.

It would also be interesting to see how Recchi’s position on important issues to the welfare of players has changed since 1994 or 2004. Maybe he would’ve sung a different tune a decade or so ago–and rightly so, considering that he was in the thick of it at the time, doing a job he couldn’t do forever. Now that he’s on the outside looking in, he might just see some of these debatable/apparently non-negotiable points as mere quibbles that can be worked out later after a deal is struck.

But that’s not the way everyone else sees it–which is why the attempts to bargain, and the lockout, continue.

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