- Craig Custance
While the negotiations continue between the NHL and NHLPA, there's no doubt there's been a bit of tension between the negotiating teams. In fact, maybe the two sides extending the NHL's lockout should retreat to their corners for a little bit. Instead, have some turkey. Enjoy a football game. Take a breather, guys.
Perhaps it's time to turn over the negotiations to those who have a history of making deals together. It's time to make a call to the bullpen and enlist the help of some of the people who have more than a little skin invested in the game, even if it's just for a few days.
If it were up to me, I'd temporarily hand the negotiating keys to these six people and see if they can't bang out a deal:
Lou Lamoriello: More than one person has suggested to me independently that the president and general manager of the New Jersey Devils is exactly the kind of person who could get the NHL out of this mess.
"He's cheap but fair," said one agent, whose respect for Lamoriello was obvious. People have a hard time saying no to Lamoriello, who was in the mix during the previous lockout and offered some sage advice to the New York Post in an October story: "Maybe we should do like they do with juries. Lock them in a room until they reach a verdict." It's a voice of sanity in a negotiation that desperately needs it.
Ken Holland: Here's what we already know about the players: They're willing to take significantly less money in this next CBA deal. They just need to be convinced why they should give up more than they've already offered. The Detroit Red Wings' GM is a master communicator and could be just the guy to explain things in terms that might persuade the players to give just a little more. Through the years, Holland has done a fantastic job managing the salary cap in Detroit by convincing players to leave money on the table for the greater cause. You can't do it by putting a gun to their heads, but if there's a mutual understanding that the deal benefits both sides, players are usually very reasonable. Holland could convey the message.
Mario Lemieux: We'd like somebody from the Pittsburgh Penguins' progressive braintrust to be in the room. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review columnist Dejan Kovacevic aptly pointed out that Lemieux has a history of solving problems locally in Pittsburgh, from saving the Penguins to getting a new arena built. He has the right mix of business savvy and passion for the sport that could get a deal done. And if he's not willing, GM Ray Shero would be a more-than-suitable replacement. A smart, articulate problem-solver, Shero has a history of being both decisive when needed (hiring Dan Bylsma, trading Jordan Staal) and patient (Sidney Crosby's concussion) when necessary. Either man would be invaluable to the process.
Don Baizley: There's not a more well-respected man in the world of hockey, as this fantastic column about his fight with cancer reveals so well. He's not an attention seeker. Instead, he's the kind of guy who will give you all of the time you need so you're informed on a situation, as long as you keep his name out of publication. The agent also has a history of getting results. His client list is not only loaded with some of the best players of this generation, they're often the classiest -- guys like Joe Sakic and Teemu Selanne. It can't be an accident.
Don Meehan or Pat Brisson: You need at least one, if not both, of the most powerful agents in the game right now. Meehan started Newport Sports in 1981 and has built it into an absolute powerhouse representing stars like Zach Parise, Steven Stamkos, Brad Richards, Henrik Lundqvist and Jarome Iginla. Brisson, of CAA, has a client list that includes Crosby, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. These two agents have brokered deals totaling hundreds of millions. They know how to get deals done and they both have a lot at stake in these negotiations.
Bobby Orr: He brings the background of both a player and an agent who, during a recent conversation captured by The (Toronto) Globe and Mail, provided more perspective on these negotiations than any public comments made by commissioner Gary Bettman or union head Donald Fehr. "They have to accept that responsibility to sit down and get a deal done. Shame on them if they don't do that," Orr said. "It's more than just the players and the owners. There's a lot of people hurt by this lockout." He was also a voice of reason during the previous lockout. He wrote a column that included a line that was as true then as it is now: "Our sport is in danger of becoming irrelevant unless both sides immediately put an end to this nonsense."