Chris Chelios, Derian Hatcher and Kris Draper are getting the blades back out and are ready to hit the ice. But you won't be seeing them in Red Wing or Black Hawk colours this year, instead the trio will take to the ice on behalf of the Motor City Mechanics, a struggling UHL team based in a Detroit suburb.
Chelios and his pals Hatcher and Draper signed contracts with the Mechanics yesterday, with Hatcher the first on the ice on Tuesday as the Motor City boys took on the Flint Generals. And while the three get their skating legs back, there are rumblings about a bit of hypocrisy in their decision to get back to playing hockey.
The three ex-NHLers move to a league a tad far down the evolutionary chain of pro hockey. The UHL is one of those worker, lunch bucket types of leagues, made up mostly of career minor leaguers who on the best month probably only pull in about 700 bucks a week, 2800 a month or 36,400 a year. A far cry from the multi million dollar salaries that the newest Mechanics might be used to receiving.
The UHL operates under a pretty strict salary cap, one in place because frankly the league doesn't make much in the way of money, has no tv deals, no merchandising monies to speak of and a rather low profile at the best of times.
How Chelios and his buddies can reconcile taking jobs away from guys that may actually be depending on the UHL for a livelihood is best left to them to sort out. But more than one observer has pointed out the irony of the trio signing on with a league that not only has a salary cap, but depends on it for its very survival.
For the three it might have been a better choice to follow the rest of the exiles to Europe, there at least its a case of out of sight, out of mind. Better yet they should have bought the Mechanics, given everyone a raise and tested out running a hockey team on their own. It might have given them a different perspective on things, instead they're sending three journeymen to the showers while they play a bit of shinny.
If they really just wanted to get back on the ice, wouldn't it have been wiser just to go and rent some ice time and organize a little NHL pick up action. Instead they've put a spotlight on their actions and given their union brothers an unnecessary item to have to defend. Maybe Gary will mention the irony to Bob in Thursday's final gasp NHL/NHLPA meetings. If nothing else it will help them to fill the time before they break off talks and most likely end the season. Leaving us to wait for those Motor City mechanic highlights to come up on Sports Centre!