Thursday, December 15, 2005

Saskin says his peace at the NHL meetings

It marked a first for the NHL, the leader of the leagues players union was asked to drop in and say a few words as the thirty league governors gathered in the desert of Arizona.

Ted Saskin, head of the NHLPA gave an address to the NHL owners outlining his take on the current collective agreement and bringing some of his memberships concerns to the table for consideration.

The meeting which has been described as precedent setting, was the main event of the
Wednesday meeting, as he explained that for the most part the players were content with the new structure of the NHL (mind you he probably didn't consult with the Trent Klatt collection on that one) and had only a few concerns of note at the moment.

Among them the inconsistent calls of the officials in the new NHL, some games are chock a block full of penalties while the next night the free wheeling goes on uninterrupted, the players would like to see a more reliable base for how the game will be called from night to night.

The other issue that has a few of them concerned is the waiver situation where minor league players end up stuck on farm clubs, only because the parent club is afraid of losing them on waivers on the way up. The poster boy for this problem is Wade Flaherty of the Manitoba Moose, the Canucks who obviously could use a reliable and experienced goaltender to help out Alex Auld with Dan Cloutier now gone for the season, can't afford to take the chance on bringing Flaherty up to the main club. Should they try, he could very well be claimed by some other NHL team in need of a goaltender and the Canucks would be on the hook for a portion of his salary while he plays on a different team. For Flaherty it must be particularly disconcerting, as he may find himself forever left in the AHL merely because he's probably good enough to be in the NHL. Saskin did not get any answers on that dilemma to report back to the membership on.

The appearance of Saskin seems to be setting a new tone for the NHL and its relationship with its players. After the bitterness of the lockout year lost, both sides appear for the most part to be trying to cobble together a more productive relationship. Inviting Saskin to the inner circle if only for a brief period of time, at least gives the players hope that some of their concerns will finally get an honest hearing.

It may also go a long way in settling down the festering problems within the players association, as the Klatt led rebels continue to lobby for another confirmation vote on Saskin's leadership. By showing that he has the ear of the NHL power brokers, Saskin may have been able to quell the problems before they pick up much more steam.

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