Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Never mind crossing the blue line, what will they do about the picket line?

Fans of the Ottawa Senators must wonder why the Gods toy with them so. They finally see their squad advance into a second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, providing a team that looks as though it has the ingredients and intensity to make a long run for the Stanley Cup.

It’s been a long sought after dream to play meaningful hockey into late May for the long suffering fans in the capital, and now it may unravel with the unsettling news that a regional labour dispute is about to drag the Senators, their rink and their fans into the mix.

In a news release, CUPE, the union representing arena workers in the nation’s capital announced that 61 workers at Scotiabank Place, members of Local 4809, had voted on strike action, which could begin as early as May 7. It is the day which coincidentally could mark game number six in the Devils Senators series.

Representatives at Scotiabank Place provided reassuring words that the rink would stay open regardless of any labour woes. It is their plan to keep on operating as usual even if job action takes place, though they declined to say how they would get around the problem of missing ice resurfacers, event workers and such who would all we assume be walking a picket line.
For their part the Senators had even less to say, keeping a low profile on the percolating labour woes.

Any job action by CUPE will surely test the resolve and the concept of Solidarity Forever, due to its nature Ottawa is a very union oriented town, federal government workers for the most part are unionized, as are numerous workers in other industries in the capital. What crisis of conscience will a union brother or sister face when deciding whether it’s Cup time or Solidarity time on the line.

We wonder if the NHLPA has any policy on playing in rinks where labour disputes take place? Will the players have to walk the last couple of kilometers to the rink due to a picket line; fans as well may find that transit workers won’t run the buses into a labour dispute. The whole situation offers up any number of problems for the city, the rink and the NHL.

The two sides are heading off to federal mediation in the dispute, which no doubt will be conducted with as much intensity as your average Middle East Peace conference. We suspect that in the end, an arrangement of some sort will be made, allowing the rink to remain open and proper maintenance in operation for the playoffs. But you never know how things can go in a labour spat.

The NHL will no doubt be watching events with great interest, possibly already having a plan to move any Ottawa games to a neutral site until the labour woes are solved. We understand that there are good dates available in Montreal and Toronto as we speak, as they seem to have some hockey time on their hands this spring.

It would be the ultimate worst scenario for any Ottawa fan to have their squad possibly win the Stanley Cup in Montreal or even worse, Toronto! You wouldn’t want to be the one answering the phones at CUPE should that ever come to pass!

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