Paul Kelly- Sounding More Alarm Bells

First, let me tell you, that I am not Joe the Plumber!

Now, back to the task at hand. Paul Kelly, head of the PA sat down with the hockey’s other Darren (Sportsnet’s Millard) to talk turkey… Folks, no matter how you slice it, this doesn’t bode well for the hockey fan…However, as a fan in Southern Ontario, one has to wonder how long the Leafs will dominate the market for…

“We’re looking ahead at a CBA which may get terminated at the end of this season. It could get terminated three years from now, four years from now. I think the principle job that I have is to make sure we have a new CBA when the end of the current CBA comes that is fair for the players, that protects the rights of the players, that is good for the fans and for the business of the sport. I think we have to be mindful of the climate that we’re in at the time. But it’s clear that the most important part of my job is to look at the CBA issue and make sure that we can have a good quality CBA in place, hopefully without losing any portion of a season. That requires beginning a conversation about those kinds of critical issues well in advance of when that CBA terminates.”

Numerous times throughout the interview Kelly talks about the potential of the deal being killed after this season….

“I don’t like the fact the players don’t have a say in expansion or relocation of teams and don’t benefit from that if that in fact does happen. I think we need to make changes to the disciplinary system in our league. Colin Campbell (NHL director of hockey operations) is a passionate guy and does a good job, but it’s a very tough job. I think there is a better way to do it then we do at the present time. What happens in our business is that whenever there is an incident, Colin Campbell gets lobbied by any number of parties. He gets lobbied by the general manager of the team of the victim player, the team of the aggressor player; other teams because they have an interest in whether a guy plays or doesn’t play. The system, it seems to me, gets muddled and you’ve got to take that out. You’ve got to start from scratch. You have to bring some balance and equality. There has to be a consistency across the board to the results in the disciplinary area and I don’t think over the last couple of years we’ve seen tremendous consistency. And I don’t mean that in any negative way towards (Campbell) because he works very hard at it. He cares deeply and it’s not an easy job and I’m not talking about any individual case. I just think we should take that burden off his shoulders and put it in the hands of some trusted third party hockey person who can make those calls and do it in a manner that can be consistent across the board.”

I would love to know who this 3 party would be that wouldn’t get lobbied as Colin apparently does….

Here is where it gets interesting:

“If you terminated the CBA you would continue to play under the terms of the current CBA unless one of three things happens: Either the owners lock the players out; the players opt to go on strike, which wouldn’t happen if we were playing under the terms; or you reach a new deal, a new CBA. So, you could continue to play indefinitely even if you terminated the deal. Again, it’s a fairly complicated issue but it’s an issue that will be brought to a head in the next three months or so and we won’t delay in informing the owners of the results. Once the players make an informed judgment, we will inform the owners and we will proceed.
Practically speaking, if we terminated, the owners would immediately want to try to retrench in certain areas and make what they would view as improvements, perhaps lowering the percentages of revenues that the players receive in salary, things of that nature. We wouldn’t agree with a lot of those approaches by the owners. If that led the owners to lock us out, then that would be the owners call. My sense is even if the players opted to terminate, is that the players would continue to play. ”

So the PR game begins. No matter how many times he says it, if the players kill the deal, they will lose the PR war. Fans will not, in any way shape or form support the players. Also, I can’t see any way, shape or fashion that the deal gets killed and their is an 09 season. I don’t care how the games stops or who stops them, this deal gets re-opened, hockey will be iced, again, for some time. One has to wonder, if he knows already what the owners would want if the deal gets re-opened and his response to those demands, why go down that road? That is not to suggest you deal with a problem by avoiding it…but seems rather defeatist to me.

“Obviously some things went on in the early relationship between Mr. Balsillie and the league which perhaps could have been handled differently, and it set people kind of off about it and I think those relationships have to be repaired. I think they should be repaired because, again, I say you’ve got someone who cares about the sport who has got significant financial resources who’s willing to commit some portions of those resources to see a successful franchise operate in the right geographic location, then I think we should pursue that.”

Hard to argue with the rationale here. Balsillie seems to be a saint compared to some of the folks that the NHL has let into the fraternity of late…

” My view of that is that any young guy who comes into our league who has been wearing a visor his entire life ought to keep it on. I’ve seen enough video clips of guys who have taken that slap shot in the face both with visor and without visor and you see the difference. We are not talking about use of visors to somehow diminish the physical nature of our sport or to remove fighting from the sport – that’s not the point. It’s basic safety and protection. I think that the guys who are playing the sport currently, and (have) for many, many years, they ought to continue to play it and if that’s without a visor that should be their choice. But I think we should protect those who come after the current crop of players, so I think young players who are used to wearing the visors should keep the visor on. ”

Wholly shit, common sense??? Can’t be…. I totally agree with Kelly here. Why we get less safe in the pro’s makes no sense to me.

Finally, the issue of expansion/relocation:

“I guess my view of expansion is if you’re going to expand you have to do it smartly. Do it in areas we know will strongly support the sport. They will support it by showing up to games, buying the merchandise, following the teams. And that means if you’re going to expand in North America you’ve got to think of southern Ontario. You can’t just automatically think of Kansas City or Las Vegas. You’ve got to think of southern Ontario or one other Canadian city. bviously we want the existing 30 teams to survive and flourish; hopefully that happens. If it doesn’t happen and you either have to relocate a couple of teams or you decide there is sufficient basis to expand by a couple of clubs, one of those first places to consider has to be southern Ontario.”

I agree with Kelly again here. If LA has 2 teams and the NY area has 3, southern ontario should have 16. No, seriously, this market, the golden horseshoe should have another team. I think it would be good for everyone involved. Is it a 100% guarantee, no, it is not. It is often argued that Toronto is a Leaf town and not a hockey town, I don’t necessarily disagree with that. Having said that, absent a second NHL team, we can’t really judge. I think it should happen, but the folks at MLSE and in Sabreville are going to fight like hell to prevent it.

You can find Millard here

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