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On the subject of replacement players

Oct 2, 2012, 12:14 PM EDT

Replacements Getty Images

On the one hand, it would further damage the reputation of the NHL.

On the other, just think of the comedy!

Monday night on Josh Rimer’s radio show, former Leafs assistant GM Bill Watters speculated that league commissioner Gary Bettman could bring in replacement players – possibly by mid-November – in an attempt to break the union and end the lockout.

Some in the media are skeptical.

But it’s not the first time Watters has touched on the subject of replacements.

“There are enough free agents around and players under contract in junior, on reserve lists and in the AHL to ice a team in every city,” he told the Toronto Sun in September. “It is conceivable. It wouldn’t be a long-term thing but a union breaking move.”

OK, first question: Would that even be legal? Surely there are labor laws that cover this sort of thing. Replacement players have been used before in sports, but we imagine it took a few lawyers to usher them in.

Next question: Assuming the NHL finds a way to jump through all the legal hoops, what kind of player would cross the picket line and be willing to wear the “scab” label the rest of their careers?

Perhaps…

—- A fringe player who knows he’s not good enough to make the NHL except as a replacement.

—- A veteran that’s on the verge of retirement and has nothing to gain from a lost season.

—- A player with a beef against the union.

Sounds like a fantastic product.

It’s also worth wondering if this sort of move could seriously backfire for the NHL. We all saw what happened when the NFL attempted to use replacement officials. The product suffered and the league became a laughingstock.

Plus, it might not be a good idea to give hockey fans a means to gather in the thousands and demonstrate their unhappiness with the NHL. Lest we forget the extended “bull****” chant a few weeks ago in Baltimore.

  1. Stiller43 - Oct 2, 2012 at 12:22 PM

    Good god…love hockey but i would not watch that. I may watch a game just to see how officially bad it is, but after that, no more.

  2. id4joey - Oct 2, 2012 at 12:29 PM

    Jason, don’t you have more relevant topics to write about? Perhaps your editor needs to wake up and give you better assignments.

    • windmiller4 - Oct 2, 2012 at 2:02 PM

      what, talking about the nhl on a hockey forum isn’t enough for you? What do you even believe is a relevant topic?

  3. stangz11 - Oct 2, 2012 at 12:39 PM

    They wouldn’t be allowed to use replacement players. Back in 1995 (now) Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor ruled against the MLB owners in their attempt to field replacement players. The good news: it ended their lockout. The bad news: it came after the season was already lost. Here’s to hoping something similar happens quicker in hockey!

    • lewdood - Oct 2, 2012 at 12:41 PM

      Yeah, if the players were striking, the league could use scabs. But not when they’re the side initiating the stoppage.

      • stakex - Oct 2, 2012 at 12:53 PM

        I don’t know about that. If the league locked the players out while the CBA was still in place, you would certainly be correct. Currently however, there is no CBA between the players and the league… so I’m not really sure that there is anything that legally keep the league from brining in scabs.

    • atwatercrushesokoye - Oct 2, 2012 at 4:22 PM

      Even if it were considered legal in the US, the Ontario teams would not be allowed to play home games (the 95 replacement Blue Jays would have played their home games in Dunedin) because of anti-replacement worker laws in the province of Ontario. I believe most provinces actually have similar laws so you’re looking at not being able to play home games in 7 of the cities that actually draw fans and make money and instead you’d be asking fans in cities with minimal interest to begin with to go pay regular prices for a far inferior product….sounds like a winning idea.

  4. blomfeld - Oct 2, 2012 at 12:54 PM

    What kind of player would cross the picket line and be willing to wear the “scab” label the rest of their careers? …

    Ovechkin, Thornton, Chara, Kane, Kovalchuk, Tavares, Malkin …

    • barkar942 - Oct 2, 2012 at 2:06 PM

      ABSOLUTELY! These fat cat scabs are all heading elsewhere and costing all of those fringe players their jobs! Plus, how many of these NHL abandoning scabs are costing, I would estimate, 200,000 league, team and arena employees their jobs in Canada and the US, not to mention all of the small business owners nearby who depend on the revenue generated by fans attending games! Right now, I am tired of hearing that neither side wants to find a mid road. I am tired of hearing where the next scab is signing. JUST GET A DEAL DONE!
      25 thumbs up to Blomfeld’s comment!

  5. sanjosecupcrazy - Oct 2, 2012 at 12:55 PM

    What happens to the season ticket holders? Our money has already been taken. Will we get a refund, or be forced to pay full price for scab hockey?

    I can tell you this: if the Sharks force me to pay even $1 toward that ridiculous plan, it will be the end of me as a season ticket holder. No joke.

    • killerpgh - Oct 2, 2012 at 1:00 PM

      I was thinking the same thing.

    • atwatercrushesokoye - Oct 2, 2012 at 4:26 PM

      I could see plenty of lawsuits if this ridiculous plan were to come about. Thankfully laws in Canada will preclude us from having to witness these shams in person.

  6. getadealdonealready - Oct 2, 2012 at 1:18 PM

    I wouldn’t watch it either, but I can get in game shape in about 2 months, put me in coach!

  7. hockeyflow33 - Oct 2, 2012 at 1:19 PM

    If any teams need a goalie, I’ll play for free equipment

  8. proudliberal85392 - Oct 2, 2012 at 1:26 PM

    Great idea.

  9. greatminnesotasportsmind - Oct 2, 2012 at 1:29 PM

    Oh goodie!! Can you imagine the play by play?

    “Number 8 in the zone, back behind the net. Looking for that one guy, big drive, saved by the goalie. Rebound, not cleared, held in by number 14 on defense. He passes to the guy who’s name I can’t pronounce. He shoots and he scores, I think it was tipped by some other guy and it best the goalie for Toronto high glove side and Minnesota leads 1-0″

  10. hockeydon10 - Oct 2, 2012 at 1:52 PM

    So, use replacement players to put an inferior product on the ice in the hopes that we the fans will watch and pay to see games.

    Or, we the fans could go to the local AHL games and see a product that is inferior to the NHL.

    Let’s say they do this in an attempt to bust the union. Let’s say they withstand all the lawsuits against busting the union. Let’s say the NHLPA gets dissolved.

    No union = no CBA.
    No CBA = no salary cap.
    No salary cap = the league we had before the 2004 lockout.

    Now, as a fan of the Red Wings, I certainly appreciated a system where 8 of the 10 Stanley Cups before the 04 lockout were won by only 3 teams (Wings, Devils, Avs). Is this really what is being suggested?

    In addition to this, the elite players would be making even more than they do now, while the borderline players would be making less. The richest teams would attract all the talent because they can pay for it (with the Leafs being the exception that proves the rule). We’d end up with a handful of teams using the rest of the league as a feeder system.

    I say this with all due sarcasm: Great plan.

    • atwatercrushesokoye - Oct 2, 2012 at 4:31 PM

      My question would be this: aren’t AHL players (the good ones) under contract to NHL teams and thus members of the NHLPA whenever they play in the NHL? I don’t think the league has the ability to open the door to some PA members and not others, I believe it’s all or nothing type deal.

      • hockeydon10 - Oct 3, 2012 at 10:14 AM

        Yeah, they are. And it’s probably more than just the good ones. Any player that may have to be called up at some point probably has an NHL clause in his contract. If the injury bug hits a team and they have 7 or 8 guys on the shelf, that means 7 or 8 AHL guys getting called up.

  11. barkar942 - Oct 2, 2012 at 1:57 PM

    Most of the teams have full NHL affiliate AHL teams.
    I say bring half of the AHL games to the NHL arenas and share the revenue with the AHL teams and arenas. At least put a quality product on the ice and give the NHL team fans a good look at their teams prospect development.
    GET A DEAL DONE!!!!!

  12. barkar942 - Oct 2, 2012 at 2:09 PM

    I have a better idea.
    When all of the crybaby owners and players finally make a deal, boycott opening day throughout the league! Show the owners and fans our displeasure with their handling of the whole CBA and let them know we, the fans who pay all of their salaries, ARE PISSED!

    • nyrangersnation - Oct 2, 2012 at 3:23 PM

      I had a similar idea. I say boycott the first 10 games. It would be tough but when you consider the message you are sending, 10 games now is better than possibly another season down the line. 10 games is roughly 3 or 4 weeks. Just long enough for sponsors to start thinking about dropping the NHL but not actually do it. Some of the smaller companies might and that’s even better. Players will be playing in front of nothing taking a lot of the intensity and all of the atmosphere from the game. If they see we mean business now, they’ll be scared of losing us for a whole season. I would even say 5 games as that’s roughly 2 weeks. I think one game is easily forgettable if the CBA lasts longer than 5 years. I think it would be a solid topic for the owners and NHLPA to consider but I think they’d call our bluff. 5-10 games shows we REALLY mean business. The first game players and owners would probably say “Ok, this sucks. But they’ll be back” two or three games it’s “Man, this game is nothing without fans. Why are we even playing this. I shoulda stayed in Europe.” Four and Five games it might be just that or even furtherering that and having them seriously wonder if we’ll be back. After 5 games it just becomes more and more “They aren’t coming back.” I think anywhere from 5-10 games will really stick in the minds of players, owners, and more importantly the media.

  13. gekkoguy82 - Oct 2, 2012 at 3:34 PM

    I think each organization should ice a local beer league team! :) Granted, the level of play would be….somewhat less than NHL-quality (“Wow, are we reeeeallly that slow??? The game always seems faster when we’re out on the ice!”)……..but I for one would go watch it. Give em all the perks that comes along with being a pro. Let em be kings for a couple months. Then we’d be cheering for hometown heroes for a change! People who actually have a real job and just play for the love of the game and the experiences that come with it!

    Alright, so maybe it’s a lame idea. These knuckleheads need to work this out. I’m losing the little sympathy I had for the players at the outset. Anymore, it just seems like a d*ck measuring contest between two groups of 8 year old children.

  14. buffalo65 - Oct 2, 2012 at 5:00 PM

    Leafs would go 3 -0 and the scab players would be given keys to the city.

  15. chrisvegas - Oct 2, 2012 at 6:44 PM

    Can we get replacement owners?

  16. mnhockeydad - Oct 3, 2012 at 9:18 AM

    Maybe slightly off topic … my 11 year old daughter stopped me in the kitchen yesterday and in a huff asked me if it was true that the hockey season wasn’t going to start on time. I said yes that was true. She wanted to know how I could not have told her. When I pointed out we could still see games on the NHL Network. She said, ‘Those games aren’t live, and they won’t have Parise on the Wild.’ Too true.

  17. spicyjimbolaya - Oct 4, 2012 at 8:33 AM

    Replacement players will not happen. The NHL would never be able to sell that product and expect the same revenues as withe the pros. Lower TV revenues means fewer sponsors. Lower attendance. Lower merchandise sales. As a fringe sport already, that is not the way to build a league. Besides, it is probably CHEAPER for a lot of teams NOT to have any games right now (with football, baseball, basketball) playing.

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