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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.

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