Over the last month, the NHL lockout has been a topic this paper has been highlighting. While our opinions may mean nothing, or at the least very little, because we have no insight into anything other than what we see, read or hear in the media, it made the opportunity to ask Montreal Canadiens’ General Manager Bob Gainey questions about the lockout all the more interesting.
Gainey, who was in the exact same posititon 10 years ago with the Dallas Stars, is no stranger to NHL labour woes, but admits that this time it is noticeably different on both sides of the dispute. Both Bob Goodenow and Gary Bettman have very different visions for the future of the National Hockey League, and both are being very stubborn because they feel any other agreement or compromise will hurt the party they are representing.
“I think both parties were prepared to stand by their positions for a long period of time. [There were] certain specific dates where there was more pressure than other times and I think we’re in one of those right now…If they do reach some sort of an agreement, there is enough time to play some games, and if there isn’t a solution, we really go into unknown territory. That is what is creating the energy behind the discussions right now,” said Gainey. “What I hope the end result will be, is that the NHL and professional hockey will be better, and that needs the cooperation of both groups. What I would like to see is both sides negotiate with the best goals in mind.”
Players, throughout the whole labour dispute, have been painted by a brush that says they are greedy and are not being good role models to the kids who look up to them, by worrying about their contracts rather then playing hockey. However, Gainey – a former player himself – backed players and said they do more good than the media shows.
However, time is running very short and the NHL is getting dangerously close to going into unchartered territory, and having to cancel an entire season.
“Once we’ve passed into an area where we won’t have a season, it is hard to describe what happens next, because it’s a place that we’ve never been before,” said Gainey. “I think that the unsettling part is that no one really knows how it will resolve itself.”
During the summer and fall, CBC and RDS created a new reality series, Making the Cut, where it gave aspiring hockey players the chance to perform in front of NHL scouts and to be chosen by one of the six Canadian NHL teams. The show spotlighted CIS hockey, and two goalies from Canadian university hockey made it to the final 18, including Concordia’s Trevor Cunning. Gainey feels it may have shown NHL executives there might be some University hockey players that might interest some professional teams, and that the players chosen in the Making the Cut draft get a chance to make a name for themselves.
“There’s always the possibility that there’s a player that either got overlooked or is closer to his potential a little bit later, and that he just slipped through the cracks,” Gainey said. Hopefully, the six players that were chosen to the Canadian teams will have a chance to go to training camp next year.”
The one question that the well spoken general manager didn’t have an answer for is when he could see NHL hockey back on the ice. “I don’t know,” Gainey said while shaking his head.