There are few individuals that have the gravitas in the NHL to influence both the owners and the players.
It seems like everyone has a dog in the fight. You are either on the side of the players or the owners. Skepticism is the reaction if you are trying to promote a "fair" settlement that will get the players on the ice.
However, one person who could have some influence on both sides is Pittsburgh Penguins owner Mario Lemieux.
He is certainly a "player" in the negotiations because he runs the team along with co-owner Ron Burkle. Conversely, while he certainly has the title of owner, Lemieux is still considered a player by many within the game. He is arguably the second- or third-best player in the game's history (with Wayne Gretzky and Bobby Orr filling the top two spots), and his creativity on the ice has rarely been matched.
He was a magician on the ice during his playing days, but he also has played a key role as an executive. Lemieux convinced Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell to give the final go-ahead on the Consol Energy Center (per the Pittsburgh Post-Tribune), and then Burkle closed the deal.
While the NHLPA and NHL are currently meeting to try to close the distance on the key financial issues in this lockout, wouldn't including Lemieux seem to be a solid strategy?
The players are not going to buy everything Gary Bettman tells them about the league's financial situation just because he's the league's commissioner. Everything he says is looked at with a jaundiced eye.
However, if Lemieux is explaining the owners' perspective to the players, wouldn't they listen to him fully before making up their minds on the issues? Isn't he a much more believable figure than Jeremy Jacobs of the Boston Bruins, Ed Snider of the Philadelphia Flyers or Ted Leonsis of the Washington Capitals?
The issue of trust comes into play. Lemieux has credibility until he proves himself to be not worthy of trust.
That goes for the owners as well. If Lemieux was to carry back the message of the players after presenting the owners' perspective, it's likely his words would be considered fully and listened to with respect.
In the end, that's what negotiations between the NHL and the NHLPA will come down to (per TSN). If both sides really want to have a season, they will have to establish trust in the negotiation process.
Perhaps that is what is happening right now. Perhaps they are still spinning their wheels.
In order to facilitate the process, you need trustworthy individuals.
Until proven otherwise, Lemieux is one of those individuals.
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