Should the NHLPA Help the NHL Rebuild League Image Post-Lockout?
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Make no mistake about it, this was a very ugly lockout.
Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr may have left their last meeting together with smiles on their faces because the two sides had reached a tentative agreement during the early hours Jan. 6, but these two men would like to do anything but spend time with each other.
However, they overcame their personal feelings to (hopefully) allow players to return to the ice, and they must continue to work together if the NHL is going to recover from this disastrous lockout.
That's called maturity. Once the official business of ratifying the Collective Bargaining Agreement is completed, both sides need to work effectively to rebuild the league's image.
It may feel distasteful for players to work with owners who locked them out, but that's what needs to be done.
It may be easier in some cities than others. For example, Pittsburgh Penguins co-owner Ron Burkle worked to end the lockout long before an agreement was reached and he has a strong relationship with Sidney Crosby and other Penguins players (source: TribLive.com).
The Penguins may find it easier to work with Burkle than the Boston Bruins players will find it to work with hard-line owner Jeremy Jacobs, who may have been the most influential owner when it came to "advising" Bettman on how to negotiate (source: CSNNE.com).
Players on the Bruins may despise Jacobs and hold him responsible for the lockout, but for the good of the NHL and its future, they must find a way to work with him and not just cash his paychecks.
Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, a 6'9" defenseman, is the biggest player in the league. He is going to have to show he is just as big in the foresight and compassion department as he in height as he figures a way to work with the Bruins' fiscal-minded owner.
The NHLPA has had its own programs to give back to the community in the past. The NHLPA Goals & Dreams Fund has helped start hockey programs around the world and given children in 30 countries the chance to play hockey, according to the NHLPA website.
That's not enough. The NHLPA and the NHL must sit down and end their era of rancor and start building an era of cooperation.
Nobody thinks it will come quickly and easily, but it can be done.
Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association has changed their relationship after years of bitterness (source: MLB.com). Now, the two sides cooperate well and there have been no major labor problems in baseball since 1994.
That's 19 years of cooperation, and that's a goal the NHL and the NHLPA can aspire to.
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