TORONTO -- NHL players are not mindless sheep. While the dissidents have kept their own counsel to this point, there does appear to be a groundswell of frustration about the lack of progress in CBA negotiations with the league.
Is this a major chasm in the NHLPA's unity or are just a handful of players speaking their minds and going against the grain? It's impossible to tell, but one day after questioning Don Fehr's leadership, Washington Capitals veteran defenceman Roman Hamrlik wasn't backing down on Thursday.
"Someone thinks I'm selfish -- I might be," Hamrlik told TSN. "But it's selfish to play hockey. I still want to play with the Capitals or at least have the chance to win and go as far as I can.
"I think time is against us and we need to find a solution. I think that it's a fight between two groups that have too much pride. We need to find an agreement -- I still support (NHLPA executive director Don) Fehr, but we as players we need to push him a little bit more and get the best deal possible.
"I've talked to the guys in the locker-room when we skate in Montreal, I've been in a meeting in Barcelona this summer where we were meeting with Fehr. From my experience at the meeting in Barcelona, they said we have everything set up. I have a proposal for the owners, we should be, 'OK, blah blah, blah'... but nothing happened. I'm just disappointed -- I know it's a really tough business, it's not just me losing money. Everybody's losing money -- the sooner we figure it out, the better for everybody."
Unions don't like their members to openly disagree with strategy or to push for resolution.
It weakens their negotiating position and can lead to cracks in solidarity, which unions rely on above all else.
"I am disgusted. We have to push Fehr to the wall to get the deal. Time is against us. We lost (a quarter of the) season, it is $425 million. Who will give it back to us? Mr. Fehr?" Hamrlik said earlier this week a in Czech-language interview. "There should be voting between players. Four questions -- YES or NO -- then count it. If half of players say let's play, then they should sign new CBA. If there is no season he should leave and we will find someone new. Time is our enemy."
Montreal Canadiens forward Erik Cole called Hamrlik's comments "the most selfish thing I've heard during the lockout."
There are over 700 members in the NHLPA and to believe they are all thinking in unison is ridiculous.
Don Fehr likes to remind us that he works for the players and that they're all free to attend meetings and have their say. But Fehr can't be pleased with a player suggesting he be replaced if he can't do a deal. It undermines his authority and a union boss can't have that.
Fehr needs to control his constituents and have them support his every move. But Capitals goalie Michal Neuvirth backed Hamrlik.
"I agree 100 per cent with Hammer," said Neuvirth. "This lockout is not about a majority of players, I think. It is about several superstars with big contracts."
Union members are constantly asked to weigh the good of the collective against personal gain.
Hamrlik is going through his third lockout in a 19-year career. He's lost millions.
Some might say he's paid for the right to voice his opinion. But I bet Fehr would like him to shut up.
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