Tampa Bay Lightning's Marty St. Louis says he would want in on any players-owners meeting
The suggestion by the NHL that players and owners get together for a meeting without league or Players' Association negotiators has been lampooned by many as a publicity stunt. But the union brass and its locked-out players apparently will discuss whether it is a good idea, and Tampa Bay Lightning star Marty St. Louis said he would want to be part of any face-to-face with owners.
"I would," St. Louis said after Friday's skate with teammates at the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon. "But you would have to be cautious, too. These guys (the owners) are successful because they're doing deals their whole life. We're hockey players, so we have to be careful."
Even so, before committing, St. Louis would want to see what owners take part. If it's just the hard-liners, he said, it might not be worth the effort as players have offered to give up hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue in a new five-year collective bargaining agreement only to be rebuffed by owners who have balked at honoring all current contracts and seem committed to changing player contract rules.
"Gary can be out of the room," St. Louis said of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, "but the owners who have been in there are hard-liners. We tried to get some traction going, especially in our last proposition and the only thing they say is, 'That's great, thanks, keep coming.' "
"But it's something to think about," St. Louis added of a meeting between players and owners. "I'm sure we'll discuss the ins and outs of it."
Left wing Ryan Malone picked up on St. Louis' notion of having different owners in the room such as Tampa Bay's Jeff Vinik, who is believed to be more moderate and wants a season played.
"Then I think we finally know exactly what all the owners want," Malone said. "That's the biggest thing. They keep having the same owners in there and it's the same song and dance. Jeff Vinik has done such a great job here in Tampa, I would love to hear what he has to say. You don't buy a professional sports team as a business opportunity or an investment, it's because you enjoy the game, so from that standpoint you'd love to hear what the other owners have to say."
Malone said he would also like to see the players accompanied by a legal counsel.
"You would want somebody in there because you want to make sure they're telling the facts and it's justified what they're saying," he said. "But there's no harm in it. If it's a better route to take then let's do it."
Even so, defenseman Eric Brewer said of the owners, "I don't think anybody really knows what they're thinking. Clearly we don't. I'm just as confused about the whole thing as anybody else. To pretend like players are going to go in there and negotiate with those guys and make sure it's done prudently is wrong. But maybe some guys can throw some feelings out there. Maybe that will help. Maybe they would do the same."