There are close to 250 NHL players expected in New York City this week for the final stages of CBA talks, ahead of an expected lockout by the NHL this weekend. They include members of the Calgary Flames, fresh off making a baffling, insensitive and image-tarnishing decision to attend the meeting instead of keeping their commitment to an annual charity golf tournament.
Eric Francis of the Calgary Sun reports that the Flames players told the team "late last week" that they would not be participating in the annual charity golf tournament that "raises hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Flames Foundation for Life (and distributed to local charities)."
It's been an annual event since 1981; according to 660 News, it raised $340,000 last year.
The team is scrambling to fill the empty slots with Olympians, NHL alumni and other people tangentially related to sports. Sponsors that paid around $2,500 per player in attendance were offered refunds; Francis writes that many have opted to continue to support the event despite the players' absence.
Via the Calgary Herald, president Ken King scored some public relations points:
"We're disappointed, but completely understand the uniqueness of the situation for our players," Flames president Ken King said in a statement. "We are very grateful that all our sponsors and participants want to continue to support the tournament. They totally appreciate that the heart of this event is about important fundraising for local charities."
Look, we understand union solidarity — look out for a post later today on that very topic. But the perception is that the Flames players chose a union meeting over charity golf at best, and spitefully pulled the rug out from ownership at worst; and the reality is that a months-old commitment was too easily tossed aside for what is, at this point, an inevitable work stoppage.
It'll be interesting to hear how the players spin this.