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Will Roman Hamrlik pay for speaking out against NHLPA and Donald Fehr?

Greg Wyshynski
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Martin Brodeur is two years older than Roman Hamrlik. Both players have careers that span decades, which means that both players have now been through multiple work stoppages under NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. At 40, Brodeur is near the end of his career; at 38, so is Hamrlik.

The difference between them? Brodeur hasn't been a militant voice during the NHL lockout, having come to grips with its inevitability when he pulled a second contractual year out of Lou Lamoriello as a free agent last summer.

Meanwhile, Hamrlik has become the face of players union fracturing after his caustic comments about the NHLPA and Donald Fehr in a Czech-language interview:

"I am disgusted. We have to push Fehr to the wall to get the deal. Time is against us. We lost 1/4 season, it is $425 million. Who will give it back to us? Mr. Fehr?

"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."

With that comment, many viewed Hamrlik as the enemy of the NHLPA.

"I don't think he ever addressed it inside of our locker room as far as the PA's concerned, and he has to go out in front of the media and show a sign of weakness," said Brodeur, "from a player that should know better at his age."

Brodeur said Hamrlik should have simply voiced his opinion internally with the NHLPA, rather than through the media.

"Everybody has their own way of coping with things. But I think in the situation that we're in and the hard work that people are putting in, I think it's got to be [handled] internally," Brodeur said.

"When players talk about things that they don't know, they're not well-informed about it, it makes it like you're not informed. I think it's your duty as a player to get yourself informed. And then if you don't, you should just not talk about it."

Players like Andrew Ladd and Troy Brouwer have rebutted Hamrlik's comments. Erik Cole called it "the most selfish thing I've heard during the lockout."

Via the Washington Times, a player more than a dozen years younger than Hamrlik echoed Brodeur's comments:

"It's tough to hear. I think you've seen with some of the other players' reactions, guys who have been to meetings, at least the majority of the meetings and are really understanding what's going on," Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos said. "If you know what's going on, you're not going to be saying those comments. It's sad to hear that, but at the same time, it's only one or two comments, and the good thing is we're unified and we have everyone on the same page, and we're going to support each other through this whole process."

The fact that Hamrlik was one of the few players that have spoken against Fehr obviously puts a spotlight on him; but does it also put a target on him?

Perhaps sensing a backlash, Hamrlik refined his comments to the Globe & Mail last week:

"This is nothing against any of the players," Hamrlik said. "I stand with them. We are all together in this. And we want a great deal. A fair deal. Everybody's losing in this right now. Owners, players, fans.

"The fans are the reason for hockey. Some cities won't be able to recover their fans for future seasons. I just want to say I've been in the league for 20 years and faced three lockouts and there's only 14 other guys that have done that. I believe I've earned the right to say what I think.

"If someone thinks I'm selfish, I may be, but it's selfish to play hockey. Like everybody else, I want to win the Cup with the Capitals, or at least have a chance."

One NHL player we spoke to on background didn't think there would be on-ice repercussions for a player like Hamrlik that speaks up against the union; and that he was voicing an opinion that may be shared by others in the NHLPA, albeit one that should have been kept inside the union and not shared with the media.

So don't expect Hamrlik to be targeted like, say, a player who crosses a picket line would. After all, he's been locked out along with his union brethren; as Brodeur said, he's just trying to cope.

But would you be surprised to see Hamrlik hit just a little harder by an opponents next season?

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