The National Hockey League and the Players' Association weren't able to reach an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement. As a result, those players who weren't able to be assigned to the minor leagues have begun to find other hockey-related alternatives.
I'm confident that most players will recognize that they need to keep themselves in playing shape during the lockout. But, I'm concerned that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has underestimated NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr's game-day strategies.
Bettman, Fehr and Pronger
I wonder if Bettman thinks that Fehr looks like Philadelphia Flyers' defenseman Chris Pronger? If not, he should. Unlike past hockey player union leaders, Fehr is deadly serious and still behaves in the board room like Pronger (or any other highly effective player) did on the ice during his prime.
The NHL had a very comfortable working relationship with Players' Association leaders in the distant past. No one in Major League Baseball would describe Fehr, who was the head of the Major League Players' Association for 26 years, as a comfortable working partner.
I think that this hockey labor dispute has the potential to be very unpredictable, purely because Bettman and the owners haven't confronted someone like Fehr. He has an unrivaled level of experience, a strong negotiating skill-set and a superb intellect.
Baseball's culture isn't hockey's culture and baseball players aren't similar to hockey players.
Bettman and the owners know that baseball is a major sport and that their game is a niche sport. Any protracted delay in this particular hockey season, especially during these economic times, may produce unexpected consequences when all is said and done.
Training camp memories
Learning that locked-out Philadelphia Flyers' winger Scott Hartnell had rented the ice at the Skate Zone in Voorhees, New Jersey this week caused me to think about a past visit to the team's training camp.
While some Flyers' players use that facility throughout the summer, most guys leave that location whenever the playoffs have ended and then return in September as training camp is about to open.
Two years ago I visited the Skate Zone and spent time with the fans watching the 2010-11 team prepare for that season. The sights are interesting for all hockey loyalists to experience, as non-game days allow a different side of the players to be shown.
Hartnell was flying around the ice that morning. Being a prankster, there were a few moments when he was also fooling around with his teammates. At one point, he noticed that general manager Paul Holmgren appeared to be glaring at him from his second floor central lookout point. It was hilarious to see 'Hartsy' immediately stop what he was doing and refocus on the current drill. Apparently 'Homer' still held the reputation of being an enforcer, in addition to his title as the Flyers' top front office boss.
Last fall when I visited training camp, I saw that Pronger was wearing his legendary snarl during the entire practice session. His mere presence on the ice is all that anyone needed to see in order to know why he was the captain and will be in the Hall of Fame.
What every Flyers' fan (and every hockey fan from from across the League) wouldn't give to be present at those types of training camp sessions again this fall.
Sean O'Brien is based in the Philadelphia region. He has written professionally for over two decades and is currently a Featured Contributor for Yahoo! You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and also read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
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