The NHLPA introduced some bully tactics last week regarding Winter Olympic orientation camps, citing insurance concerns in recommending its members avoid on-ice drills because of their "unwarranted and unnecessary risk."
The PA's message to Hockey Canada, USA Hockey and the Russian and German ice hockey federations: Our players' contracts and future earnings are way more valuable than the insurance you provide them to skate around pylons and impress coaches who probably already have their minds made up about 90 percent of the roster.
With both the Canada (Aug. 24-27, Calgary) and USA (Aug. 17-19, Illinois) camps scheduled for August, it's an interesting ploy that seems to have already affected Germany's Olympic camp, which began today sans NHL players. (So no Christian Ehrhoff(notes) or Marcel Goc(notes), then? Pity.)
Ah, but this being the NHLPA, one simply assumes a percentage of the membership won't toe the company line. Chatted up at a charity golf tournament today by the National Post, San Jose Sharks star Joe Thornton(notes) pretty much confirmed he'll not only appear at Team Canada camp but be skating there as well:
Besides golfing and working out, Thornton's summer itinerary also includes an invitation to Hockey Canada's August orientation camp for Olympic hopefuls. While the NHLPA is recommending players do not take the ice because of problems obtaining insurance coverage, Thornton said he is not concerned about the issue.
"I've played hockey all my life," he said. "It's not going to be a real tough and grueling camp, I don't think. It's just more to get kind of used to each other. I think I can skate no problem."
So there's Jumbo Joe's take. We asked USA Hockey for comment today, and Director of Media and Public Relations Dave Fischer told us:
"We're moving forward, planning for an on-ice component for the camp. There's an ongoing dialogue for the issue at hand."
Fischer reiterated that the NHLPA isn't asking players to stay away from orientation, but rather to reconsider their participation in on-ice activities. "Our guys that we've invited are all committed, and will all be there," he said.