The National Hockey League has muzzled its teams during the lockout to ensure owners and executives remain on message and don't increase the rancor.
Detroit Red Wings VP Jim Devellano, meanwhile, is known as one of the most unfiltered and candid sources in the NHL.
Guess who didn't wear the muzzle during an exclusive interview with Scott Harrigan of Island Sports News this week?
Hint: It's the Lester Patrick Trophy winner who said the Philadelphia Flyers violated "unwritten rules" in their Shea Weber offer sheet and then referred to NHL players and team employees as cattle in the context of collective bargaining.
From Island Sports News, here's an exchange that has the hockey world buzzing:
ISN: OK moving forward, what's with all the money flying around before the lockout, when all the fans see is huge contracts to for example Sutter, Weber, Myers, Lucic? Let's take for example the offer sheet Philly proposed to Weber in the face of Nashville owner. What message are they trying to send ?
"Listen Scott, there is a hard cap in place as we all know. You can't go over that period. If Weber gets this much, then another player gets less. Now does that mean it's right for another team to do that? My answer is this: They (Philadelphia) operated within the CBA and it's totally legit to do. Having said that, I will tell you there is an unwritten rule that you don't do that, but they did, and just like everything else in life, some people are great to deal with, some aren't. If you are asking me if it's right, I would say there is, again, an unwritten rule...we all know it in the NHL, but not everyone follows it."
"Each owner / team has a decision as to how they want to pay their players, as long as they are under the cap. Now Donald Fehr would have you believe by getting rid of the cap, the owners would make more money and that the sky is the limit, but trust me Scott, the owners would lose their asses. We've tried that. It doesn't work. There is just too much cost involved in running and owning a team."
"It's very complicated and way too much for the average Joe to understand, but having said that, I will tell you this: The owners can basically be viewed as the Ranch, and the players, and me included, are the cattle. The owners own the Ranch and allow the players to eat there. That's the way its always been and that the way it will be forever. And the owners simply aren't going to let a union push them around. It's not going to happen."
Among his other observations: What the owners want out of the CBA, how the players are pampered ("its first class this, first class that") and how players leaving for Europe to play reveal hypocrisy about the NHLPA's alleged solidarity ("like they need the money" … keep in mind that Pavel Datsyuk is in the KHL right now).
How you feel about Devellano's views on the players will likely sync up with your sympathies in the CBA talks.
His full-throated defense of Gary Bettman will be seen as ludicrous by pro-player people. His characterization of owners as "billionaires who create millionaires" will likely be applauded by pro-owner people who believe their investment in the game is undervalued.
He speaks a lot of truth in his interview, and good on him if it rattles some cages.
For example: We wonder how the NHLPA might react to the "unwritten rules" shared by NHL team executives on restricted free-agent offer sheets and big-money contracts.
It's one thing for fans and media to discuss the implicit gentlemen's agreement on player poaching; it's another thing for an NHL executive to tap dance close to disclosure of collusion, no? (But hey, like we said Thursday: a little collusion goes a long way.)
s/t to agent and prolific tweeter Allan Walsh.