Former TML GM & NHL Agent Bill Watters thinks Gary Bettman's will bring in replacement players in NOV, & thinks this will crack the Union.— Josh Rimer (@JoshRimerHockey) October 2, 2012
NHL teams may be resuming play sooner than you think. There's only one issue - the roster might look very different than what you saw in 2011-12. Bill Watters, former assistant GM to Toronto and player agent, stated on Josh Rimer's show that replacement players could be coming to an arena near you. Watters believes that Gary Bettman will use replacements, or scabs, to shatter the player's union all but ensuring a "victory" for the NHL and its owners in the current CBA debacle.
The term replacement player and scab are being used a bit liberally in the statements and reports. It's not as if the NHL would go find a group of players off the street and toss them into a game. Instead, the NHL would work with each team's list of 50 reserve players. Of those 50, 23 play in the NHL while the other 27 fall into the category of either AHL players or junior players. It's believed a mix of those other 27 players might be used as soon as November in an attempt to break the back of the players union.
You might be asking, how would using a mix of junior players break the players' back? Simply, it's thought that players near the end of their career or players with an uncertain contract (those with one-year remaining, fourth-line guys, etc) might be willing to "cross the line" and play for a paycheck before they're unable to find work again at a professional level. The thought is a guy at the end of his NHL career may stop and consider that final paycheck - one he might not acquire if he sits out an entire season.
Essentially, the players union would crumble as soon as a decent chunk start abandoning the effort in favor of that final check. As soon as that happens it's game, set and match in favor of the owners.
To hear Watters outline his thoughts in their entirety, check out Rimer's show here.
Now, on to the analysis of this crazy idea.
First, it's a wickedly brilliant plan by Bettman and his cronies on paper - assuming this speculation is factual. Realistically, there probably are several guys on each team that's deeply concerned about missing a year's salary at this stage of their career. Bettman is, again on paper, going for the throat if this plays out.
There's only one problem. This isn't paper. This is real life where the fans decide where their money goes and estimations on paper are just that - estimations. I find it hard to believe fans will come back in waves to watch a makeshift lineup. Imagine the marketing possibilities. "Come see Wade Redden back in the NHL!". I think I'll pass.
Some fans would go and watch simply because their team name is on the sweater. Others, and I believe a majority, would struggle to find an interest because the team on the ice isn't really "their" team. The whole ordeal would feel phony and frankly, slimy. It'd be impossible to root for players we know are only be used as pawns against some of our favorite stars. The potential move, while calculated and cunning, would feel evil.
Fans won't support evil and they likely wouldn't support a patchwork lineup wearing their favorite sweater.
@timtomZombie thanks I'm better off watching the #KHL if the #NHL have replacement players at least I know the players in that league
One problem, at least insofar as I understand labo(u)r law: This isn't a strike by the players, but a lockout by the owners. I believe (and somebody with more knowledge of the law, please feel free to shoot this down if I'm wrong) that doing this would actually open the door to what the owners don't want to happen - players playing under their current contracts as though the old CBA was still in force. Provided that that's right, and we know that the owners have no intention of holding another season under the CBA as it stood since the last lockout, I'm just not seeing the possibilities here. It's not as though the players are going to go on strike in response to the owners lifting the lockout to bring in other players to play the game, after all, which is what it would take to keep them off the ice.
Note: I do know for sure that the lockout did not magically void all player contracts. Time will run off of them for time spent in the lockout, meaning that they're still enforceable as contracts should the lockout end. Opening the league for business, with replacement players or otherwise, sure sounds to me like the end of a lockout, at which point the players would presumably be able to come back and play under the old rules, or, if the owners tried to keep them out at that point, at least give the players a large weapon in the sure-to-be-coming labor lawsuit(s).
All that to say, unless I've massively misread the situation, there isn't even smoke here, much less fire.
@wilsonecho91 There is no way I'd support the league with replacement players. Can't fathom it happening.
@corneliusm89 i wouldn't watch a second of replacement players in the NHL, not even if the Bruins made the Cup with them
@hckyfan1026 I agree with you. It could definitely work and crack the union. Brilliant scheme, yet feels sorta...dirty.
@FrozenNotes In order to keep them they have to pay for them. Up to them whether they use them or not but organization will still get $$$
@FrozenNotes Yes it does. I am sure those Canadian fans don't want to give up their season tix since there is a wait list a mile long.
@wilsonecho91 What we're experiencing (again) screams of mis-management. If this is true, the league is a joke & will be perceived that way.
@wilsonecho91 Honestly, I've let it go. As much as I've invested myself, my dreams etc., life goes on.
@jbehindtheglass i feel like i'm in an abusive relationship (but not making light of real abusive relationships).
@jbehindtheglass about this. non-hockey fans couldn't give 2 shits. they are playing with our passion and wallets.
@jbehindtheglass i don't mean to sound dramatic, but i'm coming to believe that it really already is a joke. we're the only ones that care