Monday, November 21, 2005

The Steve Larmer resignation (and why it matters)

The media, bloggers, casual fans — everyone's had their say on the discord that has been the NHLPA since the union agreed to the newest CBA. The common wisdom from all of the above? "Stay tuned: This could get messy."

On Saturday, things got messy.

Hockey's one sport that seemingly has an endless supply of 'good guys' — players so squeaky, you couldn't find dirt on their sneakers if you tried.

Steve Larmer was one of those guys when he played and, by all accounts from current NHLers, as the union's director of player relations. The face of the union and the second-highest former player in the organization (to only Mike Gartner), Larmer was the man in the trenches, so to speak, spreading the union's gospel to players in dressing rooms across the league.

I said it when Trent Klatt suddenly retired, and I'll say it again: The fact that a guy is willing to walk away from the only thing he's ever known speaks to how expansive the divide is in the NHLPA.

Larmer has been a notable member of the NHL for 25 years, ever since he was drafted by the Blackhawks in 1980, and wouldn't have walked away — or evoked the name of Alan Eagleson — for something that was merely a procedural issue, as some have speculated (including Hockey Night in Canada commentator Greg Millen, a friend of Larmer's).

Do these sound like the words of a guy standing up for 'a procedure'?
I remember the Eagleson days when the PA was ruled by the minority and the majority was kept in the dark. Our group of players challenged it, demanded change and received it. We all vowed that those days would not return, but lo and behold they have.
What I do know is that far more of this story and the precise reasons Larmer left are mere days away from coming out fully in the open. It's really only a matter of time before we hear the whole story behind the tribulations of Ted Saskin's union.

As columnist Allan Maki wrote in today's Globe and Mail, it was easy to earlier ignore the 'cheap voices' of known mouthpieces like Tie Domi and Chris Chelios when they didn't agree with what's going on. They, after all, complain about everything. But when someone of the pedigree of Larmer not only speaks out, but resigns — it's impossible to ignore.

It's back to what I said when Klatt retired: This isn't going away any time soon. I wouldn't be surprised in the least if the next person stepping down is Saskin himself.

Even if the players have another vote, even if all procedural checks and balances are followed, even if the majority of the seven players on the executive committee approve of Saskin in the top job — it all may not matter. Because if ever anyone has had a tainted tenure, it's him.

While Eagleson stepped down in January, 1992, many of today's veteran players still feel the sting of how they were cheated by their own union. They're not about to let that happen again.

UPDATE Eric McErlain has more. How it can get 'uglier' than this, I'm unsure.


At 3:14 p.m., November 21, 2005, Blogger Andrew said...

Ahh the days of Larmer and Roenick..brings back memories and I'm no where near a Blackhawks fan..just a great combo. Cool site! I'll be back


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