Detroit Red Wings: Devellano Costs Detroit a Rumored $250,000

Photo courtesy of Bruce Bennett / Getty Images

By Rhys Richards (@RREsq)

In the past week, many players have signed contracts overseas in an effort to continue working during the ongoing lockout.

Detroit Red Wings superstar Pavel Datsyuk signed with CSKA Moscow of the KHL, the club whose general manager is former Red Wing Sergei Federov. Wings defenseman Jakub Kindl signed with Pardubice in the Czech Republic, and off-season addition right wing Damien Brunner returned to play in Switzerland.

In the midst of that exodus of players, Detroit made the news on Saturday when NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly announced that the club had been fined for comments made earlier in the week by Senior Vice President and Alternate Governor Jim Devellano in a very candid interview with Island Sports News.

In the interview heard round the hockey world, Devellano referred to the players as “cattle.” The NHL promptly fined the organization an amount rumored to be in the neighborhood of $250,000 per TSN.

Devellano, who has been with Detroit for 29 and in the NHL for 44 seasons, has long been a driving force with the Red Wings and the league as a whole. Devellano played a part into transforming the draft into the spectacle it is today.  Devellano suggested the four-on-four overtime format with the additional point at stake that has been in use by the NHL since the 1999-2000 season.

During the interview, Devellano answered several questions, took some shots at teams who use offer sheets, gave nothing short of a glowing review of Commissioner Gary Bettman, attacked Hockey Night in Canada’s Ron McLean for asking exaggerated questions, and outlined some of the issues currently at stake in collective bargaining negotiations.

In one response, Devellano stated in no uncertain terms, “I think it should be clear up front that Gary Bettman works for the owners, not the players, and he is now entering his 20th year doing this. The owners direct him on what to do.” Devellano continued his efforts to humanize Bettman throughout the interview.

In response to a question about the perception fans may have of the huge contracts be given to Suter, Weber, Myers, and Lucic, among others, just before the lockout commenced, Devellano said, “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’s 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.”

Devellano cautioned players going overseas to remember that their medical benefits had been pulled and they would not be paid by any NHL owners in the future until they’re cleared to play by league doctors.

Without taking a stand for either side, Devellano provided one of the more realistic assessments of the characters involved in and what is at stake for both sides in the current collective bargaining agreement. The fine was based on a violation of the League’s By-Laws.  Deputy Commissioner Daly stated, “Such comments are neither constructive nor helpful to the negotiations.”

Prior to Devellano’s interview, the owners and team officials had been warned that they would face fines if they talked about the lockout. The question remains then what Devellano, a Hall-of-Famer and brilliant hockey mind, intended to accomplish by giving the interview.

While Devellano is certainly not a follower and will often say what is on his mind, the Detroit organization is known for being historically quiet with the media preferring instead to exercise its influence over decisions like where the Winter Classic should be held, for example, behind closed doors.

That conservative, calculated approach is embodied by team officials like Devellano and General Manager Ken Holland, head coach Mike Babcock, and even the team’s last two captains, Steve Yzerman and Nicklas Lidstrom.

Interestingly, Lidstrom’s expected replacement superstar forward Henrik Zetterberg is actively involved with the NHLPA and has been the primary face of the franchise at union meetings during the collective bargaining negotiations.

Perhaps it is the visible involvement of Detroit’s future captain that prompted Detroit through Devellano and/or Devellano himself to take matters into its/his hands as the lockout completed its first week.

The growing number of players signing overseas suggests that the NHLPA is digging in for a long battle with the NHL and the owners. NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr is no stranger to prolonged collective bargaining negotiations having maneuvered Major League Baseball’s players’ union through the 1994-1995 strike that included a cancellation of the World Series.

On the other hand, if Devellano’s assessment is accurate, the NHL and the owners are not overly willing to negotiate to any great extent to iron out a new collective bargaining agreement.

Detroit is likely to pay the fine without any public fuss. Devellano’s job is more than secure despite the fine. Although his interview broke the mold developed by the Detroit Red Wings in recent decades, it may very well prove to be the proverbial shot over the bow that both sides need to realize the errors of their ways, and ultimately, the push they need to finalize a new collective bargaining agreement.

The complete transcript of the Devellano interview is available here.

 

Statistics and other information obtained at www.nhl.com and www.tsn.ca.  

Share your thoughts about the NHL, the Detroit Red Wings, and hockey in general with Rhys at Twitter: @RREsq.  He can be reached via email at RhysJRichards@gmail.com.  Join the many fans of The Hockey Guys on Facebook and Twitter @TheHockeyGuys

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