As for the idea of holding a secret ballot within the NHLPA to gauge whether the group is in favour holding out longer for what they want, Cherry believes it can’t hurt. There is no way a player making the league average or lower would voice his opinion otherwise, Cherry said.
“You would be nailed to the cross if you ever stood up and said, ‘Let’s accept the owners’ suggestion and contract,’ ” Cherry explained. “What’s the harm in a secret ballot? If it comes out 100 per cent reject, then at least you know where you stand.
“I’m thinking of the sluggos.” Cherry stressed the difference in lockout comfort between an elite player signed to a multiyear, multimillion-dollar contract and the 200 guys (Cherry’s estimate) who won’t be back next year if a deal doesn’t save the 2012-13 season.
“Guys like (Boston Bruins owner) Jeremy Jacobs — you think he’s not licking his lips right now?” Cherry asked. “(Players) have got to realize, these teams for these billionaire owners are toys. This is not their main (source of income). If you keep pushing them up the wall, you’re going to be very sorry. They’re calling these billionaires ‘idiots’? That really kills me. You’re not going to snow these guys. These guys have been in negotiations.”
Cherry also offered his take on MLSE chairman and Toronto Maple Leafs part-owner Larry Tanenbaum’s involvement in last week’s talks. Tanenbaum, a fresh voice to the proceedings, was brought in along with five other owners in the New York meetings.
“He’s the guy that loves the players. The (league) thought the players would listen to him. They know he’s honest; he’s not going to b.s. him. I hate to say it: they kind of sucked him in a little. If Larry’s listening, you know you thought everything was rosy the first meeting and then it was like a switch. The next one, the whole atmosphere changes,” Cherry said. “They lost their greatest ally as far as him and (Winnipeg Jets owner Mark) Chipman, as far as I’m concerned.”
Cherry’s take on Tanenbaum reinforced comments made earlier by the Los Angeles Kings’ Kevin Westgarth, a player heavily involved in the CBA negotiations.
“It became obvious that the guys they brought in had nowhere near a complete understanding of what the proposals were and where we were in the negotiations,” Westgarth told the New York Post on Sunday. “I thought it was great that Ron Burkle, Larry Tanenbaum, Mark Chipman and Jeff Vinik got involved — clearly they’re passionate and care about the game — but it shows how tightly controlled the league is.”