MONTREAL — As a follow-up to our column yesterday detailing some hard feelings between the National Hockey League and the NHL Players Association the PA apparently will argue that the suspensions handed out to Detroit players Nik Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk are unwarranted. The PA want additional information regarding the policy commissioner Gary Bettman invoked.
The two were suspended for one game (apparently with pay) for not attending All-Star weekend. Both claimed injury was the deciding factor but Bettman ruled that they had not missed their league game prior to the contest and so the suspension was applicable.
According to one report the PA is considering filing a grievance, but that’s not yet official and likely can’t be done in time to prevent the players from missing Tuesday’s contest against division-rival Columbus.
Requesting additional information can be a prelude to a grievance, but the PA could also determine that there are no grounds and back away. Whatever the outcome, it’s not likely the PA will let the matter drop. It’s also possible the league could rethink the policy especially in light of the volume of bad press it received regarding the unpopularity of the suspensions.
Meanwhile Detroit general manager Ken Holland came to the support of both players saying they were legitimately hurt and that the suspensions were unwarranted and failed to take into consideration their long service to the league, especially that of Lidstrom who had never before missed an All-Star appearance or league function.
Former Canadiens captain and legendary centre Jean Beliveau downplayed reports that Tampa forward Vincent Lecavalier would face unbearable pressures being a native son and possibly playing in Montreal. Beliveau believes even if there was some pressure, Lecavalier or any other player should be able to handle it.
"I always thought that (handling) the pressure was a part of being a professional athlete," Beliveau, now 77 and a Canadiens’ player from 1950 through 1971 said. "And I am sure that Vincent can handle it very easily.
Another former Canadiens great, Guy Lafleur added, "Also, I think he’s got some pressure playing for Tampa. He still has pressure there to produce and perform. Playing in Montreal I don’t think there would be any change accept the public would be behind him, and it would improve the quality of the game from the Canadiens."
Lafleur went on to say that though he didn’t play many other places in his career (briefly in New York and Quebec) "playing in Montreal, I think, is the best city in the world. If you have a winning team, you still have a lot of pressure, but the pressure is part of the game. You can deal a lot easier with it if you have a winning team, you know.
"And playing with the Rangers, I had a lot of fun, but I was at the end of my career, so I didn’t have any pressure, and I didn’t feel any pressure. I was not there to show to everybody that I was 25-years old.
And the Nordiques, that was really the end of it, so we’re not winning-we didn’t win too many games in Quebec."
Regards Lecavalier’s comment that hockey was like a religion in Montreal, "Beliveau said: "Well, it is. They have great fans, we saw a great example yesterday morning at the practice (some 22,000 in attendance and more waiting outside in frigid weather). It’s a tough town to beat fanwise. People are waiting for the Stanley Cup year, and hoping it’s going to be this year with the 100-year anniversary.
"But the challenge is there, and it’s going to be tough, but you never know."