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Bluelines: Why You Shouldn't Worry About Another NHL Lockout

Stan Fischler looks at the NHLPA, the Vegas Golden Knights' goalie situation, Jacob Trouba, the passing of Ben Stelter and so much more in this week's edition of Bluelines.
Gary Bettman NHL Lockout

WHY YOU SHOULDN'T WORRY ABOUT A WORK STOPPAGE OR LOCKOUT

Announcements from the NHL Players' Association usually are missives designed to keep my shredder from falling asleep. But this week The Millionaires Union -- alias NHL Players' Association -- produced a stunner: an actual news release with "news." Here it is: The NHLPA plans to find a new supreme leader.

Well, maybe.

The players have taken a brief pause from golfing to hire a "Search Firm" to find a replacement for the First Lord of the Bankbook, Donald Fehr.

We'll see about that.

Not that Fearless Fehr has to pack his luggage today or next month.

"The search process is expected to take several months," the NHLPA communique warns. Judging by the union's rate of non-progress, Fehr could be cashing his checks until the Maple Leafs win The Stanley Cup.

I kid you not. One insider put it to me this way:

"Players are not in any hurry to replace Fehr. Plus, there's no doubt that Fehr still will be in the saddle when the new season starts and for a long time thereafter. For precedent, see how Fehr held on as long as he could at the Major League Baseball Players Association."

Then, my informer added: "Fehr doesn't want to leave. He's in no rush."

Hey, would you be at $3 million a year?

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NAMING THE BIG-SHOT 'THINKERS' IN THE PLAYERS UNION

You might be interested in the names of some union biggies involved in the Fehr farewell. Alphabetically, they include Ian Cole (Bolts), Justin Faulk (Blues), Sam Gagner (UFA), Zach Hyman (Oilers), Kyle Okposo (Sabres), Nate Schmidt (Jets) and Kevin Shattenkirk (Ducks).

You may wonder how this affects Jane and Joe Fan. Really, the only thing that matters is that labor peace -- otherwise known as no-work-stoppage -- is maintained. In that respect, no sane stick handlers should think about anything but playing hockey.

Here's one good reason why: Nicholas Roy, an occasionally obscure Vegas' centerman, was rated fourth (out of five) on the Knights' depth chart for pivots.

Guess what? He just signed a five-year, $15 million contract for an annual value of $3 million a year.

Forget about the Human Cartel, Connor McDavid, these union skaters never had it so good. As for the eventual Fehr replacement, that's far from a Fehr-gone conclusion.

Then again the search firm -- Russell Reynold Associates -- actually might find a successor. I choose Paul Kelly, who'll be the best leader the search firm will ever find! And that's because Kelly already had the job and did it better than anyone else until one summer night when a handful of players pulled the rug on him. Maybe they figured he was doing too good a job.

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ANONYMOUS COMMENT ABOUT THE UNION SEARCH

"I don't think it matters who the Executive Director ends up being. To get rid of the Triple Hard Cap; the Executive Director would need to persuade the players to strike for a very long time...which they are unwilling to do."

Frankly, I don't blame them. And if you're still wondering why, check Jonathan Huberdeau's latest deal: eight (8) years at $84 million.

Or, if you want one more insider's note about stickhandlers and their union, here goes the Insider's view: "Generally speaking, players are totally apathetic."

What's there to fuss about if you're making a fortune?

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THE SAD TALE OF LEHNER-FLEURY-VEGAS

News that Robin Lehner will miss all of next season because of hip

surgery is a multi-faceted hockey tragedy. No more; no less and should be told from the start to the now.

In the beginning goalie, Robin arrived on Long Island with questionable credentials. He emerged as not only a star but a rare fan favorite, embraced for his pleasant, amazingly honest personality and his peerless performance.

He loved the Island and the vice was versa.

One could safely say that the Islanders saved and rebuilt his hockey career. Under logical circumstances, Lehner would have returned the favor by re-signing with the Nassaumen when that time had come.

Forget about the money. Whatever dough the Isles were offering --darn good in any civilized world -- should have been acceptable along with the two-year deal.

Supposedly, Robin wanted a longer pact and suddenly did a turnabout and signed on with Chicago for a year.

Leaving the Island was a colossal mistake. Huge-times-ten.

So, he goes to the Blackhawks and then winds up in Vegas where the Knights already had the good fortune of having one of the most popular goalies in NHL history -- Marc-Andre Fleury.

My colleague, David Kolb, had watched Fleury in person. "The team had a buzz with him there," Kolb tells me. "I was there for many games. Flower was a fan favorite."

The rest is ugly history. Fleury wound up in Chicago while the Sin City version of Lehner turned out somewhat less than a Vezina Trophy-winner. Much less, in fact.

Now the non-playoff Knights -- lately synonymous with dysfunctional -- are stuck with a pair of back-ups, Lauren Brossoit and Logan Thompson and little less in the crease but white twine and red pipes.

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A GEORGE GRIMM 50-YEAR HISTORY LESSON:

Exactly a half-century ago Bill Torrey, the rookie g.m. of the prenatal New York Islanders, began preparing for his club's opening camp prior to the 1972-73 season.

What many fans may not know is that the Islanders almost were preceded into Nassau Coliseum by the World Hockey Association's New York Raiders.

Historian George Grimm authored "Guardians of the Goal" and "We Did Everything But Win," each an excellent view of the past. Here, he gives us a vintage look at the Isles, in advance of their 50th birthday.

Take it away, George:

"The WHA was born at the same time as the Coliseum was being completed. The new league wanted its New York Raiders to play in the brand new arena. But Nassau County officials wanted no part of the WHA.The only way to stop the Raiders was to get an NHL team to play there instead. William Shea helped bring the baseball Mets into the National League and was enlisted to lobby for an NHL expansion team.

"Shea got support from NHL President Clarence Campbell and Rangers president Bill Jennings. Each had a plan; Campbell to expand the NHL and Jennings to make more dough for Madison Square Garden. Each succeeded.

"The Raiders were blocked from Nassau by the newly-created Islanders -- the other new NHL team was the Atlanta Flames -- but wound up at Madison Square Garden which would pull in big bucks as rental from the WHA club.

"What few realize is that Rangers g.m. Emile Francis had his eye on the Coliseum as a home for a Blueshirt farm team. 'I'd made a deal when they were building the Coliseum,' The Cat recalled, 'that I was gonna move our farm team there. It would have been ideal for us. But then the WHA came along and I was told they were gonna get an NHL team, so forget about a minor league team.'

"Clothing magnate Roy Boe, who also owned the ABA Nets, organized a group of 19 investors to buy the Isles franchise for $6 million. He also had to pay the Rangers a territorial indemnification fee of $4 million — another 'win' for Jennings and The Garden.

"As for the Islanders, who started slowly, they made the playoffs in 1975 and later launched a four-Cup run from 1980 through 1983. As for the Raiders, they barely made it through the season in New York and eventually were taken over by the WHA. The next year they were replaced by the Golden Blades who also ran out of money and wound up finishing the 1973-74 campaign as the New Jersey Knights in Cherry Hill. The Cherry Hill Arena can best be described as 'bush.' "By contrast, the Isles will celebrate their half-century birthday at one of the finest ice palaces in the circuit, UBS Arena in Elmont."

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I'M JUST SAYIN'

* It's time to think about the Champ Avalanche and the club's next move. In Denver, the word is that coach Jared Bednar needs a better second-line center than he now has. Come to think of it, he doesn't.

* I wonder if GM Joe Sakic would take a flyer on Jonathan Toews who wants out of Windy City and says so in different words.

* Re-reading the September 2020 Hockey News Yearbook, I got a kick out of Ken Campbell's splendid essay on Cale Makar.

* What got me was Makar's observation: "I think I can be better in different areas of the game and there's still a lot of room for improvement."

* A good three seasons later, my question to Master Makar simply is this: Improvement? Where, Man, Where?

* Why can't Jimmy Vesey stick with an NHL team? Once touted by the Rangers as a wunderkind, Easy Vesey may be headed to --hmm -- I'm not sure where! Rangers? Who know? I sure don't.

* My weekly "H," for Honesty goes to Arizona GM Bill Armstrong who figures his Yotes are about four years from a playoff berth.

* I never argue with either Dougie Hamilton or Mister Devil, the legendary Ken Daneyko. They tell me that New Jersey's #2 Draft pick, D-man, Simon Nemec, will be a star. Hence, I believe them.

* Gutpunch of the week: Canes' Max Pacioretty out for six months due to heel surgery.

* The hockey community extends worldwide but, ironically, is very close. There's proof of this virtually every month.

* Nothing says it better than the outpouring of condolences for the family of Ben Stelter, the six-year-old Oilers fan who passed away after courageously battling brain cancer.

* Little Ben had become a fan favorite for his promoting the tune La Bamba to be played after an Edmonton goal.

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HOCKEY LIFE CAN BE FUNNY DEPARTMENT: VERMONT'S JEFF SCHULMAN

Schulman Head Shot

One of the kicks for me at the recently concluded Maccabi Games in Israel was spending time with Jeff Schulman, the University of Vermont's athletic director and consummate hockey cashew.

Schulman surprised me when he mentioned that he'd been a Boston Bruins prospect. What's more, Jeff had made headlines -- not that big headlines, mind you -- by rejecting a big league contract offer from the B's.

"This was back in 1989," Schulman recalled, "and I'd just graduated from UVM. It turned out that while playing pickup basketball, I suffered a fractured foot."

Impatiently waiting for his wound to heal, Schulman got a phone call from Kevin Paul Dupont, who's still writing hockey for the Boston Globe. Dupont's news stunned Jeff to the very core.

"The guy was telling me something that I didn't know: 1. That the NHL had just held its 'Supplemental Draft' and. 2. The Bruins had selected me. Of course, I thought at first that it was a gag but Dupont convinced me that, yeah, there was a draft and the Bruins had, in fact, drafted me."

You'd think the news would have inspired Jeff to do cartwheels of joy. Well, not quite. Schulman already had secured a nifty job as Bushnell Intern with the Eastern College Athletic Conference. He had no interest in playing minor league hockey.

The story should have ended with Jeff showing up for work at the ECAC. Except for one thing -- it was a newspaper article in The Boston Globe.

Schulman: "My boss, the ECAC commissioner, showed me the article that stated I was a no-show at the Bruins' camp and l was embroiled in a 'contract dispute,' which, of course, was not the case."

Yeah, the temptation to get back on defense and get paid real Bruins money for it momentarily tempted Jeff; but only for about six seconds.

He coveted the juicy job with the ECAC and did so well at it -- not to mention other gigs up the collegiate ladder -- that it led to his eventual being named the U of V sports boss.

That's not to say that Jeff wouldn't have reached the NHL. As the late, great jazz pianist Fats Waller, once said, "One Never Knows, Do One!."

To the Bruins credit, Hall of Famer Jean Ratelle -- turned Bruins scout -- did follow up with a "What's going on?" call, and, finally understood when Schulman explained his "Thanks, but no thanks!"

To which the U of V athletic department offers one more word on Jeff's decision.

"Thanks!"

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THE BIG QUESTION: Is Jacob Trouba the right choice as the Rangers' new captain?

Answer One: Absolutely; based on the combined deep-thinking of g.m. Chris Drury; coach Gerard Gallant and the greater Trouba Family.

Answer Two: Not so fast, if you believe that Chris Krieder deserved the "C," based on longevity, production, and leadership qualities.,

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Stan's Yays and Boos

YAYS AND BOOS:

YAY TO BRUINS DON SWEENEY: If you're a Boston fan -- hey, it happens! -- you gotta be happy over the way that Causeway Street wrangler corralled some wandering beef. David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron and Pavel Zacha all rebranded with a "B."

BOO TO THOSE FANS who believe that The Maven posed for The Fisherman on the Islanders' new, reverse retro jerseys. They're coming back this season in just blue and orange. No, that's not me nor my old pal, Ken (Jiggs) McDonald. For each of us the theme is close, but no residuals! Or, No Teal, Un-Real!

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WHO SAID IT? "My math isn't good but I think we just lost 20 Stanley Cups." (ANSWER BELOW)

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INTERESTING HOCKEY PEOPLE: PAUL PATSKOU

Editor's Note: Each week I'll feature a fascinating character in our world of sticks and pucks. This issue it's a captivating guy from The Land of the Maple Leaf.

Phone the archivist-historian Paul Patskou at his Toronto tenting grounds and you'll get a good idea why his firm's name -- Patskou Research Services -- means business. The odds are that Patskou has what you want if you're looking for an impossible-to-find-elsewhere video.

The question I asked Paul is how come?

"It started as a personal goal to find something," Patskou explains, "and that turned into a hobby and business/hobby.

Frankly, I don't consider it a business intending to make money and employ people."

It all began with Paul doing visual research for hockey documentaries.

"That included tv shows," Paul adds, "hockey movies and other services which includes research for hockey books, consulting and much more."

Like a prospector digging for gold, Patskou is always searching for the hard-to-find.

Paul: "Importantly, I deal with rare footage and look for backstories. I'm not the typical type of researcher. I can provide different angles and more with the abundance of video, audio and written resources which I have. I created the business in 1998 while I was still working in computer support for the Ontario government. It really became successful financially when I left my job to work solely on hockey research."

Patskou owns a vast collection of hockey memorabilia including cards, calendars, coins, sweaters, signed photos and signed hockey sticks.

"What makes my collection different," he points out, "is the rare footage of hockey going back to 1898. And the advantage I have is that I can view film or photos from the past and not only identify the individuals but can spot the significance.

"That's the key -- what does the visual really say? That can be done with superior knowledge of hockey history; and with the mindset of not accepting the obvious nor what someone else has written. There are many false accounts and I try to correct the history of the game."

Because he has a vast mine of information, Paul is contacted by the NHL, CBC, Sportsnet, CTV, TSN, ESPN and Leafs TV among other major organizations. Since he doesn't advertise, all projects are "on demand."

One of my personal favorite Patsou productions is called "Hockey Time Machine," hosted, produced and edited by erudite Glenn Dreyfuss. A memorable show zeroed in on the Rangers 1994 Cup run.

"My aim at the beginning," Paul concludes, "was to relive my youth through watching games of the past. But the thrill of discovering rare footage that could tell us more history of the game kept me going.

"But the most satisfying part of what I do is provide video tributes to former players so they can show their grandkids. That's what it's all about!"

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FRANK PATRICK, HALL OF FAME CREDIT WHERE IT'S DUE:

There was a time before and after World War One when big league hockey thrived in the Northwest. And two brothers were responsible for that. Lester and Frank Parick, were the builders and equally shared the credit.

But as time went by Lester eventually headed East to become the patriarch of the New Yor Rangers. Once in Manhattan, his natural media savvy put him more in the public spotlight than his kid brother.

My point here is to show how important Frank Patrick had been in the National Hockey League's evolution. And it all began with the collapse of Lester and Frank's Western Canada Hockey League.

By the mid-1920's the brothers knew that they couldn't keep up with the fast-growing NHL, with American cities in Boston and Pittsburgh paving the way for other metropolis, especially New York City.

Ken McConnell of the Vancouver Province put it this way:

"The WCHL had to fold. It had teams in Vancouver, Victoria, Seattle, Portland, Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon and Regina. The travelling expenses were terrific and salaries were soaring."

The Patricks had two choices; lose all their big-league caliber players while getting nothing in return, or finding a way to get some cash back for their valuable stickhandlers. The Canadian Press explained how Frank pulled off the coup of all coups:

"Frank was peddling property that no one owned," wrote author Eric Whitehead in Hockey's Royal Family."

The Canadian Press: "Frank arranged a $250,000 sale of players whom the NHL could have had for nothing if it had waited."

The Victoria sextet went almost intact to Detroit of the NHL. Many of Pete Muldoon's Seattle skaters wound up in Chicago with the newly-minted NHL Black Hawks. Ditto for Portland's Rosebuds. Eventually,

Bruins manager, Art Ross. managed to obtain future superstar defenseman Eddie Shore via the WCHL's Edmonton franchise.

"Fortunately," Whitehead concluded, "there was as yet no such thing as a player's agent."

Frank Patrick's wheeling and dealing allowed the NHL to become a robust, growing major league by 1926 when the Rangers became the second New York city franchise in the NHL.

"By then," concluded Whitehead, "Frank headed back to the Coast to ponder his own future."

(NEXT ISSUE; THE THIRD AND LAST SEGMENT: THE TRAGEDY OF FRANK PATRICK IN THE NHL)

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ANSWER TO WHO SAID IT? John Muckler, after the Oilers lost Grant Fuhr. Randy Gregg, and Jarri Kurri 

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