By Christian J. Stewart - ISN
September 22, 2012, Victoria, BC (ISN) - Two days after Island Sports News published an exclusive interview with Detroit Red Wing Senior VP Jim Devellano, the hockey world is abuzz with reaction to his comments, and the NHL has acted swiftly, reportedly fining the Red Wings $250,000.
In the interview with ISN's Scott Harrigan, Devellano, who reportedly has a tendency to "shoot from the hip" with his comments, referred to NHL owners as the "ranchers" that own the ranch and allow the "cattle" - the NHL players - to graze there.
"The owners own the ranch and allow the players to eat there," told ISN. "That's the way it's 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 also made comments on the Philadelphia Flyers' 14-year, $110-million offer sheet to restricted free agent defenceman Shea Weber this summer, which was later matched by the Nashville Predators, that could potentially be viewed as an indication of collusion and offered a suggestion for dividing the revenue between the owners and players, suggesting the players take 43% and the owners 57%, the opposite of the current agreement.
Owners and team officials have been warned by the NHL that they face hefty fines if they speak up, and Saturday, the league came down hard on the Red Wings and Devellano, fining the club a reported $250,000.
"The Detroit Red Wings' organization and the league agree that the comments made by Mr. Devellano are neither appropriate, nor authorized, nor permissible under the league's by-laws," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement. "Such comments are neither constructive nor helpful to the negotiations."
The Devellano article has spurred a flurry of activity on the Island Sports News web site, which over the course of the past three days has received over 15,000 unique visitors to the site, as well as almost 32,000 views of the Devellano article alone to this point.
The article and its fallout have also been picked up by many of the major news and sports media outlets including Sportsnet, USA Today, NBC Sports, CBS Sports, TSN, the Globe and Mail, the Buffalo News and many more, as well as many hockey related blogs throughout North America and Europe.
Viewers are also speaking up on Facebook, and in the blogs, with opinions being pretty well split between siding with the owners (and hence Devellano's comments) and siding with the players. Those who have always been anti-Gary Bettman and anti-owners are calling for Devellano's head, and those who tend to side with the owners are lauding Devellano for speaking his mind and speaking what they feel is the truth.
Sean Gentille of the Sporting News for example felt the Devellano article was a good read because it gave a glimpse into league management's thought process, courtesy of one of its own and that while the league in its statement about the fine cited Devellano's comments as "inappropriate" and "unauthorized", they never said they were inaccurate.
Eric McKelvie of Bleacher Report also echoed that feeling. "Devellano may not have chosen the best words to describe current state of the league, the lockout, etc., but his assessment of the situation may be accurate.At the very least, it's good for fans to hear the opinion of someone like Devellano, who has extensive NHL management experience. Unfortunately, it may be the last time we hear such an honest opinion on the lockout, as the NHL sent a strong message with the fine. "
NHL players have also chimed in on the debate via Twitter and other social media outlets. San Jose Shark Logan Couture Tweets, "Just read the article about a Red Wings exec calling the players "cattle" at the owners ranch. Wow."
James Van Riemsdyk of the Maple Leafs responded with, "I thought we were in the 21st Century? I guess not."
Like Devellano's comments or not, the bottom line remains that it appears that the players and the owners are miles apart in their negotiations and that the NHL lockout will be here for longer than one might hope.