As I mentioned a couple of days ago, Roman Hamrlik’s public comments about Don Fehr have begun to snowball, and on the Washington Capitals, it could be very detrimental to their team dynamic.
A day after Hamrlik’s comments, Caps goalie Michal Neuvirth publicly backed his blueliner. From an article on TSN.ca:
“I agree 100 percent with Hammer,” Neuvirth told TVA Nova Sport in the Czech Republic. “This lockout is not about majority of players, I think. It is about several superstars with big contracts.”
Not exactly the response that NHLPA leadership was exactly hoping for. One comment can be attributed to a renegade player, a veteran who is frustrated at seeing his career winding down and his losing his earning power. Neuvirth’s comments hurt the NHLPA cause on two fronts: 1. He is a young player with hopefully a long career in front of him, which is who the NHLPA Is supposedly fighting for in this labour dispute; and 2. It draws a line between the star players and the “supporting” players, creating two factions within the association.
As I said earlier this week, once the first crack appears in the dam it could start to spread quickly. It didn’t take long for that to begin.
And for the Washington Capitals, it didn’t stop there. Cue Troy Brouwer’s response to his teammates’ comments, and there could be some team building necessary when the league finally resumes. Brouwer responded in the Washington Post newspaper, as quoted on tsn.ca
Those are two guys that have never been on a conference call, never been to a meeting, never paid attention,” Brouwer told The Post. “People are going to have their own opinions but when you’re fighting for something with 700 other guys, all you’re doing is just making it harder to make a deal and making it harder to accomplish the things we’re fighting for.
“For me, I think those guys selling us out, being selfish like that and making those comments…” Brouwer continued. “Me being on their team, how am I going to trust them as a teammate from now on? Because you know they’re not going to support players in the big scheme of things when you go and you play on the team with them; it’s going to be tough to want to back those guys from now on.”
So now it’s becoming personal, and the infighting has become public. It’s fine to disagree with what is happening, but from the NHLPA point of view, those comments would be better kept behind closed doors and aired in private. The public perception, even if it comes from only a couple of players, is that where there is smoke, there’s fire. If there is two dissenting opinions, there could be two hundred that feel the same way.
Oh, to be a fly on the wall in the Capitals dressing room on the first day of training camp.
Somewhere, Gary Bettman is in his corner office rubbing his hands together à la Mr. Burns saying “Eeeexxcellent”. His greatest hope is coming true.