Nick Kypreos wrote a post today about how it seems that all negotiating from the NHL's side is coming from a three-man power trio of Gary Bettman, Bill Batterman, and Jeremy Jacobs. In his post, he put up the money quote in regards to the Red Wings:
As the Red Wings and Jimmy Devellano found out the hard way, it's okay to be seen, just don't be heard. Even if an owner like Detroit's Mike Ilitch wanted to sit in on negotiations with the PA he wouldn't be allowed. That's a tough pill to swallow considering the financial stake he and all owners have in a $3.3 billion operation.
The problem here is in speculation. It does seem somewhat telling that the last time the two sides met face-to-face, the NHL rejected three different NHLPA offers off-hand and Bettman told the press some pretty dire things about where negotiations were headed before he even went back to powwow with the governors. It's also quite a bit separated from what feels like an inclusive and open NHLPA when it comes to discussing any matters with each of their members.
What we don't know is whether the ownership of our team is one who is badly chomping at the bit to get a deal done or one who is happy to sit silently and wait for his league's negotiating committee to get a deal done which will make him another hundred million dollars or so.
It's much easier to remain a fan of the Wings if Ilitch falls in the first camp. It's great to believe that threats of fines and/or legal action (including having the team forcibly taken from him) are what's keeping our owner at bay against the "others" who are forcing him to buy into the lockout. We don't know how powerful the league's gag order is, but we have seen the league flex its muscles in regards to ownership troubles before and come out stronger for it.
Essentially, the league's constitution gives the commissioner the power to force an owner out and if he can't get the support of 3/4ths of the entire league to overturn that decision, there's nothing he can do about it. Have you ever tried to fight a homeowners' association? It's like that, except with much sharper teeth.
But now that the Tigers' postseason is over (sorry Tigers fans), there's no longer a convenient excuse that maybe he has other things on his mind. We're left to just kind of wonder... is Mike Ilitch complicit? Muzzled? Scared? Powerless? What does Mike Ilitch think about the report that the league is mere days away from canceling a hockey game that's set to bring the state of Michigan millions of dollars and will bring a festival of hockey right to the baseball stadium he owns?
Knowing full well that Mike Ilitch has always been good to the city of Detroit and good with the Red Wings, and knowing full well that the risk he would be taking in speaking out is positively monumental, how far away are you from feeling that Mike Ilitch is one of "them" when it comes to the NHL's negotiating tactics versus being one of "us", who just wants to see hockey?