[Editor's Note: This is a follow-up to yesterday's open letter. Another perspective from Jake Duhaime, who used to work for the Red Wings. You can follow him on Twitter @jakeduhaime.]
An Open Letter
The word I would use is disappointment.
It’s nothing personal, but two weeks after the Winter Classic was axed, Torii Hunter was signed to a two-year, $26 million dollar contract the NHLPA could only dream about. Sure, the economics between Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League are different, but the system that allows you to bring in a quality outfielder, or Prince Fielder just days after Victor Martinez was ruled out for the 2012 season were negotiated, in part, by Donald Fehr.
I know winning a World Series title is important. Heck, it may even top your own personal bucket list. After all, winning four Stanley Cup titles in a little over a decade breeds two things, compliancy and entitlement. You have an entire generation of fans who have never missed the playoffs. (They expect to be playing for Lord Stanley’s Cup in June, not just this year, but every year.) You are also blessed to have amazing people working to reinvent the Red Wings as a brand, extending your community presence, connecting with new corporate opportunities and innovating something that isn’t even broken yet, just so it doesn’t get stale.
I love Chris Osgood, Kris Draper and Kirk Maltby as much as the next guy. All three deserve to have their numbers retired for putting a very happy face on a bad situation. You have Michiganders, hard working people who utilize sports as an escape from their day-to-day lives, unable to sympathize in an economic catfight between millionaires and billionaires. Not every team has a Rolodex of recent local superstars who have stayed loyal to their adopted home.
(Note: Due to the NHL lockout, clubs cannot use current players in any marketing, sponsorship or community initiatives, thus Ozzie, Drapes and Malts are everywhere.)
It would be one thing if you were front and center in these talks. As someone who grew up outside of Boston, I could speak for 29 other markets in saying that we wished you were running our local teams from 1991-2004. When rumors came out of a spat between you and Jeremy Jacobs over organizational thrift, we wanted to give you a high five. He went out and then gave crazy-stupid money to Martin Lapointe just to spite you.
It pains me to see Jacobs at an arms length of Gary Bettman and you not right there alongside. After all, I can name few owners throughout the four major professional sports who have as much public trust.
You could have been the man in more ways than one. You could have put the best interests of your organization first, which meant giving credence to Fehr’s stance for more revenue sharing and (gasp) loosening the cap rules. Something that could have opened the door, as it would have 10 years ago, for both Ryan Suter and Zach Parise to be wearing red and white instead of Minnesota Wild sweaters.
(Yes, I know that realistically speaking, this wasn't a serious possibility, but with the Orioles and Athletics making the playoffs, the Rays as a World Series team in 2008 and teams being able to hold on to more of their developed talent, I would have loved to see MLB's luxury tax in the NHL.)
You could have also been that well respected voice of reason, the equivalent of what Robert Kraft or the Rooney family are to the National Football League, where behind closed doors, the best interests of the sport and the brand come first, PR tactics second.
I hope that behind the scenes, you are one of those men. Your fans need it and your employees deserve it. I don’t blame anyone for what has currently transpired between the NHL and the NHLPA, but I see you as a solution.
If not, disappointment is the word. It’s the perfect word.
Jake Duhaime was the Social Networking Manager for the Detroit Red Wings from 2010-2012.