Earlier this week, a report said that Sidney Crosby may skip the NHL's All-Star Game festivities to protest the lack of calls for headshots (this story has since been updated from its original release). That's not exactly a Sidney Crosby-like action, so of course the report was immediately suspect. Still, it caused enough of an uproar - probably because quite a few people wanted to believe it, for various reasons - that it was splashed all over the hockey firmament, all the same.
Naturally, it was later refuted. Crosby himself was quoted as saying that if he could go to Raleigh, that he would go. He still may not be able to play, however, because his concussion symptoms are still lingering.
But let's pretend for a moment that it was true - that the NHL's marquee player, Sidney Crosby, would use the All-Star Game to protest an inadequately addressed league issue.
We all know that head shots are a problem. And we all know that officiating is horrifically inconsistent. (And no, it's not just for your team that the on-ice officials are calling/not calling stupid things; it's everybody.) And don't even get me started on Colin Campbell and his "Wheel of Justice".
The only way that's going to change is for someone like Crosby to stage a protest. Or all of the players invited to join him and stage a protest. We all know that the NHL's Board of Governors - the people with the real power to change things - don't listen to the fans. The other alternative is for it to be one more discussion point in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) talks.
The theory goes that the employer - in this case, the NHL and its member teams - is supposed to create a safe work environment for their employees - in this case, the players - to work in. But employers won't change their business practices unless they're forced to; if they're making money as things are, then they'll keep things the same. So it's up to the employees to force the employers to change.
That's what unions are all about. If anyone remembers their American history, it was the manufacturing unions that forced employers - and the government - to create safe environments for all people to work in, even those not in manufacturing. And not just work environments, but living conditions as well.
Yes, a lot of these guys make millions of dollars a year. And yes, it can be annoying for some to hear them complain when many fans think they have just about the best job in the world. But the fact of the matter is, they're putting their health on the line every single game they play, and for what? To entertain the fans.
They don't have to come back from facial fractures, blown knees, bruised brains, or skate-slashed throats. They can take their sticks, pucks, and money and go home. But they don't. And that's a big part of what fans admire about them.
The point is, that in order for things to change on the ice, someone has to make waves. And Crosby's just the guy to do that - not that he would. Especially since he's the darling of the NHL - whether he likes it or not. He can toe the party line and be a good little hockey player and do what the league wants him to. Or, he can stand up for what's right, and in helping himself he's helping his fellow players as well.
The NHL has given him that clout, and if he's going to use it, then he should at least make it worth the effort. Maybe then poor or inconsistent officiating won't be a point lost in the future CBA negotiations if it were tackled now. The players don't have a lot of bargaining chips to begin with, but the All-Star Game - which many players don't want to attend, anyways - is certainly one of them.
What would he have to lose? The NHL would probably drop him as their poster boy. Oh. What a loss. I mean, he didn't ask for that, anyways. The NHL took a talented but relatively naive 18-year-old and shoved him into that role. If I were in his place, I'd probably find that to be a relief if they did.
Besides, the NHL already has the next poster boy lined up if Crosby decides to do his own thing. And it wouldn't even be that hard for him to pick up where Crosby left off, either. Not that I would wish that on any player, but still.
Although, who knows. Maybe the fact that Crosby may miss the All-Star Game due to his concussion will be enough for the NHL to decide that they need deal with the headshots problem. Stranger things have happened, after all.