For the first time since the NHL went on pause March 12, there seems to be a major divide regarding how the league should hold the NHL Entry Draft and return. A league source confirmed to Boston Hockey Now early Saturday morning that there are three factions – players, players/GM’s, and some owners – now debating on what can be done to salvage the 2019-20 season, the Stanley Cyp Playoffs and the NHL Draft.
“You’ve got some within the league offices and the hawks amongst the owners pushing for whatever they can do to get things back to normal and recoup some of the losses and then not just the players, but their coaches and GM’s saying slow down, there’s a lot to think about here,” the source told BHN. “The pressure’s on to save what money they all can but one seems willing to risk more than the other.”
At the heart of the sudden disputes were the “powers that be” according to this source, “force-feeding the draft down our throats” and insisting that if a season is still going happen, the draft sets it up in early June. Elliotte Friedman laid out a plausible plan of how that could work but if a vote was held today, the top-ranked draft prospects won’t find out what jersey they’ll get the chance to don until at least September.”
“Forget the fact that so much of what can still happen in the draft will be determined by the outcome of not just the season but also the playoffs. …this is nuts,” the source said. “They [the league] think they can just dictate this but it’s not that easy.”
Unfortunately, after a week where the chance of the NHL returning seemed more possible than it has since the season was paused on March 12, the reality of COVID19 seemed to hit like a hard left over the top in a scrap in the corner. Ironically, former NHL enforcer Tie Domi dropped that haymaker on anyone thinking an NHL Draft and a return, if and when it happens, will ever have any sense of normalcy.
Speaking on Melnick In The Afternoon on TSN 690, former NHL enforcer Domi pulled no punches when discussing how his son, and Montreal Canadiens forward Max, is doing to host Mitch Melnick, Domi’s former teammate Sergio Momesso and producer Joey Alfieri.
“He’s trying to stay ready and mentally in it too,” Domi said with Tom Petty’s ‘I Won’t Back Down’ playing as the under-bed. “I think all these guys are having a tough time trying to stay with it because you really don’t know what’s going on out there but you know people say ‘When’s the hockey gonna start?’ and it’s really not up to hockey, it’s up to the virus. When the virus ends that’s when it’s going to start.”
Domi went on to point out what the NHL realized Friday as they got hammered with negative feedback for the proposal to hold the NHL Draft in June before a potential restart of the 2019-20 NHL regular season and then the Stanley Cup playoffs in July and August.
“Hockey has no say in it,” he said hammering home the hard truth. “Just like all the other professional sports, we’re all sitting patiently and being a professional athlete – or an ex-professional athlete – I can relate to going kind of stir crazy because you’re used to having a routine whether you’re playing or not and when you’re not able to go and workout or even going on the ice and shoot pucks or whatever, its just a different mentality but it is a new world that we’re all going through and we’re all dealing with it and it’s kind of the reality I guess of the new different world that we’re living in.”
Earlier in the day, Executive Vice President and Director of Hockey Operations for the NHL Colin Campbell agreed there is no normal anymore but suggested it’s time for those skeptical of having the NHL Draft before so much of its outcome was to be set, should suck it up and accept that new reality.
“We’re all hoping things are going to clear up here but no one knows,” Campbell told Hockey Central on Rogers Sportsnet radio. “It’s interesting having dealt with a couple of lockouts, and I was even part of a team back in ‘92, when there was a strike for ten days, we were with the Rangers and that just changed everything, just those ten days we had off when we came back. This one though is different and it’s so out of our control that everybody is dealing with issues on going back to work.
As you know, we floated the thought of having an early draft and I know it kind of screws up everybody’s thinking but what we’re trying to get through to everybody is that there’s not going to be a normal anymore. When you come back, the draft is not going to be normal whatever happens. So we’re trying just a little bit to talk a little bit of hockey, maybe take away some of the anxiety of the kids that are going to get drafted, talk some hockey, turn the faucet on a little bit.”
The Boston Bruins are owned by the biggest hawk amongst owners, Jeremy Jacobs. However, team president Cam Neely made it clear Thursday that he and his hockey op’s are not on board with an NHL Draft that many consider the best since 2003 being rushed to gain some “buzz”.
“A lot of trades happened at the deadline that were contingent on what happens with that team in the playoffs or that player in the playoffs,” Neely said in a virtual town hall with Bruins season ticket holders Thursday. “It could affect your draft choice. A lot of things have to be worked out to have the draft prior to finding out who the Stanley Cup champion is. It could affect some transactions that have already taken place.”
So as we get set to turn the page to May and what would’ve been the heart of the second round of the playoffs, the will to find a way remains but there is now a growing divide on how to find it.