Thursday, November 1, 2012
Doan dealing with double dose of doubt
By Pierre LeBrun
For Shane Doan and the rest of his Phoenix Coyotes teammates, it’s a double dose of uncertainty these days.
Being locked out and unsure of when they’ll be able to resume their NHL livelihood is stressful enough, then add in the fact the perpetual ownership saga in Phoenix remains unresolved, and you've got one lousy situation altogether.
But Doan, the Coyotes' captain and face of the franchise for all these years, is trying to maintain a strong front as he waits out both situations.
"You just try to cross each bridge when you get to them," Doan told ESPN.com Thursday. "I know that’s kind of cheesy but that’s what it is. You hope both situations get done soon."
The irony is not lost on Doan, of course, that one situation layers onto the other in the fact that his Coyotes franchise has been brought up during the course of labor discussions since the summer. Specifically, the NHLPA wants to know why it’s on its players -- through reduced player costs in a new CBA -- to pay for money-losing franchises such as Phoenix as part of the league’s effort to get a new CBA that helps reduce owners’ overall costs.
That argument aside, Doan still believes his market could work, given a fair chance.
"People may think this sounds naive, but I really do believe it can work here," he said on the phone from Phoenix. "And I know people don’t believe that. But in the last three years, [the NHL, which is operating the team, has] done absolutely nothing outside of running hockey ops."
Doan's frustration is that the team hasn't had a chance to do the kind of normal selling job to its fan base a franchise would do when it has stable ownership.
"We’ve had zero ability to build off what we've done on the ice the last three years because every summer it’s the same: 'Are we leaving? Are we staying?'" said Doan. "And this time we make it to the conference finals and we generate real excitement and then we get the lockout and we’re talking about staying or leaving again."
It could, in fact, work in Phoenix, Doan said.
"If the ownership was in a stable situation, I believe that we wouldn’t be one of the bottom revenue teams, I believe that we’d be in the middle of the pack and we’d be fine," said Doan. "But being the way it is right now, you understand. I just wouldn’t want to give up on this city without giving us a real shot of having a stable owner and having the ability to make things work here. Because I do think it would work, as much as people may chuckle at that."
In the meantime, he has serious concerns on the labor front. Doan was in Toronto exactly two weeks ago Thursday and took in a short bargaining session when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman rejected all three of the NHLPA’s counteroffers.
"I was glad I was in the room. It was important. I wanted to be there, it was interesting to see how it went and how it works," said Doan. "And in that particular moment we had agreed to come down to 50-50. That was a fairly large concession by the players. From watching when Gary walked out and said, 'They took a step backwards.' That galvanized the players."
That’s a comment I’ve now heard from two dozen players over the past two weeks. It wasn’t the fact the NHL rejected the NHLPA’s three counteroffers, but rather the quick manner in which it was done. It angered the players in the room that day, a room that included the likes of Jonathan Toews and Sidney Crosby as well as Doan, among others.
"When they just flat-out said 'No' and I’m not sure they really had time to read all three of them, then you realize that it’s a tough situation because they don’t want to negotiate whatsoever," said Doan.
"It’s just more about the money grab," he added. "And, in a way, that’s encouraging as a player in the fact that I think eventually something will get done because it’s more about just how much money they can get than it is about the systemic problems they were talking about earlier on. It really comes down to how much money they can grab, and I understand that."
Perhaps it was along those lines that Doan delivered that gem of a line that day in Toronto after the league rejected all three union offers.
"When people ask for money, they usually say, 'Give me your money or I'm going to hurt you,'" Doan said that day. "They don't say, 'Give me your money and I'm going to hurt you.'"
"There’s that little word of 'and' or 'or,' and that’s kind of important," Doan chuckled Thursday in recalling that line.
Doan simply hopes bargaining resumes soon.
"People may not believe this, but the players are the biggest fans of the game there is," said Doan. "We care so much about the game. We’ve sacrificed a lot for it. We want this deal done so badly."