Sidney Crosby has been a visible face for the NHL Players’ Association during the current labor impasse, but the Penguins will have another notable representative prominently involved when negotiations resume this week in New York City.
Franchise co-owner Ron Burkle, who has been part of the Penguins management team since Mario Lemieux’s group took over in 1999, is scheduled to join five other peers on the NHL’s side of the bargaining table Tuesday. Jeremy Jacobs (Boston), Mark Chipman (Winnipeg), Jeff Vinik (Tampa Bay), Murray Edwards (Calgary), Larry Tanenbaum (Toronto) and Burkle will help fulfill NHL commissioner Gary Bettman’s desire to involve fresh perspectives in the stalled CBA talks.
Bettman and NHLPA boss Donald Fehr will not be involved in this week’s get-togethers, as both sides have accepted the value of new voices in resolving the protracted lockout that has swallowed the first two months of the 2012-13 season.
On the players’ side, TSN.ca has confirmed Crosby and Chicago Blackhawks star Jonathan Toews will be in attendance. The two elite centermen have teamed up in significant moments before, as they hugely contributed to Team Canada’s gold medal triumph at the 2010 Olympics. In the tournament, Toews earned most outstanding player honors and Crosby capped a strong performance with the winning overtime goal in the final against the United States.
Of course, the boardroom isn’t exactly a comfort zone for Crosby and Toews, especially when they will be pitted against the six experienced businessmen mentioned above. Yes, there will be four more players – plus at least one unnamed NHLPA staffer – alongside, but this unconventional setup projects to be a challenge for the athletes.
According to Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Crosby and billionaire Burkle have a good relationship, which should temper the adversarial potential of this week’s meetings. If nothing else, the results of these upcoming talks figure to be interesting.
On top of that, a novel approach is certainly welcome at this stage of the lockout, especially after federal mediators predictably failed to generate meaningful progress last week.