Saturday, 12 January 2013

Erik Cole is understandably bitter

The Montréal Canadiens' scoring winger and all-round stand-up guy Erik Cole has made some disconcerting statements about his mindset following the ratification of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement between the National Hockey League and the NHL Player's Association.  In effect, he claims to be so disenchanted with the deal that the Association was able to strike with their employers, and skeptical of its fairness, that he is contemplating retirement at the end of the season.  The prospect of losing ten percent or more of the value of his contract through escrow clawbacks leaves a bitter taste in his mouth, seeing as he signed this contract only last summer, especially since he more than held up his end of the bargain so far.

Now, I don't believe for a second that he will go through with this, and walk away from the remaining two seasons and $9M (minus the Bettman Larceny Factor of course, which will probably work out to as much as a million dollar removed from his compensation).  I think that when he's back in the dressing room with the boys, and on the ice having fun at practice, and when he cashes in some David Desharnais feeds and 21 000 fans erupt in the New Forum, he'll quickly come around.  He enjoys the game, it's what he does and he's very good at it, he won't quit cold turkey out of spite.

On the other hand, I don't think he's being disingenuous.  Mr. Cole has been a stalwart supporter of the Association and its good fight against the owners, serving as a player representative alternate to Josh Gorges, and making himself available to the media to explain the players' stance and counter the management disinformation campaign.  As such, he's been strongly committed to the cause, and it's perfectly believable that now that it's over, and the NHL pretty much had its way, that he's feeling let down and contemplative.  He's genuine in expressing his feelings, and what he's going through.  If he'd had a week to cool off, those feelings would not have been so raw, and he'd probably have had the willpower to hold his tongue.

That Erik Cole is going through this, and that Ilya Kovalchuk is not overjoyed at the prospect of leaving his current team in his home country to go back to toil for the Devils, after being Scarlet-lettered as one of the culprits for the owners' third lockout in two decades, is understandable.  Just as there were pragmatists/bootlickers like Roman Hamrlik in the players' camp, there were also some highly militant, outraged members, and that they won't be all rainbows and sunshine in the space of a couple days at the prospect of heading back to work and shaking hands with their bosses, and acting like they haven't been heisted again, without much recourse.

So if Erik isn't all polished and doesn't speak in platitudes and opens his heart and bares his soul and overstates his possible course of action and still wants to send a message to the owners and hasn't quite given up the fight yet, let's cut the guy a break or two.  He's proven himself to the fans of Montréal all of last season by being a leader on and off the ice, by working tirelessly and spectacularly, by scoring a career-high in goals and bringing spectators out of their seats with his thrilling rushes to the net, and by never giving up and playing his heart out for every game of a very difficult season.  Erik's all right in my book, and he should be so in yours.

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