The hits just keep on coming in the NHL lockout. At this point in time, 25 percent of the regular season games have been lost with the announcement that games have been cancelled through November. Next on the chopping block: The Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich. It’s hard to believe that a professional sport could go through two lockouts in the last decade because both sides are in a stalemate. The popularity of the NHL is fading after it was starting to come back last season and it’s sad to see it come to this.
Mike Keenan, a former head coach in the NHL and current analyst for the New York Rangers on MSG Network, gave his take on the climate of the current labor negotiations. Mike Keenan joined 590 The Fan in Toronto to discuss the NHL season being lost with the current state of the lockout, NHL players suffering through a second lockout in the last decade, the massaging of egos between the players and owners, the Rangers-Islanders rivalry with the Islanders moving to Brooklyn and himself coaching in the NHL again in the future.
It’s been announced that games are cancelled through November. Does it have the feel that the NHL season could be cancelled soon?
“That would not surprise me. I think the sides are dug in pretty well and there’s a lot of issues, certainly, and everyone has their view point from one side to the other. The fact of the matter is this is a stalemate right now. I don’t think it’s going to be resolved anytime soon. I think there is a lot of danger in the aspect of we will lose this season.”
This is staggering that these NHL players could be going through a second lockout during their careers?
“Well it really is. I remember working with Jeremy Roenick last year on the TV set and he turned to me and said, ‘You can never recover the money.’ I said, ‘Absolutely, you are right.’ A guy like Jarome Iginla is going to wake up one day very soon and his career is going to be over. You can never make that money. I understand, but there’s a real pragmatic, practical part of me that where I come from, and my background, and what you can really garner from your situation. Yeah it may be hard for them [the players] to accept what is being offered right now, but owners own, players play, managers manage and coaches coach. None of us can always figure that out, but the real pragmatic, practical side of me says, ‘I’ll take a little bit less, but I’ll have something.’ Sidney Crosby is going to wake up one day and his career is going to be over.
Where did that time go knowing where did that money go?
These people have so much money now maybe it won’t make a difference to them, but we are talking about starters making an enormous amount of money and nobody says they don’t deserve it, but you gotta think of all the membership too. Guys who are making $500-700, a guy like Brad May, who works on our set, saying, ‘I couldn’t recover that money ever. I never made huge money. I made decent money, but I could never recover.’ And that’s something that’s really gotta come from the surface of the membership and they have to decide in their own mind, is that worth it to me in the long run with my family?”
Is it going to take some massaging of egos when the NHL does return between the players and owners?
“Well sometimes it is and there’s going to be some players that have difficulties with it. Again, I can go back to the ’94-95 season when we came back in January as well, and there are players that just move on and get to their business and want to get playing again, so it’s not across the board. It’s an individual basis and that’s where the coaching skills … you are kind of caught in between. You gotta be with the players and you gotta be with the ownership and you gotta find a balance between the two to be able to bridge the gap between the two groups and get the best product on the ice and the best team on the ice if you can under those circumstances, so it’s good to have that experience under your belt when you’re dealing with that situation.”
What does the New York Islanders moving to Brooklyn do to the Rangers-Islanders rivalry?
“I think it will improve the rivalry because the proximity is that much closer now. They are just across the street. I think the Islanders fans are close enough to still support. There’ll be a shift in maybe the city itself. Some will take on the Islanders, but those rivals go back many, many years now. They are very rich and very deep. They are not going to be dissolved because somebody moved 25 miles from one building to another.”
Are you still looking to get back into coaching or being in an NHL front office position?
“I would like the opportunity to coach again. I enjoy the media. I’ve had some great people to work with. I’ve had a lot of fun with it and at the same time you never know if the game is going to call you back or not. Certainly this keeps me connected to the game. As you know, we are invested in terms of watching games and keeping an eye on the league in what’s going on, so some people have done it. You look at the baseball World Series right now, both managers. You’ve got a manager that’s well into his 60s, so that’s a doable situation. It’s a circle of the coaching paternity and sometimes you’re in it and sometimes you’re not and we’ll see what happens.”