Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Arbitration=hurt feelings + other thoughts

First off, I am not a Sean Avery fan. He is well known for being a player who employs questionable tactics in order to draw penalties, he sometimes "turtles up" (covers up and refuses to fight) when another player whom he has angered challenges him and is just an all around "shit disturber", a hockey term for one who is a pesky player who doesn't possess a high skill level.

Having said that, he is a great element to have on your hockey team (look how he distracted the entire Thrashers team during the playoffs last season) and I would welcome him in an Islander uniform.

Glen Sather referred to Avery as a "detriment" to the team recently. Now, we all know the basis of arbitration: The team presents it's case as to why the player doesn't deserve more money, the player makes his points about why he should and the arbiter weighs everything and makes his decision. It's a democratic process and a good one.

However, in recent years, the horror stories emerging from the bargaining table have been numerous (the best example is Mad Mike Milbury making Tommy Salo cry after leaving the goalie in doubt of his worth as a human being). Why is it necessary for teams to publicly deride a player that they hope will perform for them the next season? Do they not see the residual acrimony will carry over and will do more harm than good?

I have had Job Performance Salary reviews before. My bosses in several different industries made their cases as to why I may not have deserved as large a raise as I was seeking in a professional manner. There were never any personal issues brought up....the review was entirely performance based. I may not have always left the table with the money I was seeking, but I also never left with with a feeling that they didn't want me on their team.

Bottom line: Hockey players are athletes being paid high salaries to play a game. For the compensation they receive, they put their health on the line, endure long absences from their families and put up with sometimes harsh criticism in a public forum. They have long ago accepted these conditions as the price they must pay. But to not expect them to take it personally when their own GM describes them as a "detriment to the team" is unrealistic.

TV Alert: Any New York sports fan who was beyond toddler age in 1977 will thoroughly enjoy watching "The Bronx is Burning" on ESPN. The acting is first rate (Oliver Platt's take on George Steinbrenner is eerie...his ability to mimic The Boss' unique speech cadence is a marvel to listen to) and the series' ability to capture the tension that existed in the city during that calamitous summer (The Son of Sam shootings, the Blackout and the subsequent looting and violence that took place, etc.) make it well worth the investment of your time. Tuesday, 10 p.m on ESPN.

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