In conjunction with the NHL Awards Show, the NHLPA held their two day season ending meetings at the Venetian Hotel and Resort on the Strip in Las Vegas. Meetings were held Friday and Saturday, highlighted by Gary Bettman's first visit to an NHLPA meeting in his reign as commissioner.
Bettman was scheduled to speak for an hour on Saturday but ended up going for two hours with an extended question and answer session.
On Friday, before leaving town, I was able to go by the Venetian for a brief player availability between the morning session and the afternoon golf tournament. A few folks like Predators Shea Weber, Greg Zanon and Kevin Kline were in a big hurry and were reluctant to talk but others like Robyn Regehr were very forthcoming and were willing to answer all questions.
The first video has short clips with Chris Pronger, Shea Weber, Chris Chelios, and George Parros. Topics included the salary cap, the inflator clause, fighting, head shots, mixed martial arts moves by players, and other topics.
The second video is by far the liveliest and features George Laraque. He was very keyed up as he discussed making fighting safer, the rules of engagement, staged fighting, misconducts, and other issues. When I asked about a lack of respect among players for each other at the end of the clip, I felt like I was being engaged. Enjoy the clip as I cowered and was ready to duck.
I found a new non-Predator favorite player while talking to Calgary's Robyn Regehr. He is a very engaging individual with extensive knowledge of NHLPA issues and is very forthcoming in his discussions. He covers a wide range of economic issues in the clip prior to my running out of memory in the camera. If you only want to watch one video, this one is the one to watch.
Regehr was incredibly friendly when I mentioned that I was from Nashville and spent another ten minutes off camera talking one on one about small market hockey and rehabilitation of franchises.
The NHLPA is very interested in keeping Nashville financially healthy as it is recognized league wide as a favorite destination for the players. He said that the players really look forward to coming to Music City and always hope for time off to get out and about in town.
After spending time around the players, coaches and officials at the Awards events and the NHLPA meeting, I came away with increased amount of respect for the group as a whole based on the quality of the individuals in the game of hockey.
I have never been a proponent of athletes as role models for kids but I did meet several players that are truly good folks and are worthy of a role model tag.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass