CBA 2012: The Quotable Labor Dispute

With word that talks have begun- strike that: With word that the two sides in hockey’s labor dispute have agreed that in fact they are both in New York City at the same time, here is a selection of quotations from sports labor issues, past and present. Quotations are in chronological order. The best (as in the most stunning) was not deliberately saved for last, it just worked out that way.

“It’s almost like they want us to strike. I think Mr. Bettman was surprised we didn’t strike. Any other union probably would have gone on strike. Does this mean we are weak? No. I just think it shows that our first concern is for the gameI’m a union guy to the end.”

– Wayne Gretzky, quoted in Joe Lapointe, “League Tactics Upset Rangers and Other Players.” The New York Times, 11 Sep 1994.

“We’ve put away the pencil. It’s time for the pen to come out.”

– Glenn Healy, quoted in Joe Lapointe, “One Last Face-Off As Time Runs Out.” The New York Times, 10 Jan 1995.

“We desperately don’t want this season canceled. From the Ranger point of view, we feel we are at the pinnacle of our existence. A canceled season could possibly do tremendous damage to our franchises, the league and the sport. We really fear it. We have an obligation to our fans to try to not let this happen.”

– New York Rangers GM Neil Smith, ibid.

“Tim Forneris’ million-dollar sacrifice [of Mark McGwire’s #62 home run ball] has served only … to enhance the public image of athletes who walked off the job in 1994 because they felt underpaid at an average salary of $1.2 million a year.”

– David Owen, “The Gullible Groundskeeper.” The New York Times, 12 Sep 1998.

“Somehow, that public act by the league [to cancel the season] caught the players’ attention, the way a good, hard, legal cross-check clears the mind of a player. Thanks, I needed that. More than the lawyers, more than the league suits, the players suddenly seemed to sense they didn’t want a year of shame, a year with no hockey, a year without the Stanley Cup. Or a year without paychecks.”

– George Vecsey, “Cancellation of Season Shouldn’t Be Wake-Up Call.” The New York Times, 20 Feb 2005.

“Basically, the owners tried to rub our faces in [the cancellation of the season]. That’s not good.”

– Bryan Smolinski, quoted in Joe Lapointe, “Some Players See a Startup League.” The New York Times, 1 Mar 2005.

“I was disappointed with our union and with the league. Everybody in that meeting should be held accountable.”

– Sean Avery, ibid.

“If in fact there’s a cap, this may come as news to some general managers, but it’s not news to me. I’ve had a cap for the last six years I’ve been a manager … it’s called a budget. And the fact that now some guys are going to have a budget, that may be radical or revolutionary to them, but it’s not to me.”

– Anaheim Mighty Ducks GM Brian Burke, 2005*

“The Players’ Association got a home run in 1994 and they tried to hit a home run now and they should have settled for a double or a single because there was no way they were going to beat the owners this time.”

– Hockey Night in Canada’s Don Cherry, 2005*

“A lot of people say that in this type of situation nobody wins. But that’s never true. It’s about control and the owners got what they wanted – control.”

– Hockey Night in Canada’s Ron MacLean, 2005*

[*Quoted by CBC Sports.]

“The N.H.L.P.A. has never been a legitimate union … It has always been an offshoot of management.”

– Marvin Miller, quoted in Jason Diamos, “Analyzing Union’s Agreement, Marvin Miller Drops the Gloves.” 25 Dec 2005.

“We are pleased that the leadership position at the players’ association has been filled, and we look forward to working with Don in his new role.”

– Gary Bettman, quoted in Jeff Z. Klein, “The N.H.L. Players Union Votes to Appoint Fehr as Its Leader.” The New York Times, 18 Dec 2010.

“It’s important for professional athletes and sports owners to remember you got a whole bunch of folks out here who invest so much in their teams, and they don’t begrudge these guys making millions of dollars, or the owners making gazillions of dollars—most of them, very rarely can they afford to buy a ticket to go to an actual game. All they ask is don’t be so selfish about it that you’re not looking out for your fans.”

– President Barack Obama, quoted in Bill Simmons, “Transcript: Barack Obama.”, 1 Mar 2012.

“Our fans were not only tolerant and patient, but were extremely supportive [of the 2004-05 lockout].”

– Gary Bettman, quoted in Jeff Z. Klein, “Labor Showdown Looms Ominously for the N.H.L.” The New York Times, 19 May 2012.