Penguins' power play brings deal closer
At the center of this fragile momentum is the presence of the Pittsburgh Penguins, led by reclusive billionaire owner Ron Burkle, who shined brightly in talks Tuesday, according to sources, the players receptive to his tone.
Burkle’s first appearance in labor talks comes at a critical time in the process, with both sides having tried nearly everything else -- mediation, large group meetings, small group meetings, etc.
When NHL commissioner Gary Bettman offered to bench himself from this meeting as long as NHLPA counterpart Donald Fehr did as well, it was an opportunity for Burkle to enter the picture and do his thing.
Burkle over the past couple of weeks had conversed with Sidney Crosby's agent, Pat Brisson, and fellow Penguins owner Mario Lemieux and to some degree Crosby, as well, as the group tried to find common ground among the obvious, divisive issues between both sides of the labor impasse.
Talk about a Penguins power play.
Lemieux, in town for Wednesday’s board of governors meeting, was spotted in the hotel lobby along with Brisson and others after the meeting Tuesday night, once again underlying all of their common interest in the cause.
Crosby was certainly happy to see Burkle get added to Tuesday’s owners-players meeting, having much respect for the Penguins owner and certainly the hope that his inclusion would bring a moderate voice to the owners’ side at a time when players were growing weary of hearing from hard-liners such as Jeremy Jacobs (who was nevertheless still in the room Tuesday).
Burkle’s track record in his private business life suggests that he was just the man to try to find middle ground. When the Pittsburgh arena deal nearly fell through, Burkle’s involvement helped save the project. His awards from labor groups in California underline his ability to negotiate fairly.
Combined with a similar desire shared by Crosby to do everything possible to save a season, the Penguins owner and his superstar captain put their best feet forward Tuesday in an attempt to push things back in the right direction.
Slava Malamud @SlavaMalamudThis will be a severe blow to #Caps and Ovi fans everywhere. Crosby's saving a season while Ovi's making big bucks in Russia is unbeatable.