Sanderson: NHL, NHLPA on verge of seriously damaging the league

Sanderson: NHL, NHLPA on verge of seriously damaging the league
November 14, 2012, 10:40 pm
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BOSTON -- Derek Sanderson knows all about regrets in the NHL.

The flashy Bruins center won a pair of Stanley Cups in Boston while exploding into a celebrity off the ice known for his irreverence and frolicsome lifestyle. But the Bs bon vivant also became the worlds highest-paid athlete for a time when he eschewed the NHL for the WHAs Philadelphia Blazers and a 2.6 million contract in 1972.

Unfortunately, things didnt work out . . . as often happens when somebody is simply chasing the money.   

Sanderson missed his Bruins teammates terribly and injuries kept him off the ice for Philly. Ultimately the Blazers bought him out of his pricey contract after he'd appeared in only eight games for them. The flamboyant Bs legend still lists the decision to sign with the WHA as the biggest regret of his entire hockey career, so he knows a thing or two about learning from mistakes.

Thats why Sanderson is concerned that his NHL is on its way to a monumental gaffe if Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr cant find a proper CBA agreement that will guarantee a 2012-13 regular season. At this point it will be a shortened campaign, which could be 64-68 games if they start on Dec. 1, and Sanderson thinks the NHL could live through such a still-possible scenario.

But all bets are off if they miss the whole season, as they did in 2004-05.

I think hockey will survive despite it all, but it could be a long time coming back if they do not have hockey this year, said Sanderson, who has been giving interviews over the last two weeks to promote his new autobiography Crossing the Line: The Outrageous Stories of a Hockey Original that was released in October. There might be trouble if they dont bring it back to the people soon in Hi-Def on TV.

For most people, theyre not actively looking for hockey until football is over. Once the NFL season is over, people are going to be asking, Wheres the Bruins? If you dont get it by Christmas and you dont let kids watch the games, then youre going to hurt the game.

Of greater concern to Sanderson and undoubtedly to many past generations of players who worship the game of hockey and the NHL are the two executives at the heart of the CBA negotiations. The Turk openly wonders how high the level of concern is about the NHL when its a pair of negotiators from outside the hockey world controlling the fate of this season and beyond.

I think hockey is the greatest game in the world. You cant say too much about the lockout. But I dont understand it, said Sanderson. Gary Bettman is a basketball guy and Donald Fehr is a baseball guy, isnt he? Why are they talking about hockey?

The owners had a great CBA the last time if they did it properly. Just dont frontload the contracts and sign guys to contracts for 10 or 15 years. Dont make those deals. But they did it to themselves and now theyre looking for something else.

The sports references point to Bettman's start as David Stern's right-hand man in the NBA, and Fehr's 25 years of service heading the Major League Baseball Players Association before joining up with the NHLPA.

Sanderson no longer has a direct stake in the game as he did when he was a player for the Bruins, Canucks, Penguins, Blues and Rangers, or when he served as the Bruins color analyst for more than 10 years. He now helps athletes manage their money as vice-president of a Boston-based company called Baystate Wealth Management, and tries to teach them about the past financial mistakes in his own life that once left him penniless.  

Sanderson is also hoping his words might help the NHL avoid repeating the mistakes of the 2004-05 lockout, which they seem hell-bent on doing to the dismay of many.