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Owners and Players to Meet without Representation (Sort Of)

The players’ union took a few days to consider, but it appears that they’ve decided to take the plunge and head into a meeting with six owners. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr will not be present.

“The NHLPA has agreed to a meeting on Tuesday in New York that should facilitate dialogue between Players and Owners.  Neither the Commissioner nor I will be present, although each side will have a limited number of staff or counsel present,” said Fehr. ”There will be owners attending this meeting who have not previously done so, which is encouraging and which we welcome.  We hope that this meeting will be constructive and lead to a dialogue that will help us find a way to reach an agreement.”

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly will attend the meeting. The NHLPA has not identified which of their staff members will be attending.

Apparently the players are going to be attempting to bring in about six of their own to try to level the playing field, so to speak. It’s expected that Sidney Crosby and Adrian Aucoin will account for two of the possible six.

We do know who the owners will be, of course, and there aren’t really any surprises on this score.

Jeremy Jacobs, the owner of the Boston Bruins and apparent leader of the pack, will be there. He’s the one who accused players of “drinking the Kool-Aid” in 2005 and has been reported to be among the owners’ “hardliners” this time around. #634 on Forbes’ list of the world’s billionaires, Jacobs has been, according to multiple sources, the “ringleader” of the group of owners who’ve been prolonging this lockout.

Calgary Flames co-owner Murray Edwards will also be there. He is the 14th wealthiest Canadian and the 540th wealthiest man in the world, according to Forbes. His Canadian Natural Resources company has heavy stake in Alberta’s oil sands and he also owns considerable stake in Ensign Energy, one of Canada’s biggest oil services companies. According to many sources, the players “don’t dislike him” but he also has been accused of “sitting at the right hand” of Bettman. No word on if that’s meant to be taken literally.

Larry Tanenbaum, chairman of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, will be there. He was instrumental in bringing the Toronto Raptors basketball franchise to T-Dot. He is currently the chairman and CEO of Kilmer Van Nostrand Co., a construction company. Tanenbaum’s Toronto Maple Leafs are the league’s richest team.

Also on the docket is Mark Chipman, the owner of the Winnipeg Jets and owner of True North Sports & Entertainment. He also sits on the board of the Hockey Canada Foundation and almost directly has Bettman to thank for his hockey team.

Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik will also sit in. He is a minority owner of the Boston Red Sox and is on the board of directors for the Liverpool Football Club. He also owns the Tampa Bay Storm in the Arena Football League and got his start managing hedge funds and investment firms to more than considerable success.

Last but not least is Ron Burkle, who co-owns the Pittsburgh Penguins with Mario Lemieux. According to Forbes, Burkle has a net worth of $3.1 billion – good enough for #128 on their Forbes 400 list. He is also currently the founder of the private equity holding Yucaipa Companies, a group that mostly makes its green through buying out and/or investing in grocery and supermarket chains. Former US president Bill Clinton is a close personal friend of Burkle’s.

So will this work? It’s impossible to say. There is some talk that some of the egos in the room have been tampering with the conversations thus far, but it’s hard to imagine many more egos than the aforementioned. Whether Bettman and Fehr are there or not doesn’t seem to matter when you consider the likes of Daly and Jacobs sitting around the table, but I suppose anything’s possible at this juncture. Maybe. Meh…

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