As we've learned from players Gary Bettman has a very strange and unordinary way of negotiating. Instead of actually negotiating he believes in threatening and imposing a lockout. Some players even went as far to say "It was like he was happy to cancel the first two weeks." Bettman's next threat to the NHLPA is the possibility of using "replacement players." Yes you read that correctly, just like the NFL used replacement officials, Bettman wants and is willing to do the same with players. An interesting concept; The NHL without NHL players...
After Bettman proved he was serious about cancelling games by knocking off the first 2 weeks of the season, totalling 82 games enough games for an entire regular season for a single team, on Thursday. It's time to start taking his threat of replacement players a little more seriously because he's crazy enough to try it. Bringing in the replacement players or "scabs" was a threat the league used back in 2004 but nothing serious came from it. This time around that possibility is back on the table and could gain some serious discussion if the NHL and NHLPA have still not completed a deal by mid November.
Toronto Maple Leafs former assistant GM Bill Watters is spreading word about the possibility of the league using scabs and how easy it would be;
"There are enough free agents around and players under contract in junior, on reserve lists and in the AHL to ice a team in every city. It is conceivable" ~ Bill Watters
Bettman's hope is that some players would cross the picket line and come back to play with the replacement players. This would mainly be free agents and or players who are in the last year of their contracts. Other players included in the replacement section are AHL players with NHL contracts and prospects from Europe who have ties to an NHL team. Virtually the scabs would be glorified AHL players and any players that aren't represented by the NHLPA.
Of course the league and Bettman would be betting or believing that the fans are so starved for hockey they'd pay money to come and see the scabs. I'm not going to lie I might be interested in seeing some of the players and the talent level for a couple of weeks, but after that I'm out. So the question remains would fans actually support the scabs? As of right I'd have to say no. The players are seen as the good guys in the eyes of the majority of fans, they were willing to play and still negotiate and are seen as victims of the money starved NHL owners. So why would the fans turn on the player if they don't believe they've done anything wrong?
Hockey fans are a different breed of sports fans. Sure we have our favourite players who we'll support till the day they hang up the skates, but we really fall in love with a team because of that team. Most Toronto Maple Leaf fans have stayed loyal although the team hasn't accomplished anything significant in years. Why do they still support the team? Because it's the Leafs, they have such a rich history and heritage that the fans just want to support the team. We cheer for the logo on the front of the jersey over the name on the back of the jersey. Which is why Bettman may give the scabs a try, because he thinks fans would be willing to pay to see their beloved teams back on the ice, no matter whose wearing the jersey.
Hoping that the scabs would help draw some of the players across the picket line and then in turn force the NHLPA to cave is a lofty wish for the league and highly unlikely to work. What do you think, would you pay to see scabs playing for your favourite team? Would you enjoy seeing scabs? Will the NHL actually go through with the threat of scabs?