The hockey world has certainly been turned upside down this season as the NHL lockout drags into its second month already. The fans, media, and some agents have unquestionably been vocal, although it is getting to the point now whereby players, or should I say a player, has stepped up to the mic. Washington Capitals defenseman, Roman Hamrlik, who recently blasted the players’ union executive director, Donald Fehr, took some time to chat not only on the current labor negotiations, but also the game, draft, and his future.
It is without question that all parties and people involved with NHL hockey are discouraged. Perhaps Hamrlik was the first on record to speak his mind, though where there is smoke, there is fire, and what I mean by fire is when other players will come to the forefront.
“Yes I do,” quipped the Czech Republic blue liner when asked if there were others out there in the same boat of feelings as him.
“I’m very frustrated with the process which is why I’ve become vocal about what I think. I have been involved in two other lockouts which were no fun and have caused lots of damage to our sport and I believe that we have to avoid losing a full season at all cost,” added Hamrlik.
I guess when this is not your first ride at the rodeo, you are already 38 years-old, and watching $3.5 million burn up in flames on the last year of your contract it is time to make some noise by dropping the hammer.
Although there is something in Hamrlik’s voice that makes me believe it really is beyond the dollars and cents. Like most hockey players he loves the game and just wants to play – period. His resume shows nearly 1,400 games played in the top professional league in the world, a gold medalist in 1998, and a three-time NHL All-Star. Yet like many players before him that have retired, there is one quest unfulfilled. So when I say he knows the clock is ticking it’s for good reason.
Hamrlik enthusiastically stated, “I want to win the Cup which has been a dream of mine ever since I stepped foot on ice and I hope I’ll have a chance to accomplish it this season with the Capitals.”
Right now ‘Plan B’ is on hold though he proposes to be involved in the game in some capacity when he is ready for retirement. He feels he still has a couple of years left in the tank, thus he is remaining optimistic.
“I’m hoping that Mr. Fehr and Mr. Bettman will make our 2012-13 NHL season happen. If there was no season which, I certainly hope won’t be the case, I would consider playing in Europe most likely playing with my older brother Martin in Zlin,” assured for former number one overall selection in 1992.
Speaking of the draft, Hamrlik was able to offer analysis on the process today, some two decades after hearing his name called to the podium.
“I believe it’s the best process there is as it allows for the weaker and financially less affluent teams to select earlier and it helps to even out the league. It finds the best talent worldwide through scouting and thousands and thousands of hours of game watching, analyzing, and selecting players based on their talent and character and it is matched against team’s needs.”
He then continued to state, “I think it has become more scientific over last 20 years, however it has not changed all that much. It doesn’t matter whether you excel in Canada, Czech Republic, or anywhere else. You will be found if you’re good enough to be drafted.”
Hamrlik feels that his own country, Czech Republic, is going through a difficult time on the international scene though also believes the cycle of life will again hit his homeland with success soon enough. While the influx of Europeans to the NHL endures he was also quick to add, “It may be very difficult to replicate the golden generation of Jagr, Straka, Rucinsky and company, but we (Czech) still have some great players today.”
While Hamrlik has been cast into a shadow by some fellow players, he has no regrets on the comments he made, but he feels that he has been misunderstood by some. He spoke up because he wants to break the gridlock and push his fellow players to realize that losing yet another season would create irreparable damages – to the greatest sport in the greatest league in the world. He is supportive of NHLPA, but he believes that time is being wasted and something has to get done now, thus his recent references on Fehr. To put it simply, he just wants to get back to the one thing he and all other players love most – playing. The life he has made in North America through the game of hockey is well blessed.
“Tampa holds a very special place in my heart for as it was my first home through my NHL career. Calgary had a very friendly atmosphere along with awesome fans. Montreal with all its tradition and history was great 4 years and I’ve enjoyed it tremendously,” he uttered.
“In Washington, we have a great group of guys with whom I hope to win the Cup.” Time will only tell if this hammer hit the nail on the head.
Follow Russ Bitely for more hockey news, articles, and comments on Twitter: @russbites