Union man

Robin Short
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Colin Greening fully supports the Players Association in its contract dispute with the NHL

Colin Greening will remain in Ottawa for the next couple of weeks, working out and monitoring progress — or lack of it — in the contract dispute between the National Hockey League and the union representing its players. If the NHL lockout continues beyond that time, the Senators’ forward will more seriously explore the possibility of playing in Europe.
— Canadian Press file photo

There are those with the big, fat wallets, names like Crosby, and Weber and Parise, standing to lose a whole lot more dough, but 800 grand is 800 grand. And yet Colin Greening is steadfast in his support of the National Hockey League Players Association in a lockout that figures to last a while.

Even if comes about at the lousiest possible time, as the big Ottawa Senators left-winger enters his second NHL season, on the heels of a fine 17-goal, 37-point rookie campaign.

When he’s in line to pocket $800,000 this season (and $950,000 next year, before unrestricted free agency).

“I firmly wish I could be playing, and I certainly wish I would be paid this year,” Greening was saying this week. “But at the end of the day, we’ve discussed this as a union and we feel that if we’re able to change the system, if we’re able to put our principles forward and say, ‘This is how we feel the game is going to grow, how it’s going to thrive, so let’s change the system so that in 10 years time, the owners and players will be better off down the road because of something we did 10 years ago.’

“If we have to give up some pay to do that, we’re prepared to do that.”

Greening, from St. John’s, is no dummy. He attended Toronto’s tony Upper Canada College before graduating from Ivy League Cornell University with a degree in Applied Economics and Management. Along the way, he carried a near-perfect 3.99 grade point average.

So he’s not being led by the nose or drinking the union Kool-Aid in this latest NHL labour dispute, an unbelieveable fourth work stoppage in 20 years.

Rather, Greening has attended three players-only meetings, two in Chicago (where he spends his off-season) and the latest get-together in New York. He’s joined in on conference calls and has questioned player reps and the Players Association’s head, Don Fehr.

“I’ve tried to keep myself in the loop as much as I can because I believe knowledge is power,” he said.

“You go meetings for the information, to ask questions and to be as well informed as possible. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if it’s positive news or negative news, you need to have the information, all the cards dealt out in front of you so you can make a good decision.

“I can’t speak for other players who went through the other lockout (2004-05), but the consensus is from people with whom I’ve spoken to is there was a miscommunication amongst the union and the players and one of the things Don Fehr is big on is communicating all the information well. He encourages all the players to be there, encourages them to come to negotiating meetings, to come to player-only meetings.

“You can see last week in New York, we had over 280 players. That to me shows a really good union leader in Don.”

Greening is in Ottawa now, where he will stay for the next couple of weeks.

If the lockout stretches on, who knows. He may head back to Chicago or, if he’s lucky, jet off to Europe should he manage to land a contract like teammate Jason Spezza, Joe Thornton, Rick Nash and, most recently, Tyler Seguin.

Of course, while Greening had himself a fine rookie season, he’s no Spezza. Or Logan Couture, the San Jose Shark who’s off to Switzerland.

“The bigger names are first on everyone’s radar and once guys start to sign elsewhere, I guess (offers) will trickle down to lesser name players,” he said. “I’m hoping to get my name out there somewhere.”

Greening won a Calder Cup two years ago with the Binghamton Senators but because he was a full-time NHLer last season on an NHL contract, he won’t be returning to the upstate New York town know as ‘Bingo’.

So he’ll stay in Ottawa, where he and the other Senators will skate for about 90 minutes or so daily, and where Greening will then work out for another hour or two afterwards.

“What I learned last year was about preparation, about a mental game and it’s about coming to the rink every single day and doing the little things that make you a better player,” he said.

“I’m not necessarily playing now, but even going to the rink, I’m still getting into good habits, doing the things I did last year, following the same routine. So I don’t think it’s going to hurt my development, to be honest.”

The players won’t miss a paycheque until mid-October, but they will pocket their escrow money from last season. The most-recent collective bargaining agreement called for them to put 8.5 per cent of their salary into escrow.

They are getting most of it back next month, averaging some $200,000 each, meaning you won’t find a locked-out NHLer in the bread line any time soon.

“Personally, I want to play, but at the end of the day I support our union,” Greening said. “I think what we’re doing is right. We’re trying to fix a system that hasn’t been working and to be honest, I think this is the right move for us.

“If we have to sit out in support of our union and what we believe is right, that’s what we’re prepared to do.”


Robin Short is The Telegram’s Sports Editor. He can be reached by email rshort@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Upper Canada College, NHL, National Hockey League Players Association Ottawa Senators Ivy League Cornell University Kool-Aid Binghamton Senators

Geographic location: New York, Chicago, Toronto Ottawa Europe Switzerland

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Recent comments

  • winnipeger
    September 24, 2012 - 08:33

    typical buisness man. i make a good wage in winnipeg and i be dame if i will pay to watch a player who whines about making $64.000 a game and wants more. prices are too high to suppot this team, fans have taken out loans, purchased tickets using credit cards, and so on. winnipeg can't afford the jets. the only reason they are there is because the socialist NDP government who have very little respect for taxpayers money.

  • FrankNL
    September 22, 2012 - 14:48

    How many other 25 year olds from St.John's currently making $800,000? Union man? He's waiting to go overseas to take another player's job. Solidarity, bro. No sympathy whatsoever.

    • a business man
      September 23, 2012 - 13:04

      His income has nothing to so with other 25 years olds from st. john's. He has a specialized skill/talent that is valued in the marketplace. To skills are so valuable that he can take them Overseas and replace someone of lesser skill/talent. Solidarity to those who are not your family is for suckers. I commend him for being talented/skilled enough to be able to show up in a Foreign Country and take someone's else's job. He has the right to do what he wants, so kudos to him

  • winnipeger
    September 22, 2012 - 13:34

    one word sums the lockout: GREED, players/owners say it all about the fan, i say BALONEY, its all about GREED. here in winninpeg the 15.001 mts centre is too small to support the jets. ticket prices are way too high, food/beverage prices gone through the roof, then parking, and other prices for jet clothing way too high. a player making $64.000 a game wants more, something wrong with that picture. a family of 4 in the province making a fair wage can't afford to go to these games. i for one have cut my jets channel and will boycott. i call on all fans to send these GREEDY owners/players a meassage and boycott future NHL games.

    • a business man
      September 23, 2012 - 13:21

      I think ticket prices in the NHL, including at the MTS Center in Winnipeg are too low and should be increased. I feel the same way about parking and concession items. The players have a specialized skills and are in-demand in the market place, and the owners invest their money and time to bring us the NHL. They both should be handsomely rewarded. IF the family of 4 making a fair wage cannot afford to go to the game, well too bad...the parents should be making more money and should have gone to school to get educated and earned a better job. I am not concerned with the family of 4 who cannot afford to go. That is not my family. MY family can afford to go. We regularly watch games when we travel to Toronto, Montreal, Calgary or Vancouver for my business. We have not gone to the Winnipeg yet and were planning to go this year. I can tell you for a fact that no matter what they players earn or the league charges, I will gladly pay for it because I love the game. I respect the skills the players have, and the risks that the owners take. So I support the players wanting to make more than $64K per game, and I support the owners trying to get more money. I suggest that the league raise its prices dramatically so that it can pay the player what they want and allow the owners to get more money. Sure, some people will no longer be able to afford to go to the game, but that is okay. There will always be other people who can afford it and who will buy the tickets. At the end if the day, it really doesn't matter WHO actually can afford to go to the game. The NHL is a business, and as long as someone, anyone, pays for the seat, then all is good. A society must rewards it best, skilled and talents participants. They are much more valuable than unskilled uneducated workers and deserve better treatment. That is why I announce the offshoring of the jobs of and also announce an extravagant expensive team building trip for my management team. At the end of the day, some people are just more important than others. That is why you have a professional athlete making $64K per game while a family of four cannot afford to go. It is the market rewarding those who are actually valuable. It is say, but it IS the truth.

  • Paul
    September 22, 2012 - 12:40

    Oh! The poor hockey players. However will they make a living?

  • PR
    September 22, 2012 - 09:00

    Would be nice to have details. He says the system is not working. What is wrong with it?? Hard to sympathize with somebody making 800,000. I don't believe any player is going paycheck to paycheck. If they are, now there is something wrong.