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 email@example.com