Former NHL players’ association president Trevor Linden is only an interested observer as another lockout rolls on.
”It’s disappointing to see the game not being where it should be – and that’s on the ice,” Linden said Thursday. ”I follow, but it’s not my issue anymore. So I’m happy to be on the sidelines.”
Linden made his comments around the same time league and NHLPA officials emerged from a second day of unsuccessful mediation efforts and Commissioner Gary Bettman proposed that leaders from both sides step aside from the talks and be replaced by owners and players.
The former Vancouver captain led the players union during the 2004-05 lockout that resulted in an entire season being scrapped for the first time in NHL history. He was active in the negotiations then and, in the following summer, helped negotiate an end to the dispute that led to the collective bargaining agreement that expired Sept. 15.
Linden, who retired in 2008 following 19 seasons with the Canucks, New York Islanders and Montreal Canadians, was reluctant to discuss the current lockout in detail, but shares the feeling of many fans. He faced heavy criticism from owners and players in 2004-05 as the standoff divided the NHLPA and led to the departure of union head Bob Goodenow.
”At that point, (the scrapping of the season) didn’t shock me,” Linden said. ”It was a massive philosophical divide. It was a huge philosophical divide on the economics of the game. … This isn’t.”
The NHLPA, now led by Donald Fehr, no longer has a player who serves as president. The organization has been restructured and, from the players’ perspective, is led by a negotiation committee that consists of representatives from all teams.
But if Linden had to reprise his role in negotiations, he would.
”It’s one of those things, if I had it to do over again, I’d definitely be involved,” he said. ”As hard as it was, I enjoyed being part of it and understanding the business of hockey. It was a difficult time, but I enjoyed being part of the process.”
Since his retirement, the 42-year-old Linden has stayed outside the game, pursuing business interests that include a chain of fitness centers and real estate development while also taking part in speaking engagements and many charitable activities.