Devellano stated in an interview with Island Sports News on Thursday that the owners could be viewed as a ranch and the players as cattle (Devellano included himself as part of the cattle). Havlat stated that the players already knew that the owners only view them as commodities and is glad the public finally gets to see this.
"The comments made by Devellano are nothing new. The players know that's how Bettman and some of the owners think, we're not shocked at being called ‘cattle'. I can tell you the players have been called a lot worse by some of the guys on the other side, it's just never been reported publicly. I think it helps that the fans get to hear what we already know, we're not humans in their eyes, we're just pieces of meat that get to eat some grass for awhile."
The Detroit Red Wings’ organization and the League agree that the comments made by Mr. Devellano are neither appropriate, nor authorized, nor permissible under the League's By-Laws. Such comments are neither constructive nor helpful to the negotiations.
The interview in question with ISN can be found in full here. The following comment would seem the most likely to have angered Bill Daly and the NHL (via ISN):
I'll make a suggestion Scott. Let the players take 43% and let the owners take 57%. Just reverse it from where it is now and let the owners run the rest of their business and manage their expenses. Now keep in mind this time around it's not just revenue sharing that is the issue. There are many, many more components at play here, from entry level contracts, years of service, insurance, etc. I mean a whole bucket load of disputes that are just as important for the owners to need to get a fair deal done.
While those comments on the negotiations probably led to the hefty fine, the following comment seems to have angered the NHL and many of its fans as well (via ISN):
It's very complicated and way too much for the average Joe to understand, but having said that, I will tell you this: The owners can basically be viewed as the Ranch, and the players, and me included, are the cattle. The owners own the Ranch and allow the players to eat there. That's the way its always been and that the way it will be forever. And the owners simply aren't going to let a union push them around. It's not going to happen.
The NHL clearly wants to keep their teams from making comments such as these to the media, and the hefty fine that Devellano will now be paying should serve as a reminder to other executives not to discuss the negotiations going forward.
Is there a chance that NHL owners will cave in the ongoing CBA negotiations with the NHLPA? Not a chance, says one high-ranking team executive.
In a candid interview with Island News Sports, Detroit Red Wings vice president Jim Devellano said that there's no chance the owners cede ground to the players in the current lockout -- the third lockout of Gary Bettman's 20-year tenure as league commissioner. He shared a worldview that seems common of many that run NHL teams: That the players are nothing without the billionaire owners who employ them and, in many cases, lose money on employing them.
"Now [NHLPA director] Donald Fehr would have you believe by getting rid of the cap, the owners would make more money and that the sky is the limit, but trust me Scott, the owners would lose their asses. We've tried that. It doesn't work. There is just too much cost involved in running and owning a team.
"It's very complicated and way too much for the average Joe to understand, but having said that, I will tell you this: The owners can basically be viewed as the ranch, and the players, and me included, are the cattle. The owners own the ranch and allow the players to eat there. That's the way its always been and that the way it will be forever. And the owners simply aren't going to let a union push them around. It's not going to happen."
Devellano also remarked that Gary Bettman doesn't deserve the scorn of hockey fans, as he's simply doing the work of the 30 team owners from across the league. He said that Bettman does care about his public persona, but that in the end, he only needs to answer to those 30 owners and not the fans. A harsh truth.
If Devellano is correct and those 30 team owners fail to give in even the slightest bit to the players' union in these talks, the cancellation of another season is certainly in play. If that happens, the blame from the fans is undoubtedly going to fall on Bettman harder than ever before. But as long as the owners are happy when all is said and done, Bettman doesn't really need to answer to us.