Mooooo-ve over Gary Bettman. NHL players have a new league executive to target.
Detroit Red Wings Vice President and Alternate Governor Jim Devellano referred to players as "cattle" in an interview with Island Sports News. He also said teams have an unwritten rule about targeting other teams' restricted free agents, which is being looked at by agents and fans as a sign of collusion.
Devellano's incendiary comments show why Bettman and his deputy commissioner, Bill Daly, are adamant about being the only league officials who are allowed to comment on the lockout. They have threatened team owners with a $1 million fine and the loss of draft picks for any unauthorized comments.
There's no way the NHL would authorize some of the things Devellano said about the lockout in the interview.
"It's very complicated and way too much for the average Joe to understand," Devellano told Island Sports News, "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."
He also mocked the NHLPA's solidarity in the report.
"The players are doing what they have to do, but it's funny, you talk about solidarity and a handful have already bolted," Devellano said in the interview. "You know who they are...like they need the money...yeah right!
"But I would caution them to be very careful not to get hurt because as of two days ago, we pulled all their league insurance and all the benefits for each player, so if they get hurt, the NHL will not pay them one dime until they are cleared by league doctors and to the owner's satisfaction that the player is 100 percent fit and able to perform."
Devellano, who has been in the NHL for 45 years, also commented on the Philadelphia Flyers' $110 million offer sheet to restricted free agent Shea Weber this summer. The Nashville Predators matched the offer and retained the defenseman.
"I will tell you there is an unwritten rule that you don't do that, but they did, and just like everything else in life, some people are great to deal with, some aren't," Devallano said. "If you are asking me if it's right, I would say there is, again, an unwritten rule...we all know it in the NHL, but not everyone follows it."
Prominent player agent Allan Walsh quickly tweeted the comment signals an open-and-shut case of collusion.