The concept of replacement players in the NHL confuses me. It’s an idea that’s been half-heartedly bandied about that needs to be put to rest for good.

Obviously they wouldn’t be pulling grocery baggers and construction workers off their shifts to play the games, so that leads me to believe they’d want the best available players who aren’t under NHL contracts which means they’d be…AHLers on one-ways (or as one writer suggested, junior players)? So…the league would basically be the AHL with some European players, in this fantasy land? What would this hodgepodge look like?

Never a good sign when that clip comes to mind.

And I’m asking this completely separate from any of the legal questions. Let’s say everything was on the up and up. Go nuts. Anyone can play.

The hockey would be good-ish, obviously. Better than beer league, for sure. But to fill 30 teams you’d be stretching into the ECHL, reaching into the elite leagues, and calling free agents, which means in all likelihood, you’re looking at a quality of play slightly worse than the actual AHL. Which wouldn’t exactly thrill fans.

Combine that with no practice, no systems, no gelling, and the play gets worse. Than add in that every guy is suddenly a nobody, the fans feel no allegiance to them, and the half-empty buildings would be filled with fans half as loud.

This is a threat to break the players union? Never happen.

There’s another problem with the concept (that nobody’s really taking seriously, but again, kill it with fire before someone does): as mentioned in this Joe Haggerty post (via Pro Hockey Talk) – what player in their right mind would actual sign up for that job?

From Haggerty’s post:

One player on the AHL/NHL bubble that would likely be asked to take part in any theoretical “replacement player” scenario was quick and forthright in their response when asked if they would cross over.

“There’s no way. That kind of thing stays with you for your entire career,” said the player. “Guys want to make it to the NHL the right way and be accepted by the brotherhood of players. That would never happen for anybody that crossed the lines while the lockout is going on. Good luck finding players willing to do that.”

If you’re good enough to be a “replacement player,” you’re not too far off as is. You have potential. And “making it” isn’t necessarily about being good enough, it’s about getting a break or two periodically. You have to play your cards right.

Stepping into a joke of a “replacement league” would be setting your career aflame. You’d be black-balled from ever playing in the real NHL. Nobody wants to be a part of a circus (exceptions: most actual circus performers, animated Chris Rock characters).

I know a lot of die-hards think “but just to play one game in ______ (insert fantasy arena), I’d do it,” and maybe there are a few players like that. But most aren’t. Guys at that level have already played in big arenas in front of big crowds. That one sentimental perk isn’t worth trashing your career.

So, as I’m sure most people already had, let’s strike the idea of “replacement players” as a lockout-ending threat of the list. It’d never happen, and couldn’t even if they wanted it to.

Comments (14)

  1. I think one exception to this could be the guys who are good AHL players, but are on the wrong side of their careers (thinking late 20′s early 30′s types). I’m sure many of those guys are aware of their place in the game and the slim chance they have at making a career in the NHL. Now I don’t know what the replacement NHLers would get paid, but my guess is that it would be a pretty decent step up for most AHL signed guys. If I’m 29 years old and I don’t have an NHL contract and am playing in the NHL, and I have a chance to pull in three years worth of salary in one year, I’m probably doing it, even if it destroys my already slim chance at making it to the NHL full time.

    • Right, that’s kind of who I assumed the replacement players would be. Career AHLers and ECHLers who were past their prime. Also, some European players who weren’t good enough to play in the NHL and were also past their prime.

    • How about bring back retired players? Make say a league of 6 teams like original six teams, not so much as replacement players, just something interesting enough to televise….like a tournament or something. Or have a Canadian Cup tournament open to any non professional players, once it get down to the top 16 teams, i would think the games could get pretty competitve, and might actually shine a light on a few players that never made it….like when they did that hockey reality show that got the winner a tryout contract.

    • The NHLPA have blocked me from going to their website the past couple of weeks at home and the office, does that mean we are no longer brothers? That’s okay I will see if I can join the brotherhood skull and bones, hope the NHLPA are not the same guys that screwed up my email at home and at my office. Thanks NHLPA, you let me back on your website last night from my home…
      October 4th 2012
      Time to get the job done Mr. Bettman and Mr. Fehr, I will give you till 11/11/12 enough is enough…..
      Sending this to the owners and the NHLPA again.
      I will start off by letting you both know I represent the 1000 workers that work game day at your arena and the 330,000 paying fans, I am using 11,000 as the average per arena per game. I know this can be done on or before November 11th 2012, Remembrance day in Canada, what a day that would be for hockey.
      I will start off with you Mr. Bettman. I want you to present your last offer to the NHLPA for a vote on or before the due date of 11/11/12. If you can’t come to an agreement than please bring up all farm teams to play in the big arenas. I bet you will get the best out of these players as they all want to make it to the big leagues. Reading the paper this morning and seeing a child holding up a sign at a game that states PARKING $25, TICKETS $500, Gary Bettman is USELESS. I’m standing up for this child as I know how he feels. I am a very fortunate guy in Calgary that has season tickets and my tickets are only about $30 a game. They are in the nose bleeds but are very good seats as I can see everything. The good thing I think on the owners side is that I am pretty sure that they read my stuff on this site.
      Now for you Mr. Fehr. I will say it again that you have a way with words (smart) at least it looks that way. I wish I could be like that but I am not and I am not a writer. I’m a good old Irish boy and you wouldn’t want to go face to face with me buddy because I like a good fight just like any good Irishman. I think you live in the old days with your union thoughts with a board that you take orders from and I am starting to wonder if it’s the same board from the past lockout?
      Let go of what happened in the last lockout, I mean really how can your members complain. The cap didn’t work the way the owners thought it would and the players also got extra pay from it, through revenue sharing over and above the contracts. Who cares about what the owners are making as the players are making more today than they ever had as a group. The everyday people (fans) are getting sick and tired of what is going on as for us the numbers being discussed are not realistic. Can’t you see that the players did win after the last lockout. Another thing that the media is talking about is that the owners pushed Goodenow out. That is bull the players got rid of him and if they have the same board as when Goodenow was in. I think they better start looking at replacing them as well. Maybe these players are the 5% that think the NHL still owes them something.
      Today’s unions don’t cater to the 5% anymore as they are the problem children in the unions, the ones that cause sh__ and are never happy with anything. I now work with the other 95% that deserve our attention and it’s time for you to get out of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. I hear 10 teams are doing great 10 teams are doing okay and the other 10 teams are not doing so well so find the 51% of the owners that will make this work. DON’T go home or whining to your board just fix it Now! The best thing you can do is take this whole website to your members for the right answer and then I can take the blame. I am doing this for your membership so they can play the game they love and miss. This is something you are taking away from them because you think you are always right. You need to lose that attitude now, this is my tip to you. I don’t want to repeat this when (September ends) next year. This sounds like a song we all know. GET THE 95% to read this website because the other 5% you will never make happy. The sad thing is we only hear from the 5% though the media.
      My hope is that common sense prevails soon on both sides!!!!
      Maybe your next meeting should be in Calgary so we all can get together and roll up our sleeves and butt heads, till we get the job done.
      I’ve heard that Mr. Fehr was going to present the owners with a new proposal but the players are saying no way we’ve lost enough. This must be the same board as 2004. It looks like no hockey this season and if it’s the same board members they really must be part of the 5% ‘s. Again Donald Fehr I really think you should do what you think is best and hand over the new proposal to the owners and if they except it you will be a hero. I will back you up if they try and fire you because I am the
      This is my view not yours’ I’m Peter Montgomery from National Hockey League Players Association. com

  2. It can’t work in hockey.
    In the NFL, it didn’t work even though it is much easier to find players (and players with name recognition) than hockey. For football, there are many players who start in a major college football program who have nowhere to go after that. There is no minor league.

    All those AHL/ECHL guys are already in an NHL system and will continue to be when the NHLPA comes back. They’d see the real players after in pre-season camp, etc. In the NFL they went back to their supermarket jobs.

  3. “Stepping into a joke of a “replacement league” would be setting your career aflame. You’d be black-balled from ever playing in the real NHL.”

    You don’t think that the owners would be greatful to the marginal AHL/NHL player who crossed the line and played as a scab for said owner? I get that the players would not be too fond of the scab, but it’s the owners and coaches who could potentially black-ball the player.

    • That’s not really the point though is it, have you ever had a job where all your colleagues hate you? I haven’t but if I did I imagine I’d rather bag groceries. Although there are people out there who wouldn’t give a shit, just not enough to fill 30 teams.

      • There are probably some of those but, as John says, not 30 teams worth. Also, if the owners have shown anything during this process, it is emotional detachment from they players they employ. Why would they be more loyal to a scab than someone they just signed to a $100m contract?

  4. The other problem is how this actually generates any money/fans in seats.

    For most of the non-traditional or smaller markets , seats are cheap enough that you would literally have to resort to giving them away to get anyone to show up. Especially when you are in the US and competing with other sports.

    Most traditional markets have readily available hockey alternatives (AHL or Junior, the Marlies in Toronto, the Wolves in Chicago, the Giants in Vancouver). A bunch of those alternatives have also just been loaded with NHL talent. I can’t see people walking away from that to go see a league of replacement players.

  5. NHL players are worried about ‘scabs’ taking their jobs because that just wouldn’t be ‘right’. Try filling the league with all those guys without jobs in europe now that NHL’rs are jumping ship. The NHL players taking jobs in Europe are a joke for thinking they are any better than the scabs who would fill their spots.

    • I’ve always wondered if part of the reason why Ashlee Langdone took out Scott Gomez was because the NHLers displaced a bunch of ECHL players during the last lockout.

      I never heard anything to even suggest that, other than my own annoyance at how badly the teams got shook up by it.

  6. Scab players would be detrimental to the league for fans, I foresee a mutiny if that ever happens. We don’t wanna see Joe Shmo, we wanna see Pavel Datsyuk.

  7. I’ll jump on that grenade … Even tho I never got drafted in juniors or was even looked at to play college hockey. If you like Hartnelldown, you’ll love me

  8. they’re not replacements if they are playing in the nhl, open the door to all (tryouts), its going to be like us-soviet circa 1980…im pumped! does anyone know if concessions(beer, hotdogs) are in the cba? i assume so…

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