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.