It seems that every time a major labor negotiation ends in a work stoppage, the subject of replacement players inevitably arises. With the NHL lockout in full swing this fall, the notion of hockey putting replacement players on the ice in NHL arenas is quickly gaining steam.
"I think the potential of people crossing the line is significant. And that's what the whole game is about: Bettman is going to hope to crack the union. And as soon as Fehr notices a crack - and he'll hear it, because it'll be significant - he's going to sit down and negotiate a deal. And if Bettman doesn't get the response that he wants, he's going to have to change his gameplan, and go for another year's lockout.
"With that, Bettman will be gone, for sure. Donald Fehr will end up with nothing. And they'll have to continue during the summer of next to settle a deal. I just don't see that happening. I see a settlement of some description coming in December."
"It's the only option Bettman will have when he postpones the Michigan game."
The Michigan game that Watters is talking about is the 2013 Winter Classic, to be held between the Leafs and Red Wings at the home of the Michigan Wolverines. It's set to be one of the biggest cash grabs for the league in years, perhaps bigger than last year's game between the Flyers and Rangers, and if the lockout continues into November the possibility of it getting canceled becomes that much greater.
So, Bettman and the NHL would attempt to use replacement players to "break" the union and force substantial negotiations to actually take place. It would be an incredible gamble on the part of the league and Bettman, and Watters mentions that veteran players currently in the last year of their contracts would be hard-pressed not to cross the line. The big question, of course, is whether fans would support replacement players.
The theory is that we, as fans, support the sweater and not the players. But this is much different than Steve Ott or Mike Ribeiro being traded; this is asking the fans to support a completely different team of likely fairly unknown players while the ones we love are elsewhere.
There's also the legal aspect of whether replacement players are even possible. With the NHL locking out the union, replacement players would send the proceedings into some very interesting legal areas. Personally, I'm not exactly certain the league can use replacement players -- but the subject is getting a lot of attention right now, so obviously some think it possible.
What about you, Stars fans? Would you support replacement players in a Stars sweater at the AAC?