Couture: Hard-line owners "don't give you the time of day and barely even look at you"

Bruce Bennett

Logan discussed CBA negotiations, playing against Joe Thornton in Switzerland and whether the lockout will damage San Jose's fanbase in a recent interview.

Logan Couture has been one of the more vocal Sharks regarding ongoing CBA negotiations, to the extent that a tweet of his is cited as evidence in the NHL's class action lawsuit against the players' association. In an excellent interview with Dave Cunning of Backhand Shelf published today, Couture expanded upon his views with some choice words for Boston's Jeremy Jacobs, Calgary's Murray Edwards and other owners who have been roundly vilified as "hard-liners" during this process:

The owners aren’t allowed to speak publicly, nor to us. We have no idea what each owner is thinking. I’ve been in meetings before, but you’re in there with [Craig] Leopold, Jacobs, Edwards – they’re hard line guys, they don’t give you the time of day, and they barely even look at you. They’re there for one reason, and that’s to help their teams make money. I wish we could hear from all 30 teams’ owners, but obviously they’re not letting them speak out and have their opinions known. I’m sure if they were able to, there would be a bunch of them with different opinions right now. All the players are allowed to speak their minds.

Couture's analysis may not be groundbreaking but it's an important point to repeat that team owners, as much as Gary Bettman and some of their extremist constituents would like you to believe otherwise, are not a monolith. This is a group with divergent interests and motivations. Some of them might be delighted that padlocked arenas mean they aren't losing money but others (say, Toronto's Larry Tanenbaum) are likely irate that the NHL is flushing revenue down the toilet while prolonging its attempts to squeeze the union despite having already received a zamboni full of concessions.

Of course, it's always particularly interesting to hear what players have to say about their own team's ownership group and its role in negotiations. J.P. at Japers' Rink wrote an insightful post about Fenno's Paradox, a truism in American politics that states people are reticent to point fingers at their own Congressperson despite holding an unfavorable view of Congress as a whole. Players don't vote on their owners (how awesome would that be?) but it's understandable that they prefer to tiptoe around criticizing the men who sign their paychecks. Here's Couture on San Jose's largely anonymous group of owners:

I don’t know where the San Jose owners stand on this. You hear things, but you never know until you hear it from them, so you can’t really hold judgment against them until you know the truth.

Not exactly informative but I wouldn't call it a cop-out given how quietly Sharks ownership has always conducted their business, save for their annual charade of claiming millions of dollars in losses. Larry Brooks said they've been "hawkish" during CBA negotiations, David Pollak laid out a far more compelling argument that they're moderates and the only real consensus on their position seems to be that they're in favor of strict contract term limits with limited year-to-year variance.

CBA talks weren't the only thing Couture discussed in the interview. Here's Logan on choosing to play in the Swiss National League:

I chose Switzerland because Joe [Thornton] told me about how good of an experience he had there during the last lockout. The general consensus from guys on our team was that they’d heard great things about Switzerland. I talked with my agent, and we worked out a deal with the team there. Genève-Servette gave me a chance and said I could come over and play for them as quickly as I wanted, so I agreed to come.

On playing against Jumbo for the first time:

If it’s Joe, I’m not going to hit him over there, that’s for sure. He’s a teammate. Obviously I don’t want to get hurt either. I’m not the most physical player in the world, and over there I was even less of a physical player just because I didn’t want to take that chance of getting hurt. I try not to put myself in dangerous spots. You have to be careful though, hockey’s a dangerous sport.

On whether the Sharks' fanbase will dwindle as a result of the lockout:

I can speak for San Jose – in the last couple of years, and even when the team got Joe Thornton, hockey in the area really, really took off. There was an increase in kids starting to play at an earlier age, and stuff like that. I think it’s within reason to think that’s because the Sharks have been good the last six or seven years. They’re selling out every game and people are interested in hockey. You take another year away from those fans and some of the ones you just won over in the last few years are going to leave for something else. Look at Florida – they made the playoffs last year, had a good run, probably won some new fans over – now there’s no hockey, and those fans are fine with something else. It’s tough to watch.

And on his feelings about taking another player's job in Europe:

It’s hockey. It’s a competitive sport. Would people be saying the same thing if an 18 year old came into an NHL camp and knocked a veteran out of his job? It’s the same thing – people play to take someone’s job. You go into a training camp to take someone’s job so that you can play. I don’t really understand why people say that. When I made San Jose, I ultimately put someone out of a job.

It was Dwight Helminen, who still has the Logan Couture voodoo doll he fashioned out of soap. The rest of the interview, which includes Couture's take on whether or not we'll have an NHL season, is well worth a read.

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