SBD/February 8, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

New NHL Exec Rob Blake Looking To Give A Voice To Western Teams

Blake spent all 21 seasons of NHL career with Western Conference teams.
Former NHLer Rob Blake joined the league office last month as the “first hockey operations executive based outside" NHL HQs in N.Y., and he “hopes to give a voice to players who toil beyond the Eastern power axis,” according to Helene Elliott of the L.A. TIMES. In its “eagerness to develop a following in Europe, the NHL overlooked an audience closer to home: its Western Conference.” Western teams “routinely jump time zones on winding trips and are stuck with less experienced referees working their games.” NHL executives “often attend games in the East but rarely venture past the Hudson River," and as a result some players “feel overlooked by fans, league officials and the media.” Blake, who spent all 21 seasons of his NHL career with Western Conference teams, said, "I lived that firsthand. Being a player out here in the West and playing my whole career here, you do kind of feel that you're forgotten. Everything's central to New York and Toronto.” Blake will work out of L.A. and "be around" the Kings, Ducks, Sharks and Coyotes “as a sounding board and conduit for players' concerns.” He will travel to N.Y. and Toronto “every month or so” for meetings. Blake's first "major project" in his new role as NHL Hockey Operations Manager was working with VP/Hockey & Business Development Brendan Shanahan to “revamp the All-Star game.” Blake also will “work with the competition committee and the summer development program, which tests potential rule changes” (L.A. TIMES, 2/8).

HOT BUTTON ISSUE: In N.Y., Larry Brooks noted the NHLPA “has consistently argued against punishments that fit the crime of head-targeting," and this is “going to be an interesting issue by which to gauge” NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr. NHL CBA negotiations “are a year or so away,” but hits to the head and the “fallout from the increasing attention paid to the concussion issue are a matter of clear and present danger Fehr and his new leadership group … must address immediately.” Brooks: “If there is a stain on Fehr's record leading the MLBPA, it is that union's leadership's failure to address and protect the health issue of its players relating to steroids and other PEDs” (N.Y. POST, 2/6).
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