Volume 93, Issue 22

Wednesday, October 6, 1999


Editorial Board 1999-2000

A clean check

A clean check

Monday marked another first in sports history – only this time, it didn't involve records, speeds or goals. It involved money, a court of law and the integrity of a Canadian tradition.

Ottawa Senator Alexei Yashin's and his agent, Mark Gandler, are being sued for a breach of contract and devaluing season ticket contracts. The hockey star was suspended by his team when he refused to begin the Senator's training camp one month ago because of contract negotiations – or rather, lack there of. The centre refused to fulfill his existing contract of one year at $3.6 million US without a raise and the Senators refused to negotiate.

It's a story heard often in the sports world. However, the unique aspect of this particular case lies in the identity of the opposition. Len Potechin and his lawyer Arthur Cogan are behind the charges which amount to $27.5 million in damages, which if won, will be donated to charity. Recognize the names? Probably not. There aren't any business moguls behind this suit, only a Senators fan who is tired of being at the mercy of a player's greed.

From the outset, the argument seems a silly one. Potechin bought seasons tickets to the Senators, thinking Yashin would be part of the year. Now that he won't be playing, Potechin is mad and is taking up the court's time to settle a dispute which has a marginal effect on the citizens of Canada. However, even if the case never sees a day in court, its symbolic meaning is extremely important.

Teams have been at the mercy of their star players for years. When salary demands are made, the teams' hands are effectively tied. If the Senators were to take a stand and sue Yashin for breech of contract, they may win but they'd have a disgruntled player on their hands who could affect their entire season.

As a result of this stranglehold, the athletes hold all the cards in this relationship. As long as they demand the money, somebody, somewhere will give it to them.

Potechin's charges act as a reminder to players everywhere that fans cannot be completely ignored in the flurry of negotiations and suspensions. The Senators organization can sing about disappointment, honour and dedication until their faces are blue – the fact is they would never take legal action against Yashin.

So another athlete is demanding more money, when he is already making millions and withholding the services a contract says he is obligated to provide. This is illegal. Just because the team won't touch him doesn't mean he should be beyond the arm of the law.

Hockey is a sport which has become synonymous with our country's name. Haggling over already inflated salaries diminishes its integrity and is a disgrace for all those who consider the game a great source of national pride. Potechin's message is a good one. Let's hope it's heard loud and clear.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999