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Bad Press Isn’t Good Publicity

There’s a saying in PR, any press is good press. This may hold true for the starlets of Hollywood and even the auto makers in Japan, but it does not hold true for those in the hockey world. When bad things happen in hockey the fans are amongst the first to criticize. Some believe that hockey fans are overly critical and that may be true, but hockey fans are very protective of their sport. As fans we hold the players, fellow fans, the league, and teams accountable for their actions. You do not see players waving guns around in the locker rooms, shooting themselves in the thigh by bringing said weapon to the locker room, or getting caught carrying concealed weapons. Our guys are out in the community visiting with sick kids, donating money to charities, and spending time with at risk kids, usually out of the spotlight asking for no recognition.

When the incidents in Vancouver happened, with the small minority of fans throwing trash on the ice and then taking to the blogs and being less than respectful and bringing race into play there was outrage. Following the outrage there were some Canucks fans defending the behavior and others telling us not to lump them together. Further outrage ensued because of those defending the behavior, it is one thing for it to happen but quite another to defend distasteful behavior. As fans we are critical when other fans make hockey fans and even team fans look bad. We will not stand for it.

Recently Allan Walsh, an agent for many big time players let the press know about his client Stephane Veilleux and the fact that the Tampa Bay Lightning were refusing to cover the cost of surgery to his shoulder. When Veilleux left the Minnesota Wild he was examined by the Lightning’s team trainer to clear him with good health, both of his shoulders had equal and healthy strength. At the end of the season Veilleux’s same trainer discovered that he had lost strength in one shoulder and ordered an MRI. The results from the MRI showed a cyst. Veilleux’s relationship with the Wild found him asking Wild team doctor Sheldon Burns for a second opinion. Burns sent him to Edina shoulder specilist Thomas Nelson. It was Nelson who found the torn labrum. The team doctor recommended surgery.

“He said it has to be fixed,” Walsh said. “The rotator cuff has not atrophied. Once they atrophy, they never come back. He said if we allow the situation to go on and don’t do the surgery now, if he plays next year with it, he’ll either dislocate his shoulder or he’s going to lose permanent strength or start to feel pain.”

Veilleux is spending the off-season in Minnesota, and when he called the Lightning to schedule his plane tickets to Cleveland to visit shoulder specialist Tony Miniaci he was told that the Lightning would not be covering the plane tickets or the surgery. They were refusing to pay for any portion of the costs. According to Walsh, the Lightning claim that they are uncertain when Veilleux was injured. They know it was after he came to Tampa Bay, but they claim they cannot be certain that he didn’t injure himself playing ping pong in the team room which he loves. Walsh stated that not only does the team allow him to do so by having a ping pong table in the team room, but when Marian Gaborik injured his groin playing hackey sack he missed 65 games and the Minnesota Wild paid for all of his expenses. The one difference was that Gaborik was expected to stay with the Wild whereas Veilleux signed a one-year free agent contract that expires his July.

Walsh filed a greivance to the NHLPA right away as the free agent period is closing in and he needs his client to be treated before then. But what about the long term effects of this dispute? We know that Veilleux will get surgery, he has to, but what about the Tampa Bay Lightning? This day and age anyone and everyone can tweet, facebook update, or blog about what’s going on. And Allan Walsh (@walsha) might have only been on a few people’s radar until these Stanley Cup playoffs. With players on pivotal teams everywhere his name has gotten thrown around a lot from the NHL, teams, ESPN, Puck Daddy, Versus, etc. Those who had no clue who he was before these playoffs have seen his name everywhere since. Given his exposure his twitter account has grown, his influence has grown, the amount of hockey fans wanting inside scoops or personal pictures of pivotal moments (i.e. right after winning the Stanley Cup, new SC tattoos, etc.) have started following him. So when he tweets about the injustice with links and retweets what other people think, it reaches an insane amount of people. The NHL and fans of hockey everywhere have embraced Twitter and other social media outlets more so than other sports fans. The damage done to the Lightning’s reputation is exponential. Players and other agents are seeing the way they are treating Veilleux and the lack of effort to protect their own players is astonishing. Players will think twice before signing with the Lightning if they can afford to go elsewhere. This will not benefit the Lightning one bit. The amount of damage this has done to the organization will cost them more than a plane ticket and surgery would have cost.

In the end players, teams, the league and fans need to be smart because everyone is watching. Fans will call other fans out on bad behavior. Lawyers will call teams out on bad behavior. Everyone will call the league out on bad or inconsistent behavior. In a day and age where social media is King, no one can afford to put anything less than their best foot forward.

Update! This matter has been resolved. Read More Here

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