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Lou Lamoriello, President and General Manager of the NHL's New Jersey Devils hockey team (MIKE SEGAR/REUTERS)
Lou Lamoriello, President and General Manager of the NHL's New Jersey Devils hockey team (MIKE SEGAR/REUTERS)

DAILY GRIND

Dowbiggin: A million reasons for Lamoriello to speak out Add to ...

It remains to be seen whether New Jersey’s president / general manager Lou Lamoriello pays the Gary Bettman premium for exercising his First Amendment rights about the embattled status of the NHL these days.

Asked his thoughts on the state of the locked-down league (where no new talks to save the 2012-13 season are scheduled) Lamoriello told the Newark Star-Ledger on Wednesday that he was “embarrassed for the game... It’s coming down to the wire right now. We’ve just got to trust the people that are involved. I’m embarrassed we are where we’re at. That’s the best expression I can use.”

Lou’s star player Martin Brodeur says Lamoriello’s earned the right to speak his mind. But it’s doubtful the “people that are involved” at NHL headquarters will see it that way. So far, commissioner Bettman has taken a dim view of anyone suggesting he’s even a notch below omnipotent. His displeasure has usually been accompanied by a request for $1-million in small bills as a fine.

If it comes to a fine for Lamoriello, he might ask the commissioner why, when he had the chance to say no to an inflationary contract for an aging player, Bettman turtled like a rookie GM. That would be the four-year, $21.2-million deal handed 35-year-old Shane Doan by the Phoenix Coyotes, owned at the time by the league. Final say on the contract rested with the Commish.

Bettman makes a lot of noise about such contracts when other people sign them. But he was silent when he, as the head of the league, gave his okay to the Doan deal. Lamoriello’s never shy (he took the NHL to court over the Don Koharski incident in the 1987 playoffs), so in the privacy of the NHL offices he just might ask the man who’s closed down the league to end such contracts, why he’s all “do as I say, not as I do”?

That answer might just be worth the million bucks it’ll cost the veteran executive.

COACH’S CORNER

Maybe it’s the holiday season, but it was almost nostalgic having Don Cherry back, firing off bullets about Canadian kids and rascal foreigners taking jobs in the CHL. Like Bing Crosby singing White Christmas it’s nostalgia of the first order.

With the NHL in mothballs in Gary Bettman’s cupboard, we’ve had precious few controversial broadsides from the Mouth Who Roars lately. But with the debut of the World Junior Championships (where Cherry made his reputation in the 1987 Piestany punchup) radio silence is going to be broken frequently by the septuagenarian in the suits.

The cause of Cherry’s first screed was a claim from Edmonton’s first overall draft pick Nail Yakupov of Russia that Canadians play dirty. In typical Grapes’ fashion, the star of Coach’s Corner did the bait and switch. Cherry didn’t take issue with Yakupov’s provocation about dirty Canucks (which is kinda’ lame, Nail). Instead Cherry railed about Yakupov taking jobs in the Canadian Hockey League from good Canadian boys.

“Let me see,” Cherry tweeted on Wednesday. “We let him take a Canadian kids (sic) spot in the Canadian Hockey League, let him learn his hockey in our program, treat him royally, give him great coaching so he can go number one overall and he calls us Dirty.”

Let’s see, Yakupov, the top pick in the NHL draft last summer, bumps a Canadian from the CHL. What would the bottom player in the CHL be? The 1500th best junior player in Canada? Sounds like someone who should already be looking for a career after junior, no? And who would know better if Canadians are dirty than a guy who rides the iron lung with them during the winters in junior?

Russians. Cherry. Controversy. You know, it almost brings tears to your eyes.

CHRISTMAS IN SWITZERLAND

You have to love the Spengler Cup, the invitational tournament in Davos, Switzerland each year. First they have teams like Adler Mannheim that sound like German progressive rock bands from the ‘80s. Second, it’s in Davos, whose other claim to fame is a think tank where noted hockey fan Henry Kissinger makes wise.

And third you have Jason Pominville beating Team Canada in OT to win the game for Mannheim. Pominville is a Canadian, by the way. Just like guys such as Jason Spezza, Tyler Seguin, Sam Gagner, Jason Williams and Jason Demers who were playing for the other squad, Team Canada.

Who says the Swiss haven’t got s sense of humour?

dowbboy@shaw.ca / @dowbboy

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