Geoff Molson has been an NHL owner for just over three years, but he’s been a rabid fan of his beloved Montreal Canadiens for three decades, which might explain why he’s keen for a quick resolution to the four-day-old player lockout.
Though he made a point of insisting the NHL’s 29 owners are united behind commissioner Gary Bettman - and studiously avoided saying anything that would open him up to a million-dollar fine for speaking out of turn - it seems clear the 42-year-old Molson is impatient for hockey to start.
"We’re only three or four days into it, but there’s no question that our desire is that this ends as quickly as possible so everybody can appreciate our new team on the ice and our new coaches," Molson said at the annual charity golf tournament that marks the unofficial kickoff of the Canadiens’s season - because of the labour situation there were no current Habs present for the shotgun start.
Molson said that while the recently-expired CBA suited the purposes of most owners, "adjustments" need to be made to ensure the long-term survival of the league and to build in more fairness to the economic model.
Earlier this week, former Hab Mathieu Darche, who is a member of the NHL Players’ Association bargaining committee, speculated that Molson, of all the owners, is perhaps the least likely to want a disruption to the season.
On Wednesday, Molson did little to contradict Darche’s opinion.
"I don’t think I’m the only one," he said. "I think the entire province would prefer to see hockey and not have to go through this."
In lieu of actual NHL players, the team trotted out several of its legends to play in the tournament, which typically raises $500,000 for the Canadiens children’s foundation.
The list included free-spirited Hall of Famer Guy Lafleur, who made it clear he sides with the owners in the current dispute, noting that salaries are spiralling ever-higher.
"(Work stoppages) didn’t really happen this way back in my day, I’d say the owners may have exploited the players more than they do today. Nowadays it’s the players who are exploiting the owners," he said.
As to his recommended solution to the contentious revenue-split, which was 57-43 in favour of the players in the last CBA, Lafleur advocated the simple approach.
"It should be 50-50, the same rules as a divorce," he laughed. "That way there’s no bickering, everyone goes home happy."