Open letter to Ron Burkle

Justin K. Aller

Before a big NHL/NHLPA meeting, we share our thoughts with Ron Burkle, the Pens part-owner who will sit at the table with the NHL in talks to try and save the 2012-13 season.

Dear Mr. Lemieux and Mr. Burkle,

Sick new pad, Mario. Can’t wait for the house-warming party.

And, thanks, Mr. Burkle for getting involved. Some in the Pittsburgh media have called you “shadowy” just because you haven’t sought the spotlight in our fair commonwealth, but there’s no doubt that without you, there would not currently be a Pittsburgh Penguins. We fans know it, and even if the Penguins don’t rank on the very top of your vast array of investments, it’s cool all the same. We appreciate you being there, and always when the Pens need the extra cash to green light extra trades for Marian Hossa and Hal Gill or to fire a coach. You’ve taken hits to the bottom line to give the team a better chance of success, and we’ve all reaped the rewards.

Thanks also for taking some time to deal with these knuckleheads. Sorry to call your fellow NHL owners that, but deep down you must agree. The league’s seen increasing revenues every year and enjoyed growing strength in the media as NBC has devoted much time, resources and money to the sport. Now the owners are going to kill it over player contracting issues and how to “make whole” contracts they previously agreed to? Seems silly to us, and given your significant history in labor negotiations, we’d hazard a guess probably to you to from 10,000 feet.

But now you’ll be in the room today, sharing a table with Jeremy Jacobs and Bill Daly, two of the biggest roadblocks to a deal. And, on the other side will be the players, most of them anonymous to you, and certainly none of them worthy negotiators like the California grocery union chiefs you so famously bargained successfully with. No matter, your captain Sidney Crosby will be there, a kid you know and like, and known to be very important in your investment. He’s also a guy your team signed to a $104.4 million contract this past summer and a guy who’d take a hit if your fellow owners get what they want financially. He’ll live, of course, but that’s not the point- the point is we have a divide, you have the experience and ability to broker deals, and now you have a chance to do so again.

So now your challenge, Mr. Burkle, is to find some middle ground and see if you can get negotiations back on track. No one is expecting a deal today, but if you and your fellow group of owners can find some common ground, get some momentum or past any sort of the roadblock that has tied these talks up, it’ll be a win. For you, personally, losing a whole year in the league would be pretty bad- every day hockey is out of the spotlight it becomes a little more marginalized and lost in the limelight of sports and revenue will take a hit for your investment- a franchise that has more than doubled in value since you acquired the team- largely thanks to the new building you and Mr. Crosby’s talents helped secure probably about evenly, we might add.

Mr. Burkle, you are a friend of presidents, movie stars, rock-stars and all sorts of rich and famous people. We understand you don’t HAVE to be in New York today, so you must want to broker something and again step in and lend some help, like you did for Mario and the Penguins years ago. We’re thankful for that and your involvement. Hopefully it works, but if not at least, we as Penguin fans can know that our team- a moderate voice who really isn’t driving the lockout in the first place- had a very capable, experienced labor negotiator tried to get involved. Right now, for the die-hard fans, that’s all we can ask.

And if all else fails, we’ll see you at the house-warming party in Montreal?

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