UNDERESTIMATING BOB GAINEY

by Ron Spence

The art of negotiating is a complex business. They write books on it, and give one week seminars on how to do it well.

Anyone who is negotiating a business deal involving tens of millions of dollars should take one of these courses – I would think.

One of the first principals of negotiating, is knowing as much as you can about the person you are negotiating with.

Mats Sundin, and his agent J.P. Barry, obviously didn’t prepare when they started negotiating – not negotiating – with Bob Gainey.

There is a lot of information available, about the former Hab player, and now Montreal General Manager – on the internet.

We know that one of the game’s biggest assholes, Viktor Tikhonov, had a great deal of respect for him, and called Bob “the finest technical hockey player in the world.”

The Hockey Hall of Fame wrote about their inductee: “The burly left winger was a tenacious competitor, relentless checker, respected team leader and capable contributor on the offense.”

Canadiens.nhl.com wrote: “The speed, tenacity and strength that Gainey brought to the ice made him one of the toughest competitors.”

And, hockey’s all time gasbag, Ken Dryden wrote in his book, The Game, “[Bob Gainey] has … basic, unalterable qualities—dependability, discipline, hard work, courage—the roots of every team. To them, Gainey adds a timely, insistent passion, an enormous will to win, and a powerful, punishing playing style, secure and manly, without the strut of machismo. If I could be a forward, I would want to be Bob Gainey.”

“Without virtuoso individual skills,” Dryden adds, “team play becomes both a virtue and necessity, and what others understand as unselfishness is really cold-eyed realism—he simply knows that works best, for the team and for him.”

You can also learn about Bob Gainey from what he says, and has said.

There had been some criticism of Mike Komisarek, because he would bodycheck, but not fight.

The way Gainey was defending his player, he could have been talking about himself as a player.

“He has worked hard at making himself a dynamic player. He is difficult to play against because he has size and mobility. He is a passionate, emotional player who enjoys playing the sport because of the energy and physical play and teamwork. He plays a physical style of play because he enjoys it.”There is additional information on Gainey, evident from how his players played – when he was coaching in Minnesota.

“The big underlying theme in the playoffs was discipline,” Stew Gavin said. “[Chicago] got frustrated. We got under their skins. They got on the referees. We learned to irritate them and not retaliate. Every single guy on that team elevated his game and everyone played a really important role: The one the coaches assigned him.”

“The Blackhawks [under Mike Keenan] were a very rugged team and very confident,” Gainey added. “I thought if we could play a very disciplined style, avoid retaliation penalties, we could have a chance against them.”

There are also numerous references on the web, to the difficulties that Bob Gainey faced, through the deaths of his wife and daughter – and how bravely he handled them.

So, you have an individual who is: tenacious and relentless, disciplined and strong, dependable and hardworking, and respected, realistic and courageous.

And you think that he’s going to wait for a: “I don’t know,” “I can’t decide,” or “I’ll get back to you later?”

No.

Sundin and J.P. totally underestimated Bob Gainey.

He is not to be trifled with.

Bob Gainey has now kicked in his plan B, and if Sundin and company come back to the Montreal table, I am sure that Bob would be reasonable, and look at plan C – but on his terms, not on anyone else’s.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

On A Personal Note: It was a Canucks’ game in GM Place against the Dallas Stars, and I was showing my media credentials to the young commissionaire.

I was packing my credentials back in my bag, when the girl asked the guy behind me for some ID.

It was Bob Gainey and he looked at me, not mad, but kind of embarrassed – for her, I think.

And, I laughed and said, “You don’t know this man, who Anatoli Tarasov (I said the wrong name.) said was the best player in the world?”

He smiled and she passed him through, without either of them speaking.

The thing that I respect the most about Bob is his humility, which isn’t listed among his personal attributes, but I think is the most important one of all.

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