Unveiling ... LeBrun Proposal 2!

December, 9, 2009

I've got baseball-envy this week.

The entire baseball world is assembled in Indianapolis: GMs, agents, scouts, media, you name it. The buzz, as always, is tremendous from the baseball winter meetings.

Why don't we have this in hockey?

Two years ago this month, I pitched an idea to the NHL, but it failed to gain any traction. I suggested to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, other league staff and several GMs that the annual March GM meetings include the trade deadline. My idea is that it would create incredible attention for the NHL with more media than ever descending upon the meetings to cover the wheeling and dealing.

Bettman, to his credit, while not sold on the idea, did me the favor of actually running it by the GMs at the end of their two-day meetings in February 2008. Much to my chagrin, the LeBrun Proposal got a lukewarm response. Not only where some old-school GMs against the idea, but they've since regressed even more, holding their March GMs meeting after the trade deadline to make sure there was no buzz whatsoever at their meetings. Mercy.

This year, the two-day GM meetings are again a week after the March 3 trade deadline. Gee, let's send a bunch of media to Naples, Fla., to discuss head shots for three days.

On Wednesday, I sent Bettman an e-mail about the buzz the baseball winter meetings were getting again and wishing my idea had got more debate two years ago. His response made a very good point.

"These are offseason meetings in MLB," Bettman wrote in an e-mail. "Different level of activity (free agents, etc.)."

Which leads me to the LeBrun Proposal, Part 2.

I suggest we gather all 30 NHL front office staffs, player agents and media in a hotel June 29-July 3 and let the fireworks go off baby. Buzz city!

"I think it's a great idea," veteran Don Meehan of Newport Sports told ESPN.com on Wednesday. "Anything to provide exposure for our game is beneficial. It's progressive. Lord knows we need everything we can to generate interest in our game."

The start of NHL free agency is July 1, but there is a lot of chatter on June 29-30 as teams try to re-sign players before the market opens.

Somebody please tell me how this is isn't a great idea?

"I think anything that puts some buzz in our sport, I'm all for it," Wings GM Ken Holland told ESPN.com on Wednesday when asked about the concept.

Holland also liked our first idea two years ago, but some of his colleagues said it's difficult to focus on league agenda matters at those meetings and have to deal with the trade deadline. I don't totally buy that, but maybe they'll buy the new concept instead.

In our June 29-July 3 proposal, I say there are no actual GM/league meetings. The only reason we're all gathering is for the wheeling and dealing.

"From our perspective, the best way to consummate deals is, and always has been, face to face," agent J.P. Barry of CAA Sports told us Wednesday. "Having everyone together during such a critical time would certainly create a lot of buzz and lead to an exciting free agency kick off for the fans."

In the end, I could live with either LeBrun Proposal, whatever it takes to generate the kind of event that the baseball winter meetings produce every year.

"I like your new idea just as I liked your original one with the trade deadline, because it draws attention to the sport," GM Jim Rutherford of the Carolina Hurricanes said Wednesday. "That's a good thing. Baseball does that well."

But when push comes to shove, Rutherford prefers the trade-deadline idea.

"One of the downsides of your July 1 idea is that not all teams participate in free agency at the start anymore, so there's no guarantee it would generate the same kind of attention it would have three or four years ago," Rutherford said.

Well, that's true. But I still think it would generate all kinds of attention. And for the frugal teams that don't spend on July 1, the meetings would still provide a chance to lay the groundwork with agents and other GMs for future moves in the summer.

"I am for any innovation that grows the recognition of hockey," agent Pat Morris of Newport Sports told us Wednesday. "Some might say that the draft brings tremendous focus to the game leading up to free agency and the attachment of new young talent to their teams through the draft process. ... It may be practical for all parties involved in free agency to be somewhat together in one place that gives global recognition, but we also see great advantages formulating our strategies and results in our offices given all the manpower and dynamics involved with the free-agency period."

In the end, this is about catering to you, the hockey fans. This kind of hockey summit of GMs and agents would provide you with all kinds of gossip and activity. And that's a good thing. So why not do it?

Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer



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