September 14, 2012
Frustration, tears will greet pending NHL lockoutLeague official: 'We're bracing for a long wait'
By BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency
NEW YORK - The silence is deafening.
As the NHL gets ready to lock the doors and turn out the lights at 30 arenas across North America until there's a collective bargaining agreement in place with the players, neither side picked up the phone to negotiate Friday.
Unless there is a change of heart between NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr, the lockout will start Saturday at 11:59 p.m. Training camps won't open as scheduled next Saturday.
The first victims of the lockout will be pre-season games -- a decision to cancel some could come midway through next week. Neither side is willing to budge off its position and there isn't any basis for a deal.
"We're bracing for a long wait," a league executive said Friday speaking on the condition of anonymity.
The 283 players who attended meetings with Fehr Wednesday and Thursday headed their separate ways to await a labour agreement.
Uncertain of what might happen in negotiations, most had already reported to their NHL cities. The plan for most players was to head to their respective rinks Friday, gather whatever equipment the clubs allow them take and prepare for the lockout.
By the time they wake up Sunday, the work stoppage officially will be under way.
"We're preparing for what is happening and we know what is happening Sunday morning," said Florida Panthers winger George Parros, who signed a two-year, $1.1-million deal in July. "We're not happy we're not going to be playing. Training camp was supposed to start in a week.
"As far as we're concerned, we can still start in a week if both sides can find some middle ground before then. I don't think Sunday morning will be anything out of the ordinary. I'm not going to wake up with a tear in my eye."
Well, it's all over but the crying. The NHL has decided the bluster is done. There won't be a formal announcement of the lockout Saturday. Instead, the league simply will let the clock tick past the final hour.
The players know they will have to make concessions, they're just trying to minimize the damage. They are disappointed because they feel the proposal they put on the table in the summer could act as a basis for a deal.
"It's frustrating for us," Boston Bruins defenceman Zdeno Chara said. "Right now, their approach is very much the same. (They) give us their proposal and they won't take anything else. Anytime you want to reach an agreement, you have to talk.
"It can't be one-sided. You have to be willing to talk and make adjustments. We made quite a few of those. We're waiting to see what they are going to do."
That's why the players are resigned to the fact that they will be locked out.
Don't expect many of the European players to hang around in North America. The Pittsburgh Penguins' Evgeni Malkin and the Ottawa Senators' Sergei Gonchar could suit up Sunday with Magnitogorsk in the KHL. Many others are trying to make deals overseas.
"We expect (the lockout) and we've expected it for a while," Ottawa centre Jason Spezza said. "The league has made it clear for a long time it was their intention to lock us out. By going through it once before (2004-05), nobody will be in much shock.
"It's disappointing because you train all summer, you look forward to getting ready for next season and then not have training camp start on time. There's still time to make a deal and there's still time to get us playing."
Time is ticking away.
MINOR-LEAGUER REDDEN FACES LOCKOUT BECAUSE OF CONTRACT
Wade Redden hasn't played in the NHL in two years but he'll still be a victim of the lockout.
The New York Rangers defenceman, assigned to the club's AHL affiliate in Hartford in September 2010, is expected to be among those players blocked from going to training camp when the lockout takes effect Saturday at 11:59 p.m.
It'll be a money-saving move by the Rangers. Redden, 35, is scheduled to make $5 million this season with a salary-cap hit of $6.5 million on a deal that doesn't expire until the end of the 2013-14 season.
Redden, wasn't even invited to New York's NHL camp last season and reported directly to the AHL's Connecticut Whale because the Rangers wanted his cap hit off the books. Redden served as captain of the Whale last season.
Only six games shy of 1,000 in his career, he would like to return to the NHL but doesn't have a chance unless the new collective bargaining includes provision for a one-time amnesty buyout, as the NBA has done. A player still would get the money owed him but it would not affect the team's salary cap.