CALGARY - Of all the issues surrounding the NHL lockout, tack another to the board.
Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla said the players don’t believe they can trust the owners side, led by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.
Not after what’s transpired from what was supposed to be the perfect collective bargaining agreement out of the last shutdown, which cost the 2004-05 season.
“Gary said last time, it was a deal that would work for everyone, be a win-win,” Iginla said Thursday after an informal session with more than a dozen other NHLers at WinSport. “If you had asked him, ‘Forecast the revenues and will it work?’ He’d have said, ‘Absolutely. This is perfect.’
“Now, we’re not talking 1% (back from the players). They’re talking 10% back, and that’s $300 million, and that doesn’t seem honest from where that was.
“So how can we trust them next time?”
NHL camps were slated to begin Friday, but the NHL has already cancelled pre-season games through Sept. 30.
No formal talks have been held since, and none are scheduled.
The NHL has asked the players to reduce their percentage of the league revenue. The players are proposing a system with greater revenue sharing.
Iginla is still hoping this stoppage will be a “short one” and is frustrated to be in this situation so soon after the 2004-05 lockout.
“Even though I didn’t agree with it last time, you could see their point. This time, I don’t,” Iginla said. “It’s like Gary enjoys battling, enjoys the argument.
“We’ve got to get it fixed. Fans have been very good in the past, and we can’t just rely they’ll come back strong. I know I would be ticked off.”
To Iginla, if the players relent too easily, the league will ask for more concessions every time.
“It’s not a matter of us trying to get anything back from the owners. We’re trying to find a way to get a deal that, in five years, Gary won’t be coming back and saying, ‘The game is better than ever, but there’s still a few teams (struggling) and instead of 50%, we want you to take 40%,’ ” Iginla said.
“We’re not trying to win. We’re not trying to get anything back.
“We’re trying to find agreement — you hear the word fair — but it’s not a right or wrong.
“We realize we’re not going to win without giving anything back. We want to make sure next time, when you say this is a fair deal — which you said last time and we exceeded all expectations as a group together — we’re not in the same boat.
“You could say, ‘You guys make great money,’ and we understand that, but next time, they’ll say, ‘Why not 40% of $5 billion or whatever. It’s a lot of money, but it’s not like it’s going to fans or other good causes. It just goes to the owners’ pockets and back to the Maple Leafs or the Rangers.”
Iginla did address a few other issues:
• On whether he’ll go to Europe if the lockout goes much longer: “Not for me. Our kids are Grade 3, Grade 1
and four years old. I’ll stay. It’s not an option, I’ll probably be assistant coaching the little guys’ teams.”
• On the lack of negotiations for a new contract, since he’s due to be an unrestricted free agent July 1, while so many others signed: “I still have another year. I wasn’t trying to beat (a deadline).”
• On the changes with the team, including the additions of free agents Dennis Wideman, Jiri Hudler and Roman Cervenka, along with a new coaching staff: “I think we’ll be a legitimately good team. When we start playing again, we’ve got to prove it.”