Ottawa-area NHLers skating and scrimmaging in midst of labour talks

NHL hockey players were skating at the Bell Sensplex in Ottawa Wednesday. (Tony Caldwell/QMI Agency)

NHL hockey players were skating at the Bell Sensplex in Ottawa Wednesday. (Tony Caldwell/QMI Agency)

BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:34 PM ET

OTTAWA - Skating and waiting.

As the Players’ Association prepares to put a counter-proposal to the NHL’s latest offer on the table Friday, several Senators — and other pros who live in the area — are patiently taking their twirls at the Bell Sensplex in Kanata.

While Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson and defenceman Erik Karlsson have arrived back from Sweden, they haven’t been among the group that is scrimmaging three times a week to prepare for a training camp that may not open Sept. 21.

With the collective bargaining agreement set to expire on Sept. 15 and a lockout looming, the players remain hopeful commissioner Gary Bettman and union head Donald Fehr will find common ground to save the season.

“I hope (it can get done). I’m optimistic. I don’t think anything is done unless they stop talking,” said Bruins centre Chris Kelly. “Right now, they’re still talking, so I’m very optimistic that they can work something out.

“There’s always hope when they’re talking. When they stop talking altogether, then things might change. You might get a different point of view. As of right now, we’re preparing as if the season will start (on time).”

Kelly said players can’t afford to sit back and relax just because the picture looks bleak.

“You need to prepare like it is,” said Kelly. “If you decide, ‘Oh there won’t be hockey until November, December’ and then all of a sudden training camp starts on Sept. 21, you’re going to be in trouble.

“Personally, I’m treating it as if the season is going to start and camp is going to start. Then, we’ll go from there.”

Not everybody is as optimistic or hopeful as Kelly, who plans to stay in Ottawa until there’s a resolution. Tim Panaccio of CSNPhilly.com reported Thursday there were only a handful of players at the Flyers practice facility.

“You look around here — guys are expecting to have a lockout,” Gatineau native Daniel Briere told Panaccio. “It doesn’t look good at this point and that’s why you don’t see a lot of guys here.”

Briere insinuated the owners wouldn’t mind a lockout.

“You try to think something good is going to come out of every meeting, but until there is a little bit of pressure, it seems not much is being accomplished,” Briere said.

“We’ve all heard that (Bettman) thinks the fans don’t matter. They’re gonna be back whenever we need them. I think that says it all right there from their end.

“We want to get back on the ice as soon as possible. There’s 700 of us right now, but you have to think of the future players coming into the league. It’s not just a decision you make for yourself. It’s everyone now and everyone coming in.”

Fehr has done a good job communicating with the membership throughout negotiations. Not only have more than 30 players taken part in the talks at some point or another, they get regular e-mail updates and conference calls after meetings.

Sources told the Sun during a conference call with players Wednesday after the NHL’s offer, Fehr said the committee felt Bettman’s latest offer wasn’t much different than the first, but the union would counter Friday to try to find a solution.

“All the players are informed. All the players know what is going on and their opinion matters,” said Kelly.

ALL SET UP: Senators defenceman Sergei Gonchar may already have a place to play if the NHL doesn’t start on time. According to reports out of Pittsburgh and Russia, Gonchar has been skating with Evgeni Malkin and will play for Magnitogorsk of the KHL if the NHL season doesn’t start on Oct. 11. The report said the two close friends would sign weekly contracts until a CBA is settled.

bruce.garrioch@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @sungarrioch

 


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