Ex-Ottawa Sen Carkner wants end to NHL lockout

Former Senators blueliner Matt Carkner isn't happy the NHL lockout has gone on this long. (QMI...

Former Senators blueliner Matt Carkner isn't happy the NHL lockout has gone on this long. (QMI Agency/TONY CALDWELL)

DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:34 PM ET

OTTAWA - The disputed heavyweight champion of the NHL is “angrily anxious to get the season going.”

He also says that it’s a good thing he’s not on the negotiating committee trying to make a new CBA deal with the NHL.

“I don’t think it would work too well,” Matt “Big Country” Carkner mused over the phone, while taking a walk near his rented home in Long Island, Friday afternoon. “I’d probably be wanted for assault right now.”

Yay! Finally some passion (even if he’s only half-serious) other than that coming from fans and not at all evident in the way lunch mates Gary Bettman and Don Fehr appear to be going about their business.

Can’t blame Carkner for being mad, either. After spending a good chunk of his life making it to the NHL in 2008, his career has been put on hold. So has his money-earning capabilities.

In his first two years as a Senator, his salary was a league-low $500,000. The past two, Carkner made $700,000. A Winchester native, he wanted to keep playing for his hometown team, but GM Bryan Murray had concerns about his surgically repaired knee and would only offer a one-year deal last summer.

Carkner balked, then signed a three-year deal with the Islanders for $4.5 million.

Now, of course he wants to prove he’s healthy and good enough to play more than the 29 games he did in 2011-12, but he also wants to start bringing home some tastier bacon. And with players now having missed three paycheques, Carkner is out (prior to taxes and dues) about $325,000 because of the lockout. Now, that’s not as much as the roughly $1.73 million it has thus far cost Jason Spezza, but it is almost half of what Carkner earned last season.

“Obviously, I kind of thought this might be coming, so I’m prepared and everything,” said Carkner, who turned 32 earlier this month. “I wasn’t stupid, you know? But for me, I’ve played in the minors (most of) my whole career, (then) making close to minimum, which is a ton of money, but I don’t have millions in the bank where I’m just sitting there and loving life.

“I know that if we don’t start things up it’s not good. My career is getting shorter.”

Carkner fully supports the union and he’s optimistic a deal will be reached that allows the season to start mid-December. He sees the “two-week moratorium” proposal by Bettman for what it probably is — another missed paycheque would put more pressure on players and, in theory, have them put more pressure on Fehr to make a deal.

And he also understands that the PA is playing a high-stakes game of poker against billionaires who have many more chips.

“The money they’re losing right now is the money that’s in their books,” said Carkner. “Some of the franchises are tax write-offs. That’s kind of what you’re fighting against. They’ve earned their money, and they know how to make money, they definitely have the leverage, but it’s going to come to a point where I think they’re going to realize fans aren’t appreciating this and they’ve got to get the product back on the ice.”

Without doubt, there are players who want to throw the cards in now. Guys who can’t stand by and watch money, plus precious months of their career, go floating out the window.

As much as this whole problem is on the owners, as much as players are tired of being asked to fix the problems caused by the ridiculous spending of their bosses, there has to be more than a few individuals who are ready to say screw it, let’s sign the damn thing.

But where are these guys? Do they fear getting blackballed by the union, or as one friend put it, having a Sidney Crosby tell his coach, when the games do start, that he’s not playing with the guy anymore? That no one on any team will?

Or do they fear being targeted on the ice next time they play against an staunch, tough union guy? Surely “Big Country” isn’t afraid of that.

“Guys do speak up in our meetings and on conference calls,” said Carkner. “Guys aren’t afraid to step up amongst ourselves and discuss things that are concerning us. To make big announcements in the media about what’s bothering them, I don’t think that’s productive at all.

“I think as a union right now, we just have to be solid, stick together and work together to get this done.”

In the meantime, Carkner waits to meet his new coaches and most of the players on his new team. While many Islanders are playing elsewhere, he is left to “bag skate” with the leftovers, Marty Reasoner and Eric Boulton, in preparation for a season that may or may not come.

“I think it’s frustrating, and a few more (words) for the fans who are looking in on this and wondering what the hell we’re doing,” said Carkner. “But we’ve given and given so far in the bargaining. We thought it would get us closer, but they just keep pulling away.”

Even so, Carkner isn’t about to show up at the NHL office and give Bettman the Brian Boyle treatment — as much as many people would like to see him do it.

“It’s tough, whenever you get emotional about negotiating, that’s going to be counter-productive, too,” said Carkner. “Don is a professional and he’s been through a lot of this. He knows the hoops he’s got to jump through.”

And so the game continues to fall, the pie that was once $3.3 billion in hockey-related revenues becoming smaller, soon to be a crumb, then nothing at all.

don.brennan@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @sundonib 


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