WINNIPEG - The captain of the Winnipeg Jets just wants to play and is holding out hope for a breakthrough but says NHL players are strongly unified with their position heading into last minute talks to avoid another labour stoppage.
Andrew Ladd arrived in Winnipeg on Sunday night and hit the ice for an informal session at the MTS Iceplex on Monday morning, but he’ll be among the 300 or so players heading to New York on Wednesday for NHLPA meetings.
The NHL board of governors are also convening in the Big Apple for a meeting, prompting some to wonder if there still might be time to hammer out a new collective bargaining agreement before midnight on Saturday — when commissioner Gary Bettman is expected to formally announce the start of another lockout.
“You go in hoping there is going to be a breakthrough, but it’s one of those things that you’re probably just going day-by-day and moving on,” said Ladd. “It’s more to keep informed and we should have lots of guys there, so you should get a good pulse on how everyone is feeling and hopefully know where this thing is going a little better. You realize that everything takes time and you have to be patient, but you have to be able to stand up for what you believe in.
“With the stance that we have and where they stand, you have to be able to push forward with this. One thing we feel really comfortable with is that we’re really unified and strong with our position. Our offer is more on track than theirs and theirs was a pretty low-ball offer to start off with and they haven’t really made any concessions so far. We seem to be at an impasse right now. Everyone is kind of drawing a line in the sand and we don’t feel comfortable moving from where we are until they move a lot more.”
One of the things you hear a lot from the ticket-buying public is that it’s hard to generate support for either side when you’re talking about billionaires (the owners) arguing with millionaires (the players) over how to distribute the revenue pie.
“You understand where they’re coming from,” said Ladd. “We’re in the same position, all we want to do is play hockey. It’s our livelihood, it’s what we do. You train hard the whole summer hoping to start on time and play hockey. It’s frustrating for us too, but at the same time, you’ve got to stand up for what’s fair and what you believe in.
“Hopefully, people can understand that.”
Jets fans are also in a unique situation, with only one season of hockey under their belt after going so long without NHL hockey before getting their team back — only to see a possible work stoppage looming.
“For sure. Obviously, it’s tough timing for them,” said Ladd. “They waited 15 years and there’s such a buzz around here for the hockey team. To have this, it’s not good for anybody, the owners or the players and especially, not the fans. It’s one of those unfortunate things that is a part of business and you have to take care of it.”
Jets defenceman Mark Stuart is heading to New York as well and he remains hopeful a deal can be reached before long.
“I’m not really sure what to expect, to tell you the truth,” said Stuart. “We’re still preparing as though we’ll be starting on time and that’s all you can do. Just be confident in the process, continue to work and see what happens. Across the board, all of the guys want to play but we are all on the same page. We’re all hoping we can get something going and try to bridge the gap a little bit in the next few days here.
“Obviously, it is getting down to crunch time, for sure.”