WINNIPEG - Like most observers, Winnipeg Jets captain Andrew Ladd sees lengthy talks between the NHL and NHLPA in New York as a positive development.
"It's definitely great that they are still talking and seem to be negotiating, so I think that's a positive," Ladd said after skating with other locked out Jets and NHL players from other teams Wednesday at the IcePlex. "Personally, I'm still cautious and will wait and see how this all plays out, but hopefully it leads to something."
NHL owners and players met in New York at a secret location for seven hours Tuesday and resumed talks Wednesday afternoon.
Nobody was speaking to the media after the meetings Tuesday and there's much speculation that these talks have real substance and could lead to an end to the lockout, which has been ongoing since Sept. 15 and has led to the cancellation of hundreds of games and the annual Winter Classic.
"As long as we're still talking and they are making an effort to bridge that gap, it's a good thing," Ladd said. "I'm not going to read anything into it more than that."
Jets centre Olli Jokinen, signed as a free agent during the off-season, wasn't interested in doing interviews, but said as he walked by a group of media that these meetings should mean things will be over one way or another. Either the season will be cancelled or the lockout will end.
Ladd was not as certain.
"I don't know ... they've set deadlines before and they've come and passed," Ladd said. "For both sides, we just need to find a way to get a deal done that's fair. As players, we feel there's something there but we're not going to sacrifice what we think is fair to give in to the owners."
While it would appear the lockout has reached a critical juncture, with the season hanging in the balance, Ladd was not prepared to suggest these talks are any more important than others that have taken place.
"I don't know if they are any more critical or any less," he said. "It's just part of negotiation, it's part of the process. Obviously, everyone is watching from the outside and trying to put pressure on everybody to get a deal done, but we as players feel like we are going to wait for the fair deal and if that doesn't happen right now and it takes longer then it's going to take longer."
Ladd admits he's concerned about how fans are being treated in this labour impasse, but doesn't think it's fair for the players to take the majority of the blame.
"We understand that fans are the ones that drive our game and they're the reason we can play," he said. "At the same time, it's easy for the owners to put that pressure on the players, who are the ones who are out in the community and are really the only ones talking to the media. It's easy for those guys to hide and not have to say anything and deal with the public, while we're out here talking every day. We are trying to be up front and honest and we really do want to get a deal done."
Jets defenceman Mark Stuart is more optimistic today than he was a few days ago.
"Right now we're feeling better about things than we were a few days ago or a week ago," he said. "They met for a long amount of time Tuesday and that's something to be optimistic about. Things are going in the right direction. It was a step after a lull, but there are a lot of ups and downs. I'm trying not to get my hopes up to much but definitely a lot more optimistic from two days ago."