A deadline is looming and frustration growing for National Hockey League players bracing for a lockout coming 11 p.m. Saturday night.
And so as a collection of Winnipeg Jets and other local NHL players gathered at MTS Iceplex Friday morning for what could be their last pre-lockout skate, the sense of disappointment and anger was palpable.
"We don’t need another season lost, that would do so much damage to our game," said Jets’ captain Andrew Ladd, who returned from the meetings in New York on Thursday. "For fans that came back last time, this whole situation is not something we want to put them through. But at the same time we as players feel we have to make a stand for what is fair and not get bullied around.
"Their deal isn’t fair for us and ours is leaning toward making this business more sustainable so that we’re not doing this every five years or six years and having lock outs because at the end of the day that just hurts our fan base and the people that really make this thing go."
The players who have been skating regularly at Iceplex have rented the ice on their own dime and will continue to do so after the lockout. But while there was still some faint optimism a deal could be resolved quickly, most seemed resigned to the fact they would have to dig in their heels and wait out the NHL’s second lockout in seven years. The last one, unfortunately, wiped out the entire 2004-05 season.
"We went through this seven years ago," said Jet centre Olli Jokinen. "As a player you just prepare and try to stay in shape and hope for the best. But, obviously, we’re not very optimistic right now. It’s nothing new to me.
"It’s very frustrating. You have one career and I think the average NHL career is five years. I’ve been lucky enough to stay in the league a long time, but at the same time the players want to play. It is very frustrating that is such a big business right now. Going through this seven years ago, at the time you thought, ‘This is it, this is a one-time thing.’ But now we’re in the same square again. Hopefully two sides can meet and they can get the deal done.
"I don’t really see any difference (from the last lockout). The business is bigger, everybody wants to get a bigger pie, everybody wants to make more money and the issues are the same. It’s about the money, it’s not about the game."