The routine was old weeks -- if not months – ago. But the Winnipeg Jets and local National Hockey Leaguers who have continued to skate at MTS Iceplex during the lockout, guarded as they may be, were a bit more optimistic today.
As the back-and-forth of negotiations continued in New York, Jet players Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little, Jim Slater, Mark Stuart and Olli Jokinen were joined on the ice by Ryan Reaves of the St. Louis Blues and Ryan Garbutt of the Dallas Stars.
"It’s definitely positive and all the guys are pretty excited with the progress that’s being made," said Little. "But we’re holding out and waiting to see what happens in the next 72 hours. Hopefully it’s all good news. Some of the guys are pretty excited.
"There’s definitely optimism. I don’t know too many details but from what I hear it’s been mainly positive and that’s a great sign for how it’s been going. We’re all excited that something could happen soon but at the same time we’re not getting overly excited just yet."
Word from New York today was the NHLPA have been in meetings for most of the day and there are tentative plans to meet again with the owners later today, although that possible get-together will not include Mark Chipman of the Jets. Chipman, along with Larry Tannebaum of the Toronto Maple Leafs, reportedly left New York Thursday afternoon.
The NHLPA had asked that mediators be again involved in the negotiations – they were part of talks a week ago for two days before leaving with no progress – but the NHL has yet to agree.
There is a sense that, given the date, the two sides are at crunch time to salvage the season and the NHL may be on the verge of making a take-it-or-leave-it proposal.
If progress slows considerably, it’s possible the league could cancel another chunk of games on Friday. All games up to Dec. 14th and the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day and the NHL All-Star Game have also been spiked.
"As long we’re still talking I see that as a positive thing," said Andrew Ladd. "It’s always good if we’re continuing the dialogue and trying to move the process forward. I’m not there at the meetings and so I don’t know the details per se, but the fact that they’re still talking is definitely a good thing."