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Jets' Olli optimistic

Finnish centre says situation better than in 2004-05

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On Monday at the MTS Iceplex, throughout Winnipeg and in NHL cities across the continent, it became apparent that regular-season games, slated to begin next Thursday, are about to join pre-season games on the scrap heap.

And while some of his brethren have been spouting pessimism, you won't find it coming from veteran centre Olli Jokinen just yet.

The new Winnipeg Jets pivot, signed during the July free-agent sweepstakes, heard the suggestion that the league may just cancel games a week or two at a time until a new collective bargaining agreement is reached.

"We don't want to miss games," Jokinen said after the Monday workout at the Iceplex. "The clock is ticking and we're getting closer to the regular season starting. So I guess it's better than to cancel games month by month.

"To be honest, I don't really read the papers or watch the news. The only information I get is from the NHLPA and if you start reading the papers and listening to the radio and all the speculation what's out there, you can mislead.

"We want to play. That's why we're here practising and skating."

Negotiations

Jokinen, who went through an entire lost season in 2004-05 thanks to labour issues, said he didn't have any information to share about the three days of negotiations that took place in New York over the weekend.

"We got information about what's going on but there's nothing really to report. So no news.

"At least they're talking. That's the only positive thing."

And Jokinen said that in his eyes, it's not yet time for pessimism.

"Last time it was different," Jokinen said. "We had a World Cup of Hockey at the time and we played a final and then the next day the CBA was expiring.

"Instead of me, playing for Team Finland against Canada, instead of flying to Florida we took the plane back to Europe. We knew the lockout was going to be for a long time, probably a year or even longer.

"This time, I think the whole summer we were more optimistic and we will still try to stay positive and hope for the best.

"I think this time is different than last time. Then you had the mindset it was going to be most likely for the whole year. Now, I don't think that way. I hope they can come to an agreement. We'll just wait and see."

Talks, though not about the sides' key differences, are scheduled again today in New York.

In the meantime, the local contingent working out and waiting to resume their NHL careers has dwindled. Only nine players participated on Monday, including goalies James Reimer and Steve Christie. Several other pros who had been present for the last three weeks, like Kevin Clark, Jason Gregoire, Darcy Zajac and Calvin Pickard, have gone off to their AHL teams' training camps.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

With a vacuum in its schedule -- no pre-season games to fill up its prime time -- TSN has gone digging through the archives and on Wednesday (6:30 p.m. CT) will re-broadcast the 2005 World Junior Championships gold-medal game from Grand Forks, N.D.

One of the participants of that one-sided Canadian victory was current Jets captain Andrew Ladd.

"It's kind of all a blur to me," Ladd said Monday, asked for an "insider program key" for viewers. "I do remember the one goal we scored, I think I was in our end and Jeff Carter kind of blew the zone and I made a long bank pass to him and he went over the line, dropped it to (Ryan) Getzlaf and he wired it home. That's probably my best memory from that game."

That championship featured what's widely regarded as the strongest Canadian team ever at the WJHC, a squad that included Ladd, Carter, Getzlaf, Sidney Crosby, Dion Phaneuf, Corey Perry, Shea Weber, Mike Richards, Patrice Bergeron, Brent Seabrook, Braydon Coburn plus locals Nigel Dawes, Cam Barker and Rejean Beauchemin.

"It was fun to be a part of," Ladd said. "Going into it, we think we knew we'd have a pretty special team with the (NHL) lockout. That was a goal of mine from the start of the year, to make that team, and I was lucky enough to do so. That was kind of my first big experience of learning how to win and what it took to put together a great team and everybody accepting different roles. I still look back on that and take a lot from that experience. It's something I'll never forget."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 2, 2012 D2

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