Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

No Jet running his mouth yet

Players mainly keep opinions about lockout to themselves

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During the regular course of their jobs, members of the Winnipeg Jets are well-versed in the routine of existence in the NHL.

Like their brethren in 29 other league locales, they play, they practise, they travel and they talk.

Officially, since the NHL's lockout of its players Sept. 15, there's no playing, practising or travelling.

But there remains plenty of talking.

No one from the Jets ascended to the headlines with unthinking remarks, but there are things we have learned about members of the team whom we have encountered during this dark episode league-wide.

 

Andrew Ladd

The Jets captain no doubt misses his role in the exciting environment of the NHL's newest franchise, but he has not blended into the background while labour issues fester and boil over.

One thing has become very clear about the Maple Ridge, B.C., native, who turns 27 today -- he has strong convictions regarding current matters and he's not backing off.

"I guess with this it's tough, because first of all, you've got to make sure you know what you're talking about," Ladd said this week. "So you have to have a good understanding of what's going on. If I have a good understanding, I have absolutely no problem saying my opinion. If it's something I believe in, I have no problem stating it and standing by it."

Ladd has surely rankled some in his own organization, but they'd be fools to question his captaincy over issues of backbone.

"During the (normal) year, there's such a different ride," Ladd said. "At times, you're trying to keep morale up and you're dealing with different situations like that. In that context, it's a little different than what we're dealing with right now.

"This is probably ramping up, getting a little more emotional as we've gone on here. In hockey, you have a bad game and there's always the next day and you can kind of regroup and get your attitude in check and start over again. This, it's day in and day out the same thing and the same feeling of frustration building into anger, I guess."

 

Ron Hainsey

The Jets defenceman has become a key figure within the NHLPA, having immersed himself in the issues and onto the players' bargaining committee as it continues the battle with owners.

If you ask around in media circles, Hainsey has run a little hot and cold at times and can be flippant or dismissive. But we all have our off days.

What's important to know is that even though he might have become something of a lightning rod, Hainsey has gained a much-increased level of respect among many of his peers for being willing to stand up for what he believes.

 

Bryan Little

Last season's overtasked Jets centre is much the same away from the game this fall. There's little thunder and lightning, but you'll never find him backing away from the storm or the challenge, making him a teammate to rely on.

You can tell he leans towards optimistic most days, but isn't afraid of realistic.

"Yeah, I've tried to keep quiet and let guys do their job," Little said of the lockout commentary. "But if somebody asks me a question, I'm going to give them a pretty honest answer. And at the same time, if I have questions or there's something I want to know about, I talk to one of the older guys that's been there or been in the meetings and has more information than I do... I'm not going to say too much if I don't know what's going on."

 

Jim Slater

The Jets GST centre also has preferred the optimistic view most days. There's no doubt he's eager to get on with the season, but there hasn't been so much as a hint of dissatisfaction about how the NHLPA has handled things.

"Some more experienced players have a lot riding on this," Slater said. "This could be the last year, the last couple of years for them. They're more than able to speak their mind. They've played in this league a long time and that's how they feel. But as a collective group, we still have to stay firm and follow what we believe in as a group and keep going with that."

 

Olli Jokinen

The newly signed July free agent was/is going to upgrade the Jets at centre and he has certainly invested in Winnipeg. He's moved here and so far refused to leave for Europe. All the while, he's a regular participant at the multiple workouts per week with his locked-out fellow players at the Iceplex.

Jokinen was obviously torn early about optimism and pessimism and eventually gave up on talking to reporters many weeks ago, making clear he's got nothing more to say until there's a deal. He's got skin in this game, having lost a complete season in the 2004-05 lockout.

He has also made it clear he will not be part of any whisper campaigns on any issue, that when he's got something to say, he'll attach his name to every word. Mark Stuart

The Jets defenceman was such a warrior for the team all last season, but you'll usually find him fairly reserved and understated off the ice. Same now during the lockout.

He has expressed a strong interest that negotiations, no matter how frustrating, are better than none and he's always been the consummate union teammate.

 

Evander Kane

Kane has been in Winnipeg only a day or two since the lockout and opted for a stint in the KHL, which ended last month.

The 21-year-old is a frequent participant on Twitter but has not used the platform to make any lockout declarations as others have.

He did a recent interview with the Free Press's Ed Tait and took some ownership of his disappointing time with Dynamo Minsk. After being a focal point in many weeks since the Jets officially moved to Winnipeg -- off-ice controversies, injury, trade rumours, goals-coring, contract negotiations -- Kane has not been so much a centre of attention since signing his big contract Sept. 15.

 

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 12, 2012 D3

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