Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

No single turning point says Hainsey

Tentative agreement result of steady progress, determination

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Having gone the distance in the boardroom, Ron Hainsey thinks his fellow NHL Players Association members will approve the tentative labour agreement with the league.

The Winnipeg Jets defenceman, a key member of the players' bargaining committee, was exhausted after Saturday's 16-hour negotiating session bled into the early hours of Sunday, but more than relieved after the drive to his Connecticut home later in the day.

"A little tired, yeah, but we've been over everything that took place from last night and a little bit today and I think where we got to in the end is something that the players will approve and get us back on the ice relatively soon," Hainsey said.

"I thank we accomplished our goal."

The veteran NHLer said it was too early to be sure when the approval vote will begin, since lawyers from both sides still have to complete their work.

Hainsey said there was no one magic moment that brought the 10-year deal over the weekend. After two days of no face-to-face meetings, U.S. federal mediator Scot Beckenbaugh brought the sides back together on Saturday, the beginning of the final push.

"There was no one moment," Hainsey said. "The process just continued to move forward. It never really stopped.

"Doesn't mean there weren't times we went to our separate rooms and thought it might be stopped. That's when people got creative and came up with solutions to issues, both sides. Whether that was because of the time period being at hand where we were going to be able to play, whatever the reason, I'm not sure, but the process just never broke off.

"Progress was being made every time we got in the room together and that, after a lots of hours, is what got it done."

One of the key elements of the deal for the players was the improved pension plan.

"That's something we weren't going to do without," Hainsey said. "The players association will really benefit from this over the long term.

"The sentiment out there might be that, 'What do they need pensions for if they make tons of money?' While that's true for a number of players, it's not for others. The average career is over in the early 30s and that's still 32 years until retirement age. If you have a defined benefit plan when you turn 62 or 65, that's going to make life a lot easier to plan for the majority of players. It was very important."

Jets captain Andrew Ladd, who was a strong advocate for the NHLPA cause during the 113-day lockout, said that pension improvement was a key for most players and that now he's looking forward returning to his role as captain of the team.

"That is very appealing," Ladd said. "You understand at an early age it's a business and you have to deal with these things, but at the end of the day we live to play hockey and that's what we want to do every day. To have that chance again is an exciting prospect for us.

"And I think everyone's trying to look forward now, turn this thing around and reduce some of the damage that was done."

Ladd said that players know the damage is real.

"We understand a lot of people were hurt, especially people who work in arenas and are affected by the jobs in restaurants and such downtown," he said. "We'll take our (share) of the blame for that and try to go forward and make it up to people.

"There's not much we can do at this point but that. The best way to do it is to play an entertaining brand of hockey for the fans and hopefully they can forgive us and come back to enjoying hockey. There's no point looking back. We'll move on and get this game where everyone knows it can be."

Ladd made no apologies for defending the players' cause in the dispute.

"I think we both had our sides and we both had our reasons for doing what we were doing," he said. "I think it wasn't an easy situation for anyone. As players it wasn't our choice to have the lockout. We stood strong for numerous reasons.

"But we're happy with the outcome of the deal, what we got, and it's a deal we're happy with going forward. That's all we can ask for."

Hainsey also said his regular job is pretty appealing.

"Absolutely it's going to be great to change pace back to that," he said. "The one thing you learn from doing something like this is how lucky and fortunate you are to be able to play hockey for a living."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 7, 2013 C4

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