Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Olli's mad enough to spit rust

This will be his second lockout and 33-year-old is fed up

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Olli Jokinen bit the bullet once for the greater good. He gave up a year of his career and millions of dollars in a move that was supposed to correct all that was wrong with the NHL.

So you can understand how the 33-year-old veteran of 1,042 NHL games is mad enough to spit rust that he's headed to the second lockout since turning pro.

"I don't really see any difference," said Jokinen Friday when asked to compare the current labour situation with the one that wiped out the entire 2004-05 season. "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.

"We went through this seven years ago. 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."

That was a common sentiment at the MTS Iceplex on Friday as roughly 10 Winnipeg Jets and a handful of other NHLers and local pros gathered for their last workout session before today's expected lockout.

There was the usual chatter about solidarity among the NHLPA and the work of executive director Donald Fehr to keep the rank and file up to date. But most of all, there was an underlying sense of frustration.

Fighting for a fair deal is one thing. But then there's this fact: the average career of an NHL player is 5 1/2 years.

"It's very frustrating," said Jokinen. "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 it 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 the two sides can meet and they can get the deal done."

Unfortunately for everyone -- players, owners and fans alike -- there doesn't appear to be anything on the horizon in that regard. Jets captain Andrew Ladd said Friday more and more players are examining their Plan B options.

Ladd, along with Mark Stuart, flew to New York on Wednesday to be on site when NHLPA executive director Don Fehr provided an update on the negotiations, such as they are. And he left with one overwhelming emotion.

"It's frustrating. When you look at the state of the NHL and the revenue that has grown to $3.3 billion. At the end of the day it's almost a cash grab by the owners to pay us less and make more money," Ladd said. "And when the game's going so well I don't think that's the right way to go about it. That's part of the negotiation, too, I guess.

"We don't need another season lost, that would do so much damage to our game. 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 lockouts because at the end of the day that just hurts our fan base and the people that really make this thing go."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 15, 2012 C2

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Updated on Saturday, September 15, 2012 at 11:24 AM CDT: adds fact box

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