Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Optimism fading among Jets players

Miettinen holds out hope for deal; Burmistov weighing his options

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There was a feeling of resignation Thursday among the Jets who are in Winnipeg waiting to see if their training camp will start on time next week.

The NHL and the NHL Players' Association were in New York holding a bargaining session, separate meetings and then separate press conferences, and all signs are pointing to no deal by Saturday's expiration of the 2005 labour accord.

In that case, commissioner Gary Bettman repeated Thursday, the league will not open for business and its players will be locked out until there's a new deal.

"There's got to be optimism, always, no matter what the situation is," said right-winger Antti Miettinen, who arrived in Winnipeg this week and was on the ice with some teammates and other NHLers and pros at the MTS Iceplex. "Hopefully they get going. It's looking not so good at times but hoepfully it will get better.

"I don't know if there's enough optimism to see it (a deal) happen on Saturday yet but it's always a possibility and hopefully it will happen. If not, then we'll just move on."

Miettinen's teammate, Alexander Burmistrov, seemed to already have his personal clock ticking on the work stoppage.

"Hopefully it will not be more than a month, that we will have a deal in the next three weeks," Burmistrov said. "I want to play here and I want the season to start."

Both Jets seemed to be among the majority who feel they are well-briefed on the issue, even though they were not among the nearly 300 fellow players who were in New York this week.

"I'm not understanding a lot of things," said the 20-year-old Burmistrov. "(NHLPA executive director) Don Fehr came to Moscow for one day and I went (to the NHLPA meeting there). I tried to understand when I went there but it's still tough; the language is hard.

"I trust Don Fehr and those guys who are there. I think they will battle for the good.

"Hopefully the NHL will agree with them and we will be starting the season."

Miettinen said he thought about going to New York this week, but it was family first and the timing wasn't great for him.

"We got here on Monday and the whole family's a bit jet-lagged," Miettinen said. "Everybody's on a different time zone. Our little guy, he's almost three, he didn't sleep at all during the nine-and-a-half-hour flight over here so I don't know what planet he's on right now.

"I just wasn't able to go there."

Miettinen, 32, went to the NHLPA briefing in Barcelona this summer.

"I went to the PA meeting this summer and have been reading all the stuff we get from the PA," he said. "I haven't been that active, so I don't know all the little details and the terminology.

"They presented things really well. All their arguments are based on the facts. It left a really good impression."

Burmistrov nodded when it was mentioned many of the issues of this labour dispute concern his future. More immediately, a decision is likely imminent about where he will play in the short term if the NHL is dark.

Burmistrov, who has played two full-time seasons in the NHL, is still eligible to be assigned to the AHL's St. John's IceCaps without waivers. He may prefer to play in the KHL if he were a locked-out player but he may also have no choice if the Jets decide he should play with the IceCaps.

"No. I'm waiting," said the eighth overall pick of the 2010 draft. "Chevy (Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff) was not here today. I was thinking about going today to his office but guys were saying he's not here yet. Hopefully I will go tomorrow and we will talk."

Burmistrov didn't discuss the specifics but he could wind up in a tough spot if he prefers the KHL and the Jets insist on the AHL.

He could still go to Russia and be in breach of his NHL contract, but given that there's no formal agreement between the KHL and NHL, there is likely little anyone could do about it.

"It depends what will be better for me," Burmistrov said. "The American League or a different league will be different levels.

"We will, I guess, see what Chevy and talking to Claude (Noel), we'll decide what will be better for me."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 14, 2012 C4

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