December 12, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
JUST as quickly as hockey types -- players, fans and media alike -- got to know the names of the two mediators who tried to help salvage the NHL season this week, they vanished from the negotiating table.
So long Scot L. Beckenbaugh and John Sweeney. We hardly knew ye.
And so you'll have to excuse many members of the NHL Players' Association and the game's observers if they have their doubts about the next concept being tossed around by the NHL to get a deal done:
Having owners and players sit down together without the heavy hitters, like commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr, in the room.
"It could be a good idea," said Winnipeg Jets captain Andrew Ladd Friday. "There always seems to be a catch with every idea the owners have. If it's something where we could get all 30 owners in the same room with representatives from each team and talk, just so they know where we're sitting and where everybody stands then, yeah, it could be positive.
"But if they want to pick the owners and players that get to go into that meeting, it's just another idea that has a catch and sounds really good to the media and fans at first. And once you look into it more and more, it's kind of a hoax. It's got to be done the right way.
"If it's still the same guys from their end talking... if it's (Boston Bruins' owner) Jeremy Jacobs in there spewing his stuff, I don't think it's going to move this process forward."
And so as another week has gone by with no resolution, the NHL is apparently waiting to hear back from the players' association as to how to set up this next meeting.
The optimists point to how New England Patriots' owner Robert Kraft was able to help broker a deal for the NFL.
The cynics call this latest move a gimmick and a PR ploy.
And as former NHLer-turned-agent Brian Lawton said via his Twitter account Friday: 'If the parties can't come to agreement on who is going to meet then yes hockey is in more jeopardy than any of us even imagine.'
"It would be nice to sit down and talk and see where they're at and see what they understand and know and see where each side is coming from and try to sort it out like the mature men we all are," said Jim Slater. "That'd be the best thing... talking to these owners that really care about hockey and getting it back on the ice. I think there's a lot of them out there that are like that."
Asked what it would be like to sit across the table from Jets' owner Mark Chipman -- a popular owner the players refer as "Chipper" -- Slater said:
"Everybody gets along with Chipper very well, he's very easy to talk to. I'm sure there's a lot of owners like that who are out there and it would be nice to see where they're at.
"That's the best thing... talking to these owners that really care about hockey and getting it back on the ice."
The lockout is now into its 77th day and on Friday the players missed their fourth paycheque of the fall. The NHL has cancelled games through Dec. 14 as well as the Winter Classic and NHL All-Star weekend scheduled for Columbus in late January.
And if this latest attempt doesn't work, decertification may be the next move by the NHLPA. That would see the players revoke the NHLPA's authority to bargain for them and then allow them to sue the league for antitrust violations.
That's when things could really get ugly.
"We're exploring all options," said Ladd. "They've kind of backed us into a corner where we don't have much leverage. They're just trying to wait us out and miss paycheques and see if we're going to fold. But that's not a very good strategy on their part because I don't think we're going to fold."
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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 1, 2012 C3