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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Ladd shrugs off loss of more games

Jet captain says it's all part of owners' plan

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There was conversation but no negotiation on Friday between the NHL and the NHL Players Association, and plenty to digest in the wake of U.S. Thanksgiving.

The NHL canceled two more weeks of games to Dec. 14, bringing the total to 422, plus the Jan. 27 all-star game in Columbus, Ohio.

The No. 2's from each side, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr, had a phone conversation of about 10 minutes during the day to review the current state of affairs.

Daly, in several media interviews Friday, said there were no new meetings scheduled but thought that a resumption of official talks could take place early next week.

He also said he detected some progress when last the sides were together on Wednesday, despite the post-meeting huff from the players that everything the NHLPA had put on the was dismissed out of hand.

"We moved a couple of miles; they moved a couple of inches, I think it's fair to say," Fehr told Toronto radio station Fan590. "They did move on some things but on the things that matter, the dollars, the free agency rights, the salary arbitration rights ... they're trying to take a meat axe to, there was no movement.

"If it was Thanksgiving dinner, they gave us a relish tray but no turkey."

Fehr also said the players were ready and willing to meet with the league but have no new proposals at this time.

Some players have been floating the idea of union decertification or disclaimer of interest -- similar complex legal strategies designed to lead to anti-trust claims in the U.S. in order to put pressure on the league.

None of that talk is official, of course. Fehr made vague comments about it Friday, while Daly said the league doesn't fear it.

Jets captain Andrew Ladd said he doesn't fear decertification either, if the players eventually resort to it.

"(The way negotiations have gone) kind of pushes you into a corner and doesn't leave you many options," Ladd said Friday. "I realize that's one of our options and to be honest with you, I think it would be a good one for us.

"At some point, you have to start fighting back. We don't have much leverage. We know that. They're just trying to wait us out. So we might as well try to do something.

"I think we're well aware if we do it, it's not something, going into it, you think is going to be a two-week thing. I think when you do it you have to be ready and willing to go the whole way. So I think there are a lot of guys that are turning that way."

More games wiped from the schedule didn't seem to faze local NHLers.

"No, it's all part of it, part of their plan," Ladd said. "We feel we've exhausted all options at this point to try to get a deal done.

"There hasn't been that willingness on their side. We're trying to figure out on where to go from here."

Winnipegger Ryan Reaves, a St. Louis Blues forward, said it was inevitable.

"It's all part of the lockout," he said. "I think that stuff's going to keep happening until we get this done."

Reaves also said he refuses to be burdened by so much dire talk on the airwaves.

"I'm staying away from the TV," he said. "I've learned to stop listening to everybody. I feel like I get enough from random people asking me and telling me what they've heard.

"That's kind of my information highway right now. I always like to stay optimistic. I don't like to think I'm not going to be playing hockey this season. But you never know."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

 

NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr's reaction to more canceled games Friday:

"On Wednesday, the players presented a comprehensive proposal, once again moving in the owners' direction in order to get the game back on the ice. The gap that remains on the core economic issues is $182 million. On Wednesday, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said that the league is losing $18-20 million per day during the lockout, therefore two more weeks of cancelled games far exceeds the current economic gap. It makes the NHL's announcement of further game cancellations, including the 2013 All-Star Weekend, all the more unnecessary, and disappointing for all hockey fans - especially those in Columbus. The players remain ready to negotiate but we require a willing negotiating partner."

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 24, 2012 0

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