December 4, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
AMID the accusations of dirty tricks, foot-dragging, moving targets and intransigence, nervous NHLers not at the bargaining table in New York go about their business.
They're trying to be focused professionals, without the paycheques since early October, when the NHL season should have started.
"We're all going to continue skating hard and working out," Jets centre Bryan Little said Friday. "I think for some of us if something bad happens and the season gets canceled for some reason, I think it's good that we're still in shape. I think a lot of guys are still talking about going over (to Europe) if they cancel the season.
"So I don't think the tempo's going to drop at all."
In fact, it has increased. Friday was the third day in a row that the Jets and other NHL players skated together here, a first since the lockout began Sept. 15.
Without being hands-on in the process of bargaining, Little said the uncertainty since mid-September has had its difficult hours.
"There have been highs and lows the whole time," he said. "It seemed like every once in a while the season was going to start and everyone was getting their hopes up. Then all of a sudden there were no talks going on.
"I've kind of learned to steady it out and let them do it themselves, figure it out. The only thing we can control is how good of shape we're in. I try not to make too much of a fuss about what's going on."
This week again has shown the ebbs and flows. After a flurry of back-and-forth for several days, the NHL and NHLPA have not met eye-to-eye in two days.
Perceived slights and a further decline of trust have marred what was thought to be some optimism at the start of the week, talk that even sparked dreams that more than a bare-minimum 48-game season was possible.
"At first I was following everything closely, paying attention to everything," Little said. "But I got my hopes up so many times... then all of a sudden we weren't playing for another month.
"So I've kind of learned to just numb yourself, hopefully it works itself out."
How that will happen is anyone's guess. There's likely less than a week to go for the wheels to start turning on the NHL's wish to start a shortened schedule on Jan. 19.
And now the NHLPA is in the midst of a second vote to authorize its leadership to file a disclaimer of interest, effectively dissolving the union and freeing players to file suit in the U.S. on anti-trust issues.
"I think it's just kind of there as a safety net if things go bad," Little said of the second vote. An initial authorization was allowed to lapse by NHLPA leader Don Fehr on Wednesday.
"If we feel we're just not negotiating anymore then they have the right to do that,
"I think it's a smart move by us."
And Little said he and fellow players know that the deadline on a season is moving closer.
"A bit (more nervous)," he said. "You never know if that's the actual deadline or if things are really close they could push it back a bit. It's definitely getting to that point where it's going to be season or no season. I think everyone's a bit on nerves.
"it seems like they're moving at a faster pace than before. They traded proposals for three to five days. At least they're going back and forth trying to figure this thing out.
"There seems to be some urgency now so that's a good sign."
Pucks, no bucks
Skating at MTS Iceplex Thursday and Friday: Toby Enstrom, Jim Slater, Olli Jokinen, Bryan Little, Winnipeg Jets; Colin Wilson, Nashville Predators; Travis Zajac, New Jersey Devils, Ryan Garbutt, Dallas Stars.
Combined 2012-13 salaries: $20,450,000
NHL salaries earned to far in 2012-13: $0
Combined missed salary so far: $9,617,027
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 5, 2013 C2