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Hoping to knock out the lockout Jets' ears perking up

Ongoing labour negotiations cause for renewed optimism

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 7/11/2012 (1743 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

This week's NHL-NHLPA negotiations in New York have been sustenance for hungry fans.

At the MTS Iceplex, where some locked-out Winnipeg Jets and assorted NHLers were working out Wednesday morning, the waffle was a main course.

NHL and Winnipeg Jets players, including Bryan Little, continue to work out at the MTS Iceplex in anticipation of an eventual labour agreement.


KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS NHL and Winnipeg Jets players, including Bryan Little, continue to work out at the MTS Iceplex in anticipation of an eventual labour agreement.

"I think in this process we've learned to be cautious about what transpires," said Jets captain Andrew Ladd, as the resumption of negotiations continued into a second day this week. "We're kind of still in the wait-and-see mode."

Jets defenceman Mark Stuart did say the word "optimistic," but tried to walk it back somewhat. But once it's out there, it's difficult to get all the maple syrup off the waffle.

"I think right now it's feeling better about things than we were a few days or a week ago," Stuart explained. "I think that as long as they're communicating -- they met for a good amount of time yesterday (Tuesday) -- then that's something to be optimistic about. Beyond that, I don't think you should look too far into it.

"The two sides are talking and as long as that's happening, things are going in the right direction."

The major issues are well known. How to share hockey revenue that reached a record $3.3 billion last season is high on the list. So is finding a way to see the NHL fully honour all existing contracts. Rules on contracting issues are important, as is a beefed-up revenue sharing plan.

The players, if they are so inclined, have access to up-to-date information on all of that in a timely way. Those here certainly weren't sharing any details or solutions on Wednesday, and they seemed content that none of that was leaking -- as it so often has -- profusely out of either side.

"Honestly it doesn't really matter to me either way," Ladd said. "Like I said, I think we know what we want in a deal and we're willing to do what it takes to get there. I think the important thing is that they're still talking and that they're continuing it today."

Said Stuart: "I don't think they need to say anything publicly as long as they're talking to each other and as long as the communication is there and going well. When the time is right, they'll speak to the public and the media and let them know how things are going."

Despite the increase in intensity of the talks this week, Stuart was a picture of rationality on Wednesday.

"There are a lot of ups and downs, some good discussions and some bad ones and some periods of time with no discussions," he said in a big-picture way. "So yesterday was a step in the right direction.

"I think it's been crunch time for a while. The urgency should be there."

Ladd, too, articulated the need for some patience, though he is consistently an example of the players' resolve to not take a bad deal.

"I think they've set deadlines before," Ladd said. "For both sides, they just need to find a way to get a deal done that's fair for both sides. As players, we feel there's something there but we're not going to sacrifice what we think is fair to give in to the owners."

As for the pressures as time marches on, including that from frustrated fans, Ladd said that players do have a sense of it.

"Obviously everyone outside is watching and trying to put pressure on everybody to get a deal done but like I said, we as players feel we're going to wait for a fair deal and if that doesn't happen right now and it takes longer, then it takes longer," he said. "We understand that the fans are the ones who drive our game.

"At the same time, it's easy for the owners to put that pressure on the players who are out and we're really the only ones talking to the media. It's easy for those guys to stay away and hide and not say anything or deal with the public while we're out here talking every day.

"We try to be up front and honest with you guys and we truly really want to get a deal done but like I said, we're not going to be pressured into that and let them sit back in the shadows while we're out here answering questions, taking all the pressure."

Ladd, however, hinted that fence-mending will be a priority, and sometime soon, he hoped.

"I think that people understand that hockey players are pretty good at being available and being involved in the community and trying to do what it takes to build this game," he said.


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