SAN JOSE Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle has been one of the more vocal and outspoken NHL players when it comes to the current labor battle between the league and its players association. Already one of the more open and honest voices in the Sharks locker room when actual hockey is taking place, the 36-year-old couldnt hide his disappointment on Thursday that the two sides have yet to make an agreement.
Maybe it was the fact that hes battling a cold and not feeling 100 percent. More likely, its because he knows hes at the tail end of a fabulous career, and desperately longs to compete for his second career Stanley Cup on what is still a very solid team.
It sucks. Even though I went through it once it doesnt make it easier, said a glum Boyle, referring to the 2004-05 lost season. If anything, its just more frustrating to lose possibly a second year of my career. Careers are so short to begin with, to just have that taken away is pretty frustrating.
There was hope last week that the two sides would be able to forge an agreement and save a full season, after the league submitted an offer on Oct. 17 that included an immediate 50-50 revenue split. The players, still concerned that current contracts would be affected and rolled back in some form, responded with three proposals of their own that Gary Bettman and the owners shot down in a matter of minutes.
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That the league didnt even really consider what the NHLPA put on the table irked a number of players, including Boyle.
Sleep on it, look it over, discuss among the other 29 owners and then come back with a no, if thats the case, Boyle said.
Somewhat surprisingly, Boyle didnt admonish his own side from helping to contribute to the stalemate.
Its supposed to be a negotiation, and I think right now both sides kind of think its their way or the highway. I think youre got to give to get, and I dont know that were at that point yet, he said.
Patrick Marleau seemed especially annoyed with the leagues tactics.
The owners proposal started talks, and then they kind of shut them down as soon as we started talking," Marleau said. "They wanted 50-50, we got to 50-50, and they took 10 minutes to disregard three proposals where we actually took their offer and took some time to dissect it.
They come out and they say they want whats best for hockey, but then their actions dont back that up. Its kind of happened throughout the whole negotiations, so at this point we dont expect anything less, I guess, out of them.
Should there be no progress over the next couple of days, it's not hard to predict the immediate future. It was widely reported that the league has since taken its last proposal off of the table, now that its Oct. 25 deadline to get in a full, 82-game season beginning on Nov. 2 will quietly pass. The fear now is that the league will soon cancel another months worth of games, never to be made up, as well as the Winter Classic and All-Star Game.
When the two sides actually sit down at the negotiating table again is anyones guess, and either could retreat into the shadows.
I think thats what they want, and thats what they plan on, Marleau said. They are obviously going by a playbook that they have, otherwise wed be playing. They say they want one thing, then we come to common ground, and then they want something else. I think they are working off of some timetable that they have.
Boyle agreed, and has said in the past that he believes the leagues hard-line owners want the players to miss some paychecks. Thats all but a certainty now.
It seems that way. Again, Im not in their locker room, but it seems like theres a script there, he said. I told you months ago that I didnt think anything was going to get done until we started losing some checks. How many, is the question. I dont know. It seems like they are following some sort of guidelines, or whatever, but Im not in their heads, either. Im just speculating.
If they cared about the game, we would be playing, basically, Marleau said of the hard-line owners.
The obvious objective of having the players miss out on a few paydays is the hope that the union will begin to fracture, and internal dissent will lead to more concessions for the league when a deal is finally signed.
Boyle hasnt sensed any discord amongst the union, though.
Thats the thing is, I dont really hear that, he said. Theres escrow money coming back from last year. Obviously, everyone would like to be making money, but I just dont hear about guys whining about it, really.
Marleau said: Theres no fear of that happening.
And so, the wait continues still with no end in sight.