SAN JOSE When the National Hockey League declared on Thursday that the first two weeks of the regular season were canceled, no one spit out his or her pumpkin spice latte in utter shock. Games through Oct. 24 are now wiped out, including five Sharks games (three at home).
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In what had been an anticipated move since collective bargaining talks broke off on Monday, the NHL made it official with a short press release and later a statement from deputy commissioner Bill Daly, that finished with a sentence that read the league is committed to getting this done.
Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle, though, thinks its just the opposite at least right now, doubling down on comments he made that week that the owners want the players to miss some paychecks. Players were to be paid for the first time this season on Oct. 15.
I dont think theyre serious about doing anything until we start missing some checks, Boyle repeated, after skating at Sharks Ice on Thursday morning.
Thats not all that irks the veteran defenseman.
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NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has a rule in place that he needs just eight of 30 votes to veto any CBA proposals that he doesnt himself approve of, while the NHLPA needs just a simple majority in order to ratify or reject one.
Boyle, therefore, seems to believe that there is a select group of owners the big money makers, especially that are willing to hold up the entire process, ignore other owners that would be more open to the players' proposal, and cancel more and more games until they get exactly what they want. That includes, of course, an immediate reduction in current player salaries and contracts, something that the union has emphatically stated it would not accept.
I think when players make comments, sometimes its directed towards 30 owners, but I think a lot of us feel that its not across the board. Its a certain group of teams that are controlling 30 others, Boyle said.
It doesnt make any sense to me that eight teams can control the fate of 22 other ones.
Theres more. Boyle and Ryane Clowe stated last week that the players are ready and willing to make concessions, but that the NHL doesnt seem to want to listen. That includes possible caps on contract lengths, or perhaps stricter rules to prevent teams from circumventing the salary cap.
I think we have to give back. There are a lot of things that we need to fix, and we want to give back, he said.
For now, though, the two sides continue to play a childish, high stakes game of chicken. Both have stated that they are waiting for the other side to make a proposal, so the standstill persists.
Boyle is not optimistic that anything will get done before more cancellations are made official, as each side has stated its waiting for the other to make another proposal.
They say its our turn, or whatever, but they dont want to negotiate until we start missing some checks, he said.
I dont see anything happening for the next couple months. I know thats very pessimistic of me, and I really hope Im wrong. But the eight guyswhat if theres 22 teams out there that want to play right now? How do eight teams control their fate? That bothers me the most.
Light turnout at Sharks Ice
Boyle, Brad Stuart and Antti Niemi were the only current Sharks that skated on the rented ice at their practice facility on Thursday. Stuart, acquired from Detroit over the summer, had been skating separately with Brent Burns after recovering from a minor, unspecified injury.
Like Boyle, Stuart wasnt shocked to hear that the league has, at the very least, pushed back the start of the season.
Im as disappointed as anyone, but even if we started today were not going to start the regular season by next week, anyway, he said. Its no surprise given where were at. Its very disappointing. I guess the NHL has their plan and theyre putting it into effect.
Like anyone, you want it to get resolved. Its frustrating that I even have to say this, but these things take time, I guess. We put our support behind the guys in charge, and the other side is doing what they feel they have to do. At this point, were just waiting it out. Well see what happens.
According to Boyle, Ryane Clowe and Patrick Marleau will return to practice next week. But, Niemi could soon be departing. Hes been in discussions with teams overseas, including in his home country of Finland.
Im thinking about it all the time, but it takes the right place, Niemi said.