SAN JOSE Owen Nolan is fortunate that there isnt a strict dress code for the informal team lockout skates at Sharks Ice.
Nolan, the former Sharks captain, has joined the few remaining Sharks players in the area for their practices. On Monday, he was spotted wearing the blue pants of the Toronto Maple Leafs, green-and-red gloves of the Minnesota Wild, a helmet with a bright red C of the Calgary Flames, and a black-on-white NHLPA jersey.
Im just trying to survive, said Nolan, 40, after skating for about an hour with Dan Boyle, Patrick Marleau, Brad Stuart, Marty Havlat and several extras. The body doesnt want to keep up as much as it used to, but Im having fun out here.
The skates are probably more fun for the retired Nolan than the players who should be earning their NHL paychecks at the moment.
One of the most popular Sharks to ever don a black and teal sweater, Nolan spent 18 years in the National Hockey League, from his rookie year of 1990-91 with the Quebec Nordiques through his final year with Minnesota in 2009-10. During that time, which includes eight seasons with the Sharks, he experienced a hat trick of work stoppages the players strike of 1992 which postponed 30 games; the 1994-95 lockout that resulted in a shortened season, and the lost year of 2004-05.
Now that his long and storied career is over, Nolan considers himself a fan, and is disappointed the NHL and players association hasnt yet reached a deal as the lockout approaches three months in length.
I havent been watching it too closely enough to stay informed, but its never good for anybody, Nolan said. It doesnt matter which side it is. Its just a matter of, how quick can you get it done? As an ex-player and more of a fan now, you want to see it back. It affects everybody the little guy, the parking guys, the communities. Its not just players and owners that get affected, its the fans and the people that rely on the hockey to make a living.
Nolan seems to suggest that both sides are a little too set in their ways at present, as negotiations are set to resume on Tuesday with a select group of players and owners but without head honchos Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr.
I think theres got to be a give-and-take on both sides. In the long run it doesnt benefit anybody. Players are going to lose out on money and theyre never going to make back. These owners have other businesses other than hockey, so theyre still going to make their income. Theres got to be give-and-take. Both sides are never going to get what they want, so youve got to find that common ground thats going to make it work.
A number of players that have since hung up their skates are on record as saying that the cancelled season of 2004-05 wasnt worth it in the end. Jeremy Roenick, Mike Modano and Mark Recchi have all stated in some way or another that the players should find a way to get a deal done as soon as possible so as to avoid missing out on money theyll never see again. Current players have missed four of 13 paychecks this season, and games are cancelled through Dec. 14.
Nolan understands that side of it, but doesnt completely concur. Instead, he points out that the reason NHL salaries are as high they are today is due to the work that the players fought for when he was still a member of the association. NHL players averaged 2.4 million last season, up from 1.4 million eight years ago.
Its not only for yourself, its for future generations that youre fighting for, he said. Do you want to be a part of it? No, you dont want to be a part of it, but youve got to fight for what you believe in and make sure that when youre long retired, the guys that are still playing understand what happened years before. I think thats the same situation thats going on now.
Ive been through a couple of them, and I dont think if we went on those battles early on in my career, that guys would be making the same salaries theyre making now.
At the same time, he points out that not everyone in the players association is on equal footing, and a cancelled season would affect some players much more than others.
The guys that are making 5 million-plus on long-term deals are not going to be as affected as the guy thats maybe in the league for three years, making less than 1 million. Theres a lot of those guys in there that will have to find jobs after hockey.
I understand why theyre fighting tooth and nail to get everything they can, but at the same time, if the season goes by and youre not getting paid, thats another year off your contract and career. Theres a lot of different angles youve got to look at.