SAN JOSE As representatives for the NHL and NHLPA gathered in New York for the first of three straight days of scheduled collective bargaining meetings on Friday, a number of San Jose Sharks continued to skate on rented ice at their practice facility.
While the meetings arent expected to lead to a new CBA before the end of the weekend, as the core economic issues arent yet on the agenda, its a positive sign that the two parties are back at the table for the first time since the lockout began on September 15 even if they are just discussing secondary issues like drug testing, pensions and player discipline.
If youre stuck on the hockey-related revenue, I dont think its a bad idea to just kind of look elsewhere and try a different approach, said Dan Boyle. Hopefully, we can break through some how.
Joe Pavelski said: The last lockout in 2004, it was three months before they sat down and talked at all. I think its good to see that theyre talking about the small events. You just hope, on the big ones, they finally break and we get that figured out, and are able to play fairly quickly.
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The league formally cancelled the entire preseason schedule on Thursday in a move that didnt surprise anyone. Next on the chopping block is the regular season, which is set to begin in less than two weeks on Oct. 11. Each passing day with no agreement means were a little bit closer to scrapping the 2012-13 schedule.
As remote as the chances are that the season will start on time, Boyle seemed to suggest that the players are willing to negotiate on certain economic-related issues, so long as their current contracts remain untouched. In their original proposal, the owners wanted to cap the length of player contracts at five years, eliminate salary arbitration, and extend entry-level deals from three years to five years, among other things.
Essentially, the owners are trying to protect themselves from themselves, and some of the ludicrous contracts that have been handed out. Those include the deals signed just this summer by players like Shea Weber, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, as well as contracts designed to circumvent the salary cap like those given to Ilya Kovalchuk and Chris Pronger.
And, well, some players in the Sharks makeshift locker room seem to get that. Boyle was asked directly if the players would be willing to give back on some of those demands from the owners and Gary Bettman.
I think so. I think there is definitely room to move on all those things, Boyle said.
So long as that doesnt involve a pay cut, though.
The sticking point is the guys do notthe contracts that weve all signed, we dont want to give back on that, Boyle said.
If two or three years ago into my six-year deal I said, hey, I want more, I wouldnt have gotten more. Thats not right. You sign your name, and put your name on the bottom line and they put their name on the bottom line. You see it through. I think thats the sticking point.
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Ryane Clowe echoed the thoughts of his teammate, both on the idea that the players are willing to negotiate when it comes to future contracts, but that the current contracts must be honored in full.
I think when youve played two or three years in the league and then you sign a 10, 12 or 13-year deal, obviously we might be able to give a little bit there, Clowe said. As far as the guys that are signed already you sign your contract and the owner puts a signature on it. Youve got your word, and thats principle, right there.
Clowe then emphasized that last point, that the players are united when it comes to not taking an immediate reduction in salary something that ownership seems set upon.
Its just not going to happen. I dont know what the owners think, if they keep beating on that door, but trust me. The players are not budging, he said. We made some huge concessions last time; its just not going to happen. Whatever they think, I dont know. I dont know if they think they can break us.
Still, the fact that the players might be willing to negotiate off of at least parts of what the owners are requesting seems to suggest that the talks might gain some traction. Bettmans right-hand man Bill Daly was recently quoted as saying, unless we see some compromise from the Unionwe wont be going anywhere fast.
Could this be the first compromise? We may find out soon enough, now that players' paychecks and owners' gate receipts are being threatened.
I still feel like theyre not that brain-dead where they want to risk losing a season, because of the way hockey is going right now, Clowe said.
Also at Sharks Ice: Joining Clowe, Pavelski and Boyle at Sharks Ice on Friday were Adam Burish, Tommy Wingels, Patrick Marleau, Antti Niemi and the Islanders Evgeni Nabokov, as well as about 15 other assorted skaters of different ages and skill levels.
Brent Burns is also still in the Bay Area, but not skating as he recovers from an unspecified "procedure."
Currently, the schedule for the lockout skates is Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday beginning at 10:30 a.m.