Jason Spezza is under no illusions. When the clock strikes midnight Saturday, he knows the NHL will lock out its players.
“I’m not anticipating anything miraculous to happen in the next 24 hours or so,” the Ottawa Senators centre said after stepping off the ice early Friday afternoon.
Spezza is, however, cautiously optimistic that a new collective bargaining agreement can be reached without losing much, if any, of the regular season.
“There is a lot of good conversation going on,” he said. “Unfortunately, with something like this, it’s going to pretty much be doom and gloom until a deal gets done. I don’t think there’s going to be a build up like, ‘Things are going really well’. One day, we’re going to wake up and it will be over, I think. That’s how it happened last time.”
Spezza says it’s important for players to stay in shape, just in case a deal is worked out quickly.
For now, though, he concedes the players have no interest in the NHL’s solution to the impasse: cut salaries and give players a reduced share of total revenues.
For the players’ association, the solution is about revenue sharing, flowing from the league’s richest teams to the franchises that are struggling financially. The NHLPA believes that unless that fundamental issue is dealt with, the same issues will crop up again and again — regardless if there’s a salary rollback or what percentage of overall league revenues players receive.
Spezza provided an inside look at one conversation NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr had with players.
“If Toronto is making $20 million (annually) and Phoenix is losing $20 million and you take $10 million and give it to Toronto and take $10 million and give it to Phoenix ... well, Phoenix is still losing $10 million and Toronto is now making $30 million,” he said.
“So, you still have a team in trouble and another team is making more money. So that’s where you have to get into some kind of meaningful revenue sharing. The best thing for the league is to have a fully successful league, where every team is doing well.”
The Senators centre also says that one reason for the strength of the players’ position is that approximately 80 per cent of players are already under contract. They aren’t keen on throwing some of that cash back to the owners who signed them in the first place. During the 2004-05 lockout, only 20 per cent of players had signed deals.
“There’s 80 per cent signed and teams are rushing out to sign guys (before Saturday’s deadline), so that’s what makes it so hard for us to take,” Spezza. “An immediate rollback, with the majority of the (players) signed. You just wonder what’s going on, as a player.”
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