Vancouver Canucks goalie Cory Schneider, shown skating at UBC on Monday, says the players aren't ready to accept the league's last proposal just to get the game back on the ice.
Photograph by: Stuart Davis, PNG
VANCOUVER - As the NHL and its locked-out players agreed Monday to mediation, Vancouver Canuck netminder Cory Schneider admitted that union decertification remains a last resort.
Decertification would enable players to file antitrust lawsuits, a tactical manoeuvre that helped both NBA and NFL players when they were locked out last year.
“The appetite for decertification is much stronger than it was before,” Schneider said following a skate at UBC. “Through this whole process, we've viewed that as a last means. We didn't want it to come to that so we've always pushed to negotiate, negotiate.
“We've moved $800 million in their direction depending on whose math you view and, for them to just look at us and smile and say 'we appreciate it', it tells us they either don't take us very seriously or they don't really have any motivation to negotiate and do a little give-and-take and make this deal happen.”
According to Schneider, decertification is not something to be taken lightly.
“As players, one of the only options we have to really apply a little pressure on them and show them that we're serious is to decertify,” continued Schneider, a member of the NHLPA bargaining committee. “We've seen that the only way the other leagues got a deal done was that the unions decertified or started the process. It's a very serious decision and something we would have to consider very closely. That's why we're a little reluctant to just charge ahead with it.
“It's a drastic measure but when you're dealing with this group of owners and a commissioner who have shown time and time again that they're willing to lock you out until they get exactly what they want, there is not much choice either.”
Some reports indicate it would take two months for the decertification process to be completed and, by then, the entire 2012-13 season could be lost. It all depends on how much stomach both sides have to allow it to reach that point. The owners have already shown they will cancel an entire season (2004-05) to further their aims.
Schneider said players aren't prepared to swallow hard and accept the owners' last proposal just to get the game back on the ice, although he conceded he is getting very anxious to play again “whether here or abroad.” He is personally forfeiting paycheques from the new $4 million deal per season he signed last June.
“Yeah, we can say we saved the game and took the raw deal to do it and seven years from now, we have to do it again?” Schneider responded. “And five years after that, do it again? And again and again? Obviously if you just keep giving them what they want without them giving anything back, they're just going to keep doing it. It's a bit of a conundrum to us, honestly. We feel that we can get this done pretty quickly if they would simply move a few inches and they just steadfastly refuse to do so.”
Schneider reiterated a long-held union belief that the owners have a certain date in my mind at which point they'll start to negotiate in earnest. However, with more than two months of games already cancelled, along with the Winter Classic and all-star game, that date may be next year.
He said he was extremely frustrated that last week's union proposal was quickly shot down by the league.
“I mean, in the moment, it's almost maddening,” he explained. “Then you step back if you're going to understand why they did it – beg for us to make a proposal and then to come back and say nothing is changed on our end, well, what was the point? The point was they just got a little more from us and they didn't have to give anything up. I feel, and the group feels, they're going to continue to do so until whatever date it is they have in mind they've got what they needed, or they've squeezed enough out of us.”
Defenceman Dan Hamhuis wondered aloud Monday whether the owners truly care about the game.
“They say they care about the game and the fans and stuff but their actions are speaking a lot louder than their words right now,” he said. “For people who follow it closely, you'll see one side is negotiating and the other side is not.”
Fellow defenceman Kevin Bieksa figures “a lot” of owners do care but their voices haven't been heard due to the fact they've been muzzled by commissioner Gary Bettman under the threat of heavy fines.
“Unfortunately I don't think every single owner has been given a fair shake in this deal,” Bieksa said. “I think Gary has his small group and I think there are a lot of owners left in the dark.”
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