Canucks Manny Malhotra, Henrik Sedin proud of players’ unity through lockout (with video)
Vancouver Canuck Manny Malhotra says he is very proud of the solidarity of the union.
Photograph by: Ward Perrin, PNG
VANCOUVER — After living through his second lockout in eight years, Vancouver Canuck centre Manny Malhotra was holding his head high Monday as a member of the NHL Players Association.
Malhotra, 32, was there in 2004-05 when the entire season was cancelled amid grumbling and back-biting by various players. This time they stuck together with the exception of an occasional Roman Hamrlik outburst. Malhotra credited NHLPA executive director Don Fehr for keeping everyone on board.
“I can definitely say I am proud to be a part of this union with the solidarity we showed and the level of education that the guys had,” said Malhotra, a member of the players’ 31-man bargaining committee. “Obviously a lot of guys spoke their mind throughout the course of this and that’s to be expected. That’s welcome. We had to know where every player stood on this thing. Everybody had different reasons for wanting to get back.
“I think that’s what Don Fehr has done for our union, taking us from a place of dysfunction to where we are now,” added Malhotra. “It’s been a privilege to watch it and be a part of it.”
According to Malhotra, Fehr preached patience throughout and, in the end, that produced a better agreement for the players.
“Our patience was tested quite a bit throughout the entire negotiating process,” Malhotra explained. “I felt we fought for the right things and we were able to achieve a CBA that was fair to both sides. I think patience gave us a lot. If you look at where their proposal was in September, October and November, it’s nowhere close to where we are today.
“If guys had not had the patience, not been as unified as we were this time, and not kept up to date on how the system would affect us, I don’t think we would have gotten this deal.”
Malhotra was unable to attend the most recent CBA talks in New York because his wife is expecting their third child. However, he was in constant communication with players there and was among the first to know a tentative deal had been struck around 2 a.m. Sunday (Pacific time).
“I was quite excited just trying to find out as much info as possible, getting on the phone and seeing if I could get a few more details as to what was agreed upon,” he said. “Then I got some sleep and woke up to hear the sports stations abuzz with the talk (that) it was done and it was over. So there were a lot of emotions obviously, and the happiness of just knowing that we were getting back to work first and foremost.”
There were times, Malhotra admitted, where he came close to losing hope.
“I think the phrase that we coined through this was to be cautiously optimistic,” he said. “There were some days where there was some positive movement, we saw an end in sight and we were bridging the gap we had between us. Then there were days where talks went absolutely sideways, if not backwards, and you kind of feel like you lose a lot of hope. There were days and weeks where there was no communication and it was frustrating. But I always had it in the back of my mind that something was going to get done.”
Canuck captain Henrik Sedin also suffered through the 2004-05 lost season and, like Malhotra, was proud to see the players remain united.
“I think the guys I was most impressed with were maybe the fourth-liners or the sixth, seventh and eighth defencemen who don’t make a lot of money,” Henrik said. “They were still sticking by the union and that’s impressive. I think it’s a fair deal. I think both sides are happy to get things going and get back playing.”
Defenceman Kevin Bieksa declined to offer his opinion on whether the lockout produced a win for either side.
“No, there is just no point in doing that stuff,” he responded. “Both sides, to some degree, lost with how long we’ve been out. There is no winner, I don’t think. We waited it out, they waited it out. It was a necessary process. It’s unfortunate but that’s the business end of hockey.”
Malhotra, meanwhile, made a point to thank the UBC Thunderbirds for inviting them to join many of their practices, run by head coach Milan Dragicevic and assistant Tyler Kuntz. Nine Canucks skated with the T-Birds on Monday for perhaps their last time together. Malhotra also singled out Doug Mitchell Arena operations manager Mike Ikeda for his cooperation throughout the long ordeal.
“I can’t say enough about Mike Ikeda, the staff here and the UBC men’s team,” said Malhotra. “They were unbelievable. They really embraced us and we’re grateful for everything they’ve done. It was fun to be around the guys and being in a team atmosphere.”
Asked if any Canuck tickets might be coming the T-Birds’ way, Malhotra smiled and said: “We’ll be taking care of the boys, don’t worry.”
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