Vancouver Canucks players better prepared for possible lockout
Players educatated, united on getting a fair deal even if it means missing some hockey
The last time National Hockey League players faced a lockout eight years ago, they talked tough. Very tough. They would stand shoulder-to-shoulder and show commissioner Gary Bettman a thing or two about solidarity.
“The players are not prepared to entertain a salary cap in any way, shape or form,” declared former NHLPA executive director Bob Goodenow.
“A lockout is something we’ve tried to avoid and something we didn’t want to happen but I think guys are prepared,” stated Trevor Linden, then president of the players’ union.
“Gary is trying to fight this by breaking players and that’s not happening,” added Matt Cooke, the ex-Canuck and now a Pittsburgh Penguin.
Well, we all know how that turned out. Once the players began missing paycheques — they are paid during the regular season only — their solidarity began to show splinters, then cracks. They finally capitulated and accepted a salary-cap system after the entire 2004-05 season was lost. They also absorbed a 24 per cent across-the-board pay cut. It wasn’t pretty.
Canuck captain Henrik Sedin, who was among those locked out for the entire year, suggested this time things will be different. The lockout, barring an 11th-hour settlement, begins Saturday night.
“I think we’re better prepared,” Henrik said Tuesday following a skate at UBC. “I think we’re well educated. I think last time around there was a lot of anxiety and guys were nervous. This time around we’re prepared for whatever happens.”
It will be another month until players start forfeiting paycheques and Henrik was asked if he felt that might weaken their resolve, just as it did eight years ago.
“You never know,” he conceded. “Whatever happens, we’ll see. But right now I think it is a different feeling among the players and that’s all you can put a finger on. I mean, what happens when the paycheques stop coming? That’s another thing.”
Henrik suggested he was prepared to lose another season, even though he turns 32 on Sept. 26 and his career is nearing its homestretch. He said he would only head back to play in Sweden if the entire NHL season was cancelled. He also said he has no intention of advocating for a quick settlement to benefit older players like himself.
“I mean, this is not for us, it’s for the whole league,” Henrik explained. “It’s for the younger guys and the young guys in the league now. It’s for everyone so you can’t be selfish in a situation like this.”
Goalie Cory Schneider, a member of the union’s bargaining committee, was scheduled to fly Tuesday night to New York along with fellow committee member Manny Malhotra. They’ll represent the Canucks at meetings on Wednesday while most of the veterans, including outgoing netminder Roberto Luongo, participate in the Jake Milford Charity golf tournament.
Schneider was a freshman at Boston College during the 2004-05 lost season so he missed all the drama and eventual capitulation. He seemed confident Tuesday that players wouldn’t stage a mutiny after missing a month or two of their lucrative wages. Schneider is scheduled to make $4 million in 2012-13 after earning $900,000 a year ago.
“I think guys in the NHL do a great job with their money,” he said. “They warned us about this for a year-and-a-half now. No one is in financial disrepair where they are going to be scrambling for paycheques. Obviously you don’t want to miss getting paid but I haven’t heard of a single guy who is in need of money badly. We’re also getting escrow cheques in October.”
By the way, Schneider has no plans to play elsewhere if the lockout does come down and is a long one.
“No, not as of now,” he responded. “I think Europe is kind of a long shot. It’s a big adjustment for a goaltender over there. Something could get done in a few weeks, or a few days, or who knows? So I’d rather be here with my teammates preparing and getting ready for a season whenever it does start.”
ICE CHIPS: Plans call for Roberto Luongo to meet Vancouver hockey reporters before the 11 a.m. tee-off at the Milford tournament ... Left-winger Mason Raymond joined the group skating at UBC on Tuesday. He said he is healthy and, like Cory Schneider, has no plans to play elsewhere. He added he would “deal with it” if the lockout becomes a lengthy one.
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