Vancouver Canucks star Daniel Sedin 'not too optimistic' as Saturday NHL bargaining deadline looms
Players united, though, and ‘ready for everything’
Daniel Sedin skated at an informal practice at the Father Bauer Arena located at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre Monday.
Photograph by: Ric Ernst, PNG
Back from summer vacation and a spring concussion, Daniel Sedin declared Monday there is nothing wrong with his head. There’s no conflict in his heart, either.
Although the Vancouver Canuck star travelled back from Sweden last week to skate with teammates and participate in his National Hockey League team’s charity golf tournament on Wednesday, Sedin is unequivocal in his support for the NHL Players’ Association, even if it means losing a season when he is 32 and his team has a chance to win the Stanley Cup.
The fierce conviction to his craft, which allowed Daniel and Henrik Sedin to rise beyond ridicule early in their careers and become two of the best players on the planet, was evident as Danny discussed the labour impasse and commissioner Gary Bettman’s promise to shut down hockey if a new Collective Bargaining Agreement isn’t signed on owners’ terms by Saturday.
For Sedin, it’s simple: owners got the system they said they needed in 2005 and have enjoyed fixed costs and record revenues since then, therefore Bettman’s demands for immediate pay cuts and a profound redistribution of wealth are unwarranted.
Keep in mind, the Sedins are as grounded and reasonable people as you are likely to find in the parallel universe of professional sports, where millionaire workers are employed by billionaire owners. The twins are imbued with many things, including pragmatism, fairness and generosity. The most rebellious thing they’ve done is sit in each other’s locker stall to confuse reporters.
But to hear Daniel Sedin speak Monday — alas, his brother didn’t, bolting early from the University of British Columbia arena — there is no way, no how players are going to capitulate like they did the last time Bettman put a gun to their brow. Sedin’s first tattoo could be: Union Made.
And this, in a way, is both laudable and sad. Because although the players clearly have the high ground in this dispute, the best hope for hockey this season is that they surrender and throw themselves at Bettman’s feet because the NHL position is entrenched: lower salaries now, lower salaries in the future, more money for owners without strings attached.
How can one not come to this conclusion based on the few glimpses we’ve had of “negotiations?” The NHL’s initial demand of a 25 per cent pay cut, Bettman’s blunt dismissal of a NHLPA offer that called the league’s bluff on revenue sharing, his imposing of the Sept. 15 deadline to get a new deal or else.
Look, you can’t blame Bettman for trying; he is merely running the same heavy-handed game plan that scuttled the 2004-05 season but eventually cowed players into massive concessions.
But there are two key differences this time: no economic argument exists for the NHL that the current system is unsustainable and the league needs “fixing,” and players have more information and resolve than last time.
“I think every player is on board,” Sedin said. “They’re more involved. We had meetings in Europe, conference calls. It’s on a totally different level. Everyone knows what’s going on and what’s at stake and we’re prepared for everything right now. It’s a different feeling.”
As Manny Malhotra, one of the Canucks’ union representatives, said after skating at UBC: “From a union standpoint, we’re far more unified, far more educated this time.
“It’s frustrating for us, especially the guys who did go through it last time. Understanding the economics, understanding giving back 24 per cent of your contract ... we’ve lived with the system that they created, that they said they needed to have a healthy 30-team league. They got what they needed, and now they’re saying they need even more money. We made huge concessions last time. There’s no need to go back to that.
“Seven years later, they’re in a tough predicament and they need more money? You have to question whether it is the system.”
If the system is the problem for the NHL, it’s only because of the enormous financial drag on it from a handful of ill-conceived franchises and fatally-flawed markets.
The league is entirely within its right to ask for a more even split of revenue, for the players to move from 57 per cent to, say, 54 per cent or 52. Chances are, the PA wouldn’t go for that either — at least this fall – but at least there would be a platform for genuine negotiations. Instead, the league’s insistence of rollbacks on existing contracts and Bettman’s demand for the players’ share to drop to 43 per cent was a miscalculated shot across the NHLPA bow that galvanized players instead of making them flinch.
“I was almost in shock,” Sedin said of Bettman’s opening salvo. “It was an offer that — you never want to laugh, but it was almost like that.”
Asked about prospects for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, he said: “I think, like everyone else, it doesn’t look too good. I’m not too optimistic. We’re too far apart right now to really be optimistic, but you never know.”
What we do know is a lot of people will blame the players anyway when their employers lock the doors on Saturday because, you know, players get paid way too much money just to play hockey and do they know how hard we have to work to pay the mortgage and car loan?
“I think that’s understandable,” Daniel said. “We make a lot of money. We make some money for the owners, too.”
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