Vancouver Canucks winger Chris Higgins perplexed over league's quick rejection of offers
VANCOUVER - Vancouver Canuck winger Chris Higgins was still perplexed Friday over the NHL's quick rejection of three player union proposals made in a Thursday negotiating session in Toronto.
According to those attending the session, commissioner Gary Bettman and his advisers took 10 minutes to say no to everything. They then flew home to New York.
“It's just disrespect,” said Higgins after a morning skate with the UBC Thunderbirds. “I just don't understand it. We give them three proposals and they just dismiss them outright. If you break it down, that's about three minutes on each proposal. So it seems like if we don't accept their kind of deal, it's not even something they want to discuss.
“It seems like they don't want to hear anything from our side. Maybe they are better businessmen than we are but we know a fair deal when we see one. Imagine if we reacted to their proposal in the same way. There would be shock and horror from their side.”
The league cancelled another week's work of games Friday, taking the cancellations through Nov. 1, which only stands to reason considering they want a Nov. 2 startup if a deal can be struck. The Canucks were to play 11 games between Oct. 11-Nov. 1.
Canuck goalie Cory Schneider, a member of the NHLPA's bargaining committee, admitted he wasn't stunned by the league's speedy rejection of the three union offers.
“I don't think anyone was surprised,” he said. “I think we expected that if our answer wasn't 'yes' to their Tuesday offer, then they were just going to say 'no' to whatever we said. I think we fully feel they're on a timeline with an agenda.
“I thought we made some offers that Gary Bettman incorrectly characterized by saying it's a step backward and not even close to a 50/50 split in revenue,” Schneider added. “I think we vehemently disagree with that. We tried to give them a few proposals to see what they'd like but, obviously, they were in no mood to negotiate – and that was our fear all along.”
Schneider doesn't think this latest speedbump means the world is about to end. He considers it just negotiations.
“We're not going to be down, we're not going to be pessimistic like they are publicly,” he said. “You have some highs and you have some lows and a lot can happen in a short amount of time. That's part of negotiations. We're not shutting this down at all. We're going to be vigilant and, hopefully, we can come up with a solution they can find acceptable.
“This is a big week. We're here and ready to play and we want to play. At this point, just honour the contracts you agreed to before the lockout and this should get done pretty quickly. I don't think that's unreasonable. I think a lot of people would be upset if their contracts were breached.”
Defenceman Kevin Bieksa wonders why the two parties can't continue to hammer away at their respective proposals, especially since both seem to acknowledge the revenue split will eventually wind up 50/50.
“I don't think we give up just because these last proposals didn't go through,” he said. “I think we keep working at it and we don't take another three-week break. We can get a deal done. We just have to stay at it. We should be working every hour of every day until we get a deal done.”
Bieksa also pointed out there is a lot more involved than just a 50/50 split in hockey related revenues.
“It's not just about money and the rollback,” he explained. “We feel like there are structural issues that need to be addressed and we feel like we did so in the proposals we offered them. It's very discouraging that they only shuffled through them in 10 minutes and didn't really give them serious consideration.”
On a more positive note, Bieksa was still basking in the glow of his successful charity event Wednesday that raised at least $200,000 for three different groups – Canuck Place, Canucks Autism Network and the Canucks Family Education Centre. He is contemplating a second charity game if it appears the lockout will continue a while longer.
“The game on Wednesday definitely met or exceeded expectations,” Bieksa said. “When you put on an event like that, there are a lot of things that could go wrong. I had a great team working with me and we were on top of everything and we had a backup plan for everything. There were a lot of people who contributed and it's hard for me to thank every single person because there were so many.
“I'm going to head back east for a week and when I get back here, if nothing is happening, we'll be looking into having another game. The guys all expressed they're willingness to participate in another event to raise some money.”
ICE CHIPS: Canuck fourth liner Aaron Volpatti, who hasn't played since last Dec. 1 due to shoulder surgery, is ready to head to Europe. “I need to play, it's been quite a while, almost a year,” he said. “If the right opportunity comes up, I think I'm going to go.”
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