No surprise, just profound disappointment among Canucks players
Events unfolding as owners wanted, captain Henrik Sedin figures
The fact Kevin Bieksa had already scheduled his charity game for Oct. 17 — when the Canucks were to be in Nashville preparing for a game the next night against the Predators — tells you how big a surprise Thursday’s announcement was that the NHL had cancelled the first two weeks of the regular season.
But still, when the inevitable was made official by the NHL head office, it hit home. For starters, right in the players’ wallets.
Likely gone is about seven per cent of the players’ salaries, the result of the NHL axing games through Oct. 24. Not yet gone, but fading fast is the belief this dispute over a $3.3-billion revenue pie is going to be over soon.
Canuck captain Henrik Sedin, who is normally a glass-is-half-full kind of guy, was sounding anything but after he stepped off the ice at UBC’s Father David Bauer Arena.
“They are cancelling games, important games, so that’s a little tough,” Sedin said, before taking direct aim at the NHL owners.
Sedin thinks things are unfolding just the way the owners wanted and suggested they never really planned to start the season on time.
“It’s disappointing that it seems like the owners pre-decided there was going to be a lockout and nothing is going to happen,” he said. “That’s a little disappointing.”
Asked if he felt the players’ resolve will be tested now that paycheques are going to be lost, Sedin shrugged and took another shot at the owners.
“We’ll see. From Day 1 we have tried to get a deal in place that is going to help the game grow and is going to put us where we don’t need to go through this in six, seven, or eight years again. It’s going to build the game and that is what we are trying to accomplish and it’s disappointing the owners are set on what they want to do. It’s almost like they got into this with no plans of starting the season at all.”
Bieksa said he and his fellow Canucks knew the start of the season was lost when the pre-season games were scrapped.
“I think most of us, once the pre-season was cancelled, expected October to be gone and now we’re looking toward November and trying to be optimistic we can get something done in October to give us a couple of weeks in camp and hopefully start in November,” he said.
Goalie Cory Schnieder, who has been heavily involved in the bargaining process as a team rep, summed up his feelings in two words.
“Disappointing, frustrated,” he said.
“I think we’d all like to be playing games next week, but they have decided it’s worth cancelling games rather than moving off their proposal. It’s just part of the process. We foresaw that this might happen. I think we’re prepared, but it doesn’t mean we are very pleased with it or happy about it at all.”
The announcement by the league means the Canucks’ first seven games have been scrapped: home games against Edmonton and Carolina and road games versus Calgary, Nashville, Columbus, Detroit and Pittsburgh.
A revised schedule posted on the team’s website immediately after the league announcement now has the Canucks opening the season Oct. 25 in Dallas, with their home-opener Oct. 28 against Tampa Bay.
But even if the season was to start in late October, the existing schedule would most certainly be tweaked.
Canucks general manager Mike Gillis issued a statement following the announcement.
“We understand the disappointment this news causes all of us who share a passion for hockey; however, we’re hopeful a resolution will bring the season under way as soon as possible,” Gillis said.
“We understand the concerns of our passionate and loyal fans, especially at this time. Our commitment to deliver exceptional experiences and reciprocate your unwavering support is stronger than ever.”
Bieksa, the Sedins and Schneider have been among a group of about 10 Canuck regulars who have been skating three times a week at UBC since the lockout began. Once a week, usually on Wednesday, they gather for other activities. This week, they joined the UBC’s women’s volleyball team for a practice. They’ve also played some soccer and tennis.
Bieksa said despite the uncertainty of what is ahead, the group plans to continue its routine.
“You try not to think too far ahead,” he said. “You try to take it a week at a time. We have our activities to try and keep it fresh and fun. And our skates, we have had a couple of new guys this week, so it’s getting fresher and with the help of some of these (charity) games and stuff like that we are trying to do the best we can.
“It’s not ideal. It’s not the best every day when you’re driving out here when you should be getting ready to play a regular-season game, but it is what it is, to quote the famous Todd Bertuzzi, and we’ll make do.”
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