By Sean Hartnett
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The clock is ticking. Wednesday’s meeting between the NHL and NHLPA ended without the players’ association making a counteroffer over hockey-related revenues.
Both sides are miles apart in hard numbers and the definition of the proposal. Judging by Commissioner Gary Bettman’s recent comments, the two sides aren’t even speaking the same language.
“I’m trying to get us on to the same page,” Bettman said on Tuesday. “I’m trying to get us on to a common language.”
Donald Fehr and the players’ association are expected to make a counteroffer on Friday afternoon.
Bettman Not Backing Down
Allow me to translate the “Bettmanese.” He’s basically stating that the owners aren’t willing to make major concessions, thus piling pressure on the players to make major sacrifices in order for the puck to drop on NHL’s opening night of October 11.
Should the sides not come to a new CBA agreement before September 15, the NHL will lock out its players. It would be a major blow to the progress made in growing the popularity of league after the loss of the entire 2004-05 season.
The Players Just Want To Play… Even If It’s In Europe
New York Rangers’ captain Ryan Callahan spoke to Rochester’s Democrat and Chronicle last week about the damage another lockout would inflict upon the sport of hockey.
“We’re willing to play under the old agreement until they figure things out,” Callahan said. “As players, we want to play. It would be terrible for the game if we have to have another lockout.”
Vezina Trophy winner Henrik Lundqvist is already contemplating the possibility of returning to his homeland of Sweden in the event of a lockout.
Lundqvist told leading Swedish newspaper Expressen that he’s planning on staying in America into the fall, but will join Frolunda of the Swedish Elite League should the entire 2012-13 NHL season is locked out. The SEL does not allow players to join the league on short-term contracts.
According to Yahoo, newest Rangers’ star Rick Nash preparing to play in Switzerland with close friend Joe Thornton of the San Jose Sharks. The duo played for HC Davos of the Swiss A-League during the 2004-04 lockout and could return to Davos should the 2012-13 NHL season be cancelled.
Nash’s agent, Joe Resnick poured cold water on these reports.
Devils’ sniper Ilya Kovalchuk is planning on playing in his native Russia should there be a lockout. It is unclear which Kontinental Hockey League team he would suit up for.
“I will play in Russia,” Kovalchuk told sovsport.ru. “I would like to play in the KHL if there is a lockout.”
Roughly 50 players around the NHL are already planning to play overseas during a potential lockout. That number will grow dramatically as the threat of a lockout looms nearer.
Great Storylines Ruined By Potential Cancellation of 2012-13 Season
This offseason, Martin Brodeur put pen to paper on a two-year deal to remain with the Devils. At 40, Brodeur probably isn’t willing to leave his family behind to play for a European team in the event of a lockout.
Brodeur turned back the clock last season by leading the Devils on an unexpected run into the Stanley Cup Finals. He contemplated retirement throughout the 2011-12 season and a lockout could force the Devils’ legendary net-minder to hang up his pads and retire.
42-year-old Teemu Selanne could also say goodbye to the NHL for good in the event of a lockout. Selanne signed for Jokerit Helsinki of Finland’s SM-liiga during the 2004-05 lockout, but didn’t play for the team as he was recovering from knee surgery.
Many have speculated that the 2012-13 season will be the “Finnish Flash’s” final season in the NHL. Should Selanne sign in the SM-liiga, he could call it a day after a farewell season in his homeland.
Jaromir Jagr has maintained a desire to play for hometown HC Kladno of the Czech Extraliga before he retires from hockey. Jagr signed with the Dallas Stars during the offseason and a lockout could deprive Stars fans from ever seeing him take the ice at the American Airlines Center.
Like Jagr, many stars around the league have found new homes. It would be shame for Rangers fans to have to wait a year to see Rick Nash play at Madison Square Garden. Same goes for Minnesota Wild fans who were eagerly anticipating the chance to see Zach Parise and Ryan Suter suit up for the Wild.
Star faces in new places, the chance for the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings to defend their throne, a last glimpse of legendary players in the NHL — that’s what would be throwing away by a damaging lockout.
A Greater Loss
It’s not just the players who would be damaged by a lockout. They can still pick up their paychecks by finding employment overseas. The same can’t be said about concession workers, maintenance staff and arena security who depend on paychecks from NHL teams to support their families.
That would be the greatest loss of all stemming from a potential lockout. Those in power should stop haggling over millions and think about those who really depend on the NHL.
Would a work stoppage ruin last season’s surge of NHL popularity? Share your thoughts below and send your tweets to @HartnettWFAN.