With time running out before the NHL's current CBA expires at 11:59pm ET Saturday, more NHLers are speaking out about the ongoing negotiations between the league and the NHLPA. Senators C Jason Spezza said, "I know from our side they're trying to be creative and figure out different ways to approach this to bridge the gap. I don't feel the league has given us a fair offer yet that's even worth considering, so there's nothing we can even look at" (OTTAWA SUN, 9/12). Lightning RW and player rep Adam Hall said, "The last deal, we gave a lot of concessions and it was meant to fix and address problems the owners claimed were broken in the system. So, this was, in effect, their deal, and seven years later after all these revenues they're claiming the system is broken again because their plan that they claimed to work, didn't work" (TAMPABAY.com, 9/11). Wild C Matt Cullen said, "Everybody right now is posturing. As we get closer to some real deadlines, hopefully things will start to get done." He added, "I think we're really close to being in the same ballpark. I feel like it'll happen fast" (TWINCITIES.com, 9/11). Meanwhile, Bruins Alternate Gov. Harry Sinden said, "There's some way we have to find to resolve this. There is a resolution I'm sure." He added, "Coming on the heels of the shutdown in '04, there isn't anybody -- players, owners, anybody, and particularly the people who support the game in all the arenas in all the cities -- who thinks we should go through another one." But in Boston, Stephen Harris notes one unnamed NHL GM "predicts there will be a shutdown that lasts at least a month into the scheduled regular season" (BOSTON HERALD, 9/12). Bruins G Tuukka Rask: "I hear November, December and New Year's. But no one really knows" (AP, 9/11).
ADDRESSING THE PLAYERS: USA TODAY's Kevin Allen reports NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr and the union's negotiating team "will be explaining the situation" in N.Y. over the next two days to players "coming in from all parts of the globe." Jets D Ron Hainsey said that "as many as 300 NHL players could attend" the meetings. Owners also will be in N.Y. tomorrow for a BOG meeting "to hear Commissioner Gary Bettman's update." Negotiators from the two sides "are expected to meet this morning" ahead of the players' meeting. The large number of players in attendance "certainly speaks to gravity of the situation but also might be an indication of how the NHLPA has re-emerged as unified after the turmoil that resulted from first Ted Saskin and then Paul Kelly being removed as executive directors" (USA TODAY, 9/12). In N.Y., Mark Everson notes the "return to the table is another indication the players are the active side in this labor dispute." Though there was "grumbling on the ownership side that the union was rudely non-punctual toward busy captains of industry, there seems to be no excuse for ownership's failure to go through the motions" (N.Y. POST, 9/12).
BLAME GAME: ESPN.com's Scott Burnside wrote under the header, "Don't Blame Gary Bettman For Lockout." Burnside: "Let's be clear about one thing: Bettman may be driving the bus, but he's getting directions on where the bus is headed from the 30 owners who sit behind him on that bus." That is why this lockout "is all on the owners' shoulders even as many choose to heap the blame squarely at Bettman's feet." If the owners "didn't want their doors to be darkened for the second time in eight years, if they wanted to avoid looking hilariously hypocritical -- let's sign dozens of long-term deals this summer and then a few weeks later ask for players to give much of that back in escrow -- it wouldn't happen." The owners, "of course, speak publicly with one voice when it comes to labor issues and that voice belongs to Bettman" (ESPN.com, 9/11).