RALEIGH — With each passing day, the gloom grows.
An NHL lockout will begin at 12 a.m. Sunday if a new collective bargaining agreement for the league has not been approved. The two sides, the NHL and NHL Players Association, havent talked this week, although that could change Wednesday.
Approximately 300 players will be in New York on Wednesday and Thursday to meet with NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr. That will make for a nice show of strength, of solidarity, but will it really accomplish anything and prevent a lockout? From all indications, it wont.
Just before taking the ice for an informal workout Tuesday at Raleigh Center Ice, Canes defenseman Tim Gleason wondered aloud, Is all this for nothing? Again, hard to say. It appears that at least in the short run, it probably will be.
Its no fun, no fun at all, Canes forward Chad LaRose said Tuesday. I just keep saying were going to play on time, but everything is kind of pointing towards that not happening.
Its tough, just thinking about it. I just hope we can get everything done this week and we start on time.
LaRose was about to begin his second year of professional hockey when the last NHL lockout occurred. In 2004, the league and union were at odds over the CBA, the owners insisting on a salary cap and the players resisting it, and the 2004-2005 NHL season eventually was canceled.
LaRose spent that season with the Lowell Lock Monsters of the American Hockey League and made the most of it, scoring 22 goals. A year later, he began the season with Lowell and ended it on the Hurricanes 2006 Stanley Cup champions, never spending another day in the minors.
It ended up working out for me, LaRose said. For me, personally, I got to develop a little more. A lot of NHL players came down to the American League and we got a lot more scouting and a lot more looks and a chance to show talents.
But that was then. LaRose is 30. Hes an established NHL player, one known for his emotion and energy, and he said he cant conceive of losing another entire season of hockey.
Id be devastated, to be honest with you, he said. It would really crush me. I dont foresee that happening and hope it doesnt happen.
We have to get both sides agreed on stuff, so that no one takes a raw deal. But at the end of the day I just want to play hockey.
While the CBA covers a lot of issues (the current one is 454 pages) including league-wide revenue sharing, free agency and player contracts, the union and league must first agree on annual hockey-related revenue both in definition and division in their negotiations.
Under the current CBA, the players receive 57 percent of the hockey-related revenue (HRR). The league first proposed a six-year CBA reducing the players HRR share to 43 percent. A second proposal bumped it up to 46 percent.
The union has proposed a three-year CBA with small salary increases each year. There would be an option for a fourth year, and a return to a 57-percent share of HRR, if the leagues revenue continues to grow at the same pace it has the past few years.
Thats been the biggest cause of the recent impasse. But late Tuesday, there were media reports the NHL and NHLPA would meet Wednesday before the NHLPA players meeting.
Lets take something from each side and work it out, LaRose said. Lets get on the ice on time and make sure the fans get to enjoy this game as much as we do.