RALEIGH — On a day when NHL preseason training camp was to open, the Carolina Hurricanes players skating Friday at Raleigh Center Ice had a different look.
Instead of jerseys with the Hurricanes logo on the front, the players wore jerseys with the NHL Players Association logo and #THEPLAYERS on the back. Call it a show of solidarity as the NHL lockout continues, with no collective bargaining negotiations being held this week between the league and union.
"It’s just something that keeps us unified," defenseman Jay Harrison said of the NHLPA jerseys. "It’s a union initiative to brand ourselves. That's what we represent, that’s who we support."
For Harrison and the others, the NHL decision this week to cancel all September preseason exhibition games wasn’t totally unexpected but still was a jolt to the system. That training camps have been postponed indefinitely is another.
"Canceling the exhibition games was a reality check for everyone," Harrison said. "The reality is that we can only hope this pushes us closer together, not apart. The one thing (both sides) share in common is a love for the game and playing the game and putting the game on the ice for the fans."
On Friday, Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos Jr. sent out an electronic letter to his team’s season-ticket holders. He said he stands behind NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, whom he said "continues to work for a solution that is in the best interest of our fans and the sport of hockey."
Karmanos said he shared the "tremendous amount of frustration" being felt by Canes ticket holders. He wrote, "But I also know that this process is vital for the long-term health of hockey, and that we must try to be patient as the league and the players’ union work for the right agreement."
Last Friday, after an informal workout, the Canes players packed up their gear in the Hurricanes’ facility in RCI. At midnight Saturday, with no new collective bargaining agreement in place, the lockout of the players began.
"It’s a different feeling," defenseman Tim Gleason said. "We’re still hoping for the best."
Jordan Staal, traded to the Canes in June by the Pittsburgh Penguins, has been skating with the group at RCI for the past few weeks with brothers Eric and Jared Staal and pointing toward the start of training camp. The first on-ice workouts were to be held Saturday at PNC Arena.
Staal tried to remain optimistic the league and union would agree on a CBA and a lockout would be avoided. That’s didn’t happen and he said remaining positive is getting tougher each day.
"Obviously it can get frustrating," Staal said. "I think every player here wants to get going and see the season start. It’s time for them to try and make a deal and hopefully we can get talking again and make that happen.
"It still can happen. It just takes one little spark and you need to just keep at it and try to find that middle ground."
A major point of contention in the CBA talks has been existing contracts. The union wants those honored and is prepared to fight for it.
Staal, who has one year remaining on a contract he had with the Pens, signed a 10-year contact extension with the Canes worth $60 million. Then there were such contracts as the 13-year, $98 million deals Zach Parise and Ryan Suter each signed in July with the Minnesota Wild.
"It’s tough, especially with this summer and players signing 10-year deals and long-term contracts," Staal said. "Then for (the league) to go back at us and try to cut 12 percent, or whatever it is, is difficult. When (players) are given those contracts, they believe they’ll get it.
"At the same time, guys want to play. So it’s going to be tough to try and find a happy medium, but hopefully we can do that."