TROY – Red Wings’ defenseman Ian White didn’t hold back his thoughts of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman when the lockout was two months in.
“I’ve got to be honest, I personally think he’s an idiot,” White said at the time. “Since he’s come in I think he’s done nothing but damage the game.”
Monday at Troy, White’s words were a bit more diplomatic.
“I don’t know if I even had any hard feelings,” White said. “I didn’t really think too much of the job he’s been doing. Even now when you look at the deal that was done, all along we thought there was a timeline on when they wanted to sweat us out and it looks like that’s what happened. It doesn’t seem like a good way to bargain, thinking we’ve got to go to this date and seeing how much we can get from the players and at the end they’ll settle and give us a deal. It’s unfortunate because I think we could have had a deal in the summer.”
The two sides settled early Sunday morning, 113 days into the lockout.
“There’s been a lot of damage for sure,” White said. “We’re only going to see once we get going here but I think it’s a little different than the last lockout. I think fans are, from what I hear, there’s a lot of animosity this time, so it’s going to take a lot of work to get the people back and hopefully someday get back to where we left off.”
The last lockout wiped out the entire 2004-05 season.
And the league played a 48-game schedule after a 103-day lockout during the 1994-95 season.
“I think fortunately it wasn’t most of the owners who were doing this,” White said. “There were a few of them. I’m sure most of them wanted to play right from the get-go without having to go through all the shenanigans. I’m sure there’s going to be a couple owners that aren’t going to be too happy with going forward but for the most part most of the owners are decent guys.”
The league appears to be headed to playing a 48-game schedule, which could start as early as Jan. 19. Training camps are expected to open between Saturday and Monday, after the collective bargaining agreement is ratified by owners and the players union.
“All we need is to go back and learn our systems and get some work in that,” Todd Bertuzzi said. “I don’t even think exhibition games would benefit any of us. We just need informal practices to learn your structure, whether we have new things coming in, whether our (penalty kill) changes or our power play changes. We do have new personnel too. I think more teams will benefit from that instead.”
One of the most important things is how the fans will be won back.
White has heard about the possibility of giving away the NHL Center Ice package for free.
“I thought that was a great idea,” White said. “It might even get some new fans if we’re giving that away free.
“Our job is just to play and do what we’re always doing,” White added. “I’m sure the NHL is going to have some sort of plan to draw them back, but it’s going to be a battle.”