TROY – The NHL has only cancelled preseason games through September, but Danny Cleary is sure more will come, which includes the start of the regular season and perhaps the loss of an entire year.
“I don’t think anyone will really start getting concerned until Oct. 11,” Cleary said after skating with a few of his teammates Monday at Troy Sports Center. “It’s not going to start on time, no way.”
The league is expected to cancel the remainder of the preseason this week.
The Wings, who were scheduled to report to training camp in Traverse City on Sept. 21, are supposed to open the regular season at home against the Nashville Predators on Oct. 11.
“People don’t think it can go a year, but us players think it can and maybe longer,” Cleary said. “I don’t think it’s gotten uglier, we’re just being realistic. I think the league is waiting for us to make a move and we’re waiting for them to move. Someone has to move and I don’t see it coming from our end.
“We’ve given them a couple of good options to work with and they obviously don’t feel it’s good enough for them,” Cleary added. “We’re just at a stalemate I guess. We’re stuck in the middle right now.”
The league locked the players out at midnight on Sept. 16
This is the third lockout under NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.
The first, in 1994-95, ended after 103 days. The last time the league locked the players out it resulted in the cancellation of the 2004-05 season.
“I don’t even know what to think,” Cleary said. “My best way of going about it experience-wise is not even worrying about when it’s going to start, but just to sit around waiting for someone to call me and tell me when it’s going to start. The more you read and the more you listen, so many people have different opinions it can become frustrating.”
The NHL and the Players’ Association held informal discussions in Toronto on Monday.
Alex Ovechkin told Russia’s Sovietsky Sport that the players aren’t ‘going to cave in.’
“I will spend the entire season in the KHL,” he said. “It’s an absolute reality.”
Ovechkin went as far to tell Russia’s Sport-Express, “If our salaries get slashed, I’ll have to think about whether to return to (the) NHL.”
Cleary can see that happening.
“I don’t know if what Ovechkin was saying is a threat, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some do,” Cleary said. “If they don’t honor the contracts now and want another rollback, every guy that has a long-term contract is the best player, an All Star, if they want to take 17 or 18 percent off the top of like $50 to $100 million dollars these guys aren’t going to be very happy.”
Players are concerned owners haven’t addressed the league’s financial problems. And after making huge concessions to reach a deal in 2005, the players don’t feel like it should be on their shoulders again to give in to reach another CBA.
In 2005, players took an immediate 24 percent rollback on existing contracts. In return they got 57 percent of hockey-related revenues.
“I can tell you one thing, if the season is cancelled it won’t be by the players,” Jimmy Howard said. “All of us want to play, but at this point it’s the owners locking us out.”
The owners want to reduce the player’s percentage of hockey-related revenues to less than 50 percent.
The union offered a deal based on actual dollars, seeking a guarantee of the $1.8 billion players received last season.
“It’s putting a little speed bump in the momentum of our sport,” Todd Bertuzzi said. “With the superstars we have and the age they’re at, you don’t want to see them miss a season. You want to continue to showcase and build our sport. At the same time you do have to hammer out the details and get something that’s done right that’s long term, so we’re not coming back at the same stage every four or five years.”
Also in jeopardy would be the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day at the University of Michigan and the All-Star game in Columbus.
“I guess everyone was kind of prepared for this,” Drew Miller said. “Personally I didn’t think it was going to be three or four days of a lockout and then you’re done. I think it’s going to be a little longer. We’re doing what we can now, just skating and trying to stay in shape. We’re making sure we stay informed and hoping for the best.
“I think everyone was optimistic and hoping for something,” Miller added. “Right now you’re hoping something gets done and that we don’t lose a whole season if they’re going to battle that hard. Realistically it would be nice to get it done tomorrow, but I know that’s not going to happen so we just have to be patient and count on our leadership to take care of it.