NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr indicated Monday that labor negotiations with management would start very quickly after the players met for three days here in Chicago.
Just a day later, it was revealed that bargaining sessions with the league will begin Friday in New York, following Wednesdays introduction of the 30-member players union negotiating committee.
Tuesday would be the longest of the three days spent at the Peninsula Hotel. The 53 players on-hand broke into three groups and rotated into different sessions specializing on various topics, and didnt wind up until after 5 p.m. Call it an Education Day. Safe to say everything ranging from revenue-sharing, to salary caps, to escrow payments, to Olympic participation was covered.
Its about getting a chance to share your feelings, said Blackhawks player representative Steve Montador. Its not a one-way street, but a two-way street of enabling and empowering players to speak up, and share and give their opinions while were getting a lot of information and learning a lot.
We had a lot of discussions about what our priorities are, former Hawk and current Capital Troy Brouwer said. Its why we broke down into groups to try to educate ourselves a little more in small groups, so youre not as intimidated to talk and share ideas.
As hard-line as Executive Director Fehr was running Major League Baseballs union for 24 years, there were several cases in which negotiations carried on despite a season at-hand and no deal in place. He expressed a willingness Monday to do the same here, but players like Brouwer know a lot of being able to pull that off comes from the state of talks when the current CBA ends September 15th, and if the feelings mutual on the management side.
Youve got to look out for yourselves. Obviously, we want to play hockey and we want to make sure we can do everything in our power that theres a season come September.
Brouwer was just a fan seven years ago when the entire 2004-05 season was lost prior to the current collective bargaining agreement finally being reached. Current Blackhawks Montador and Jamal Mayers were players who wound up finding work in France and Sweden, respectively. Montador was coming off a Game 7 loss in the Stanley Cup Final for Calgary against Tampa Bay.
We made a number of concessions last time that cost us a season, he reflected Tuesday. Nobody wants to miss a season of hockey players, fans, owners. The game has made too many positive strides the past seven years to try and warrant that. We have a lot to look forward to, and a lot of room to work to get a new deal done. We have issues we want to stand on and we have to be able to represent that. With the corps of players we have here (at the meetings in Chicago), were capable of doing that.
And from experience, Mayers knows league executives and owners will have their own spin on things, beginning Friday.
Obviously, we made a lot of huge concessions last time. Theres going to be issues that arise, but the league for the last seven years has seen revenues grow. Im sure theyll have their angle, but my hope is we can get a deal done. Like all things, it always takes time and pressure for things to happen. But well have faith in this negotiating committee to do the job.
A Full Monty?
Montador says he feels full-strength with one caveat since suffering a concussion in early February, then having an immediate setback when he finally returned seven weeks later, costing him the rest of the season.
Its been just over the last few weeks Ive been feeling as good as Ive felt in a long time. I havent been in game situations or cleared for contact officially, but Im really encouraged with how I feel now, and being able to train for the season thats coming.
The season we hope is coming.
Okay, maybe Brouwer didnt knock on Caps GM George McPhees door or give him a phone call, but you had to figure he was rooting for ex-Blackhawks assistant Coach Mike Haviland to get the Capitals head coaching job that was given to Devils Assistant Adam Oates Tuesday. Brouwer played under Haviland in the minors as well.
It wouldve been nice for Havi. I know hes worked his way up through the ranks and done a good job. Im not sure what happened in Chicago, but Ive been with him for a long time, and hes been nothing but great to me and had a lot of influence on my hockey career.
But the winger knows he has to please the new boss, a former Capitals captain whose day also included election into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Guys already know he was able to do a lot of good things in his career and was an impact on any team he played for. I think hes going to bring some of that mentality to our team.