The sea of hockey players faces standing behind NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr was a blend of veterans and youth, plenty of youth.
Most of the players taking part in the NHLPA meetings this week in Chicago werent part of the NHL when it was locked out for the 2004-05 season. The Jonathan Toews, the Troy Brouwers, the John Tavares.
But that doesnt mean they cant learn from history.
The players understand what happened last time. A bunch lived through it, and those who didnt have been told by the guys who did, Fehr said as the NHLPA meetings wrapped up on Wednesday. They understand what took place.
Players, obviously, dont want it to happen again. And while theres a long way to go in the new collective bargaining agreement talks, its in everyones best interest to avoid the 2004-05 mess.
The NHLPA named its negotiating committee, a 31-player group representing a cross-section of the league, on Wednesday. The group will be closely involved in the collective bargaining process between the players association and the league. Various members will attend bargaining sessions and regular correspondence will be conducted throughout the process, as a means of keeping the entire committee updated. The Blackhawks Steve Montador and Brendan Morrison are part of the committee.
And top priority is getting resolution as quickly as possible to keep this now successful NHL machine running.
When we approach negotiations, the object is to get a deal done which can continue that momentum, and continue it uninterrupted, Fehr said Wednesday. Other individuals have said they hope and expect well have quick and painless negotiation. From our standpoint, nothing would make us happier.
The NHL has continued to grow in its post-lockout years. Everything is up: Interest, TV ratings, revenue. Stopping all of that would be a grave mistake because who knows how long it would take to build all of that back up again?
Remember that the league had two very prized reasons to watch when they returned in 2005-06. Crosby and Ovechkin. If this season goes bye-bye, there probably isnt anyone with the dynamics those two have to draw fans in again. Maybe the NFL can go into a work stoppage or two (or more) and not lose steam. The NHL cant.
If the players and owners cant come to an agreement by the time the current CBA expires on Sept. 15, Fehr said they could still start training camp and the season as long as the parties are willing to keep negotiating. In that scenario, the league would just continue to work under the current CBA. But, as Fehr said, we hope we dont have to worry about that.
Many are hoping that never comes to fruition. Its just not worth the price they could pay if hockey goes away again.