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Local NHL players optimistic about season, despite looming lockout deadline

by Chris Daponte

WELLINGTON CTY.

Two local National Hockey League players are concerned about a Sept. 15 lockout deadline set by commissioner Gary Bettman, but both are optimistic there will be a season - whether or not an agreement is reached by this Saturday.

“At the end of the day, every player I’ve talked to wants to play,” Jamie McGinn said on Sept. 6. “We just want a fair shake.”

The 24-year-old Fergus native is eager to begin his first full season with the Colorado Avalanche after being traded to the team last season from the San Jose Sharks.

But as part of the NHL Player’s Association, he has been forced to play the waiting game until his union and NHL owners can reach a new collective bargaining agreement.

“It’s not a fun game,” McGinn said, but it may be necessary to ensure the new deal “is fair for all sides.”

Drayton’s Nick Spaling, who will turn 24 next week, agreed a delay to the start of the season would be unfortunate, but both the owners and players want to get a deal done.

“There’s still a ways to go,” Spaling said last week of the negotiations. “We’ve got to make sure things are in place and that they’re fair for everyone.”

Spaling, a Nashville Predators forward entering his fourth NHL campaign, said all players can do is stay in shape and keep up on the latest discussions between the league and the NHLPA.

“There’s been lots of ways to get involved and stay informed,” said Spaling.

He noted players receive regular email updates from their team’s NHLPA representatives and players can attend any meetings they want, whether earlier this summer in Toronto or ongoing talks in New York City.

If an agreement can’t be reached between the two sides, the league would lock out players for the second time in eight years and third time since 1994.

While many fans are still bitter about losing the entire 2004-05 season and shudder at the very mention of the word “lockout,” there are very few similarities between this labour dispute and the one in 2004.

Eight years ago the main issues were instituting a hard salary cap - which the players vehemently opposed but was eventually brought in - and revenue sharing.

This time around the biggest issue is “hockey-related revenue” (HRR); specifically, how that revenue is defined and what percentage players should receive.

The league has asked players to reduce their share of HRR from 57 percent to 51 percent (up from its initial proposal of 46 per cent), although some have suggested that figure would actually be closer to 48 per cent if the owners get their way on what defines HRR. The owners also want a five-year limit on contracts.

The latest players’ proposal agrees to a reduced share of HRR for three years, with a return to 57 per cent in the fourth year of the deal.

While it may appear the sides are arguing over a few percentage points, a three point difference on $3.3 billion in HRR (the figure from last season) amounts to nearly $100 million, causing many pundits to opine the league and players are still far apart on a deal.

As late as this week, word was leaked that the players may be willing to play and continue to negotiate even if a deal is not reached by Sept. 15, although some have suggested that is a ploy aimed at gaining favour with fans.

McGinn told the Advertiser that even if a lockout is declared this week, he is optimistic a deal would still be reached that would salvage the 2012-13 campaign.

“We’re still hopeful there’s going to be a season,” said McGinn.

He added that as of last week he has not made any plans to play elsewhere, noting he intends to stay in the Centre Wellington area until the matter is resolved.

“I’m just worried about training for the Avalanche,” McGinn said, noting he has been training in the GTA all summer.

“I’m just trying to stay in shape and make sure I’m sharp and ready to go.”

Spaling has split time this summer between his parents’ place in Drayton and training in Waterloo with a group of NHL and AHL players.

In the short-term, he plans to continue his training in the area, though he noted some players are already making alternative arrangements in case the start of the NHL season is delayed - or lost altogether.

“There’s definitely some back-up plans being put into place,” Spaling said, though he added nothing has been confirmed as of yet.

Spaling also remains hopeful this season will not be lost.

“The end goal for both sides is to play hockey,”  he said.

Late this week, leading up to the Sept. 15 deadline, Donald Fehr, executive director of the NHLPA, was to meet with over 200 players in New York, while Bettman met with the board of governors.

Vol 45 Issue 37

September 14, 2012

ReliableFord

Wellington County

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