Oh, what a wonderful last day of this pre-election season – eh, dear readers? At least hockey fans will have something to keep them occupied between exit polling reports on Tuesday, as the NHL and NHLPA are scheduled to meet in New York.
Certainly there was no great feel of optimism about that development from the five Penguins players who attended a workout at Southpointe on Monday. Of those five only union rep Craig Adams said he was only considering booking a flight to New York – and he did not sound thrilled the next negotiation session was being held in a city still dealing with the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.
Adams wondered why the NHL and NHLPA couldn’t meet in an easier-to-access city, such as Chicago. Also, he said, no city so devastated by a natural disaster should have to accommodate hockey players flying in to meet with owners.
Adams was joined Monday by teammates Sidney Crosby, Matt Cooke, Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz. Also at the workout was former Penguins goalie Brent Johnson. The skaters at the workout seemed to take a wait-and-see approaching about the Tuesday meeting, at least until after they participated on a 4 p.m. conference call with other NHLPA members.
“There’s updates when updates need to happen, so there’s that call today at 4 (p.m.). We’ll see what transpires,” Cooke said. “The goal is to get back to the table, to negotiate without anybody walking away. The only way that’s going to happen is if they are committed to striking a deal. We’ll see after the call today.”
Cooke’s forehead was bandaged because a chunk of skin is missing after he was sliced by an errant blade-raise from Crosby last Friday.
“There was nothing to stitch,” Cooke said.
He and his wife, Michelle, will join Crosby in a private suite at Consol Energy Center on Tuesday night for the Madonna concert. Crosby said other teammates will attend, though he’ll be the only one there who isn’t married.
Of course, that means Crosby did not plan to attend the Tuesday meeting in New York.
“No, I’m not going up. I’m not sure who they want up there, who’s invited,” he said.
Talks last Saturday between NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr and deputy commissioner Bill Daly did catch Crosby’s attention.
“I’m more confident because there is dialogue, and that’s good,” he said. “Nothing, I don’t think, got settled as far as a clear-cut issue. They’ve talked about it, agreed to a meeting this week, and that’s good. You kind of don’t want to read into anything.”
That sentiment was echoed by other Penguins players on Monday.
“I don’t think we’re at that point where 24 hours will be enough to get a deal done,” Adams said. “There’s obviously been enough work on both sides leading up to this, so it’s not like we’re starting from scratch. I think things could get done quickly, but it all depends on if we can reach agreement on some big things.”
Details of a revised “make whole” proposal have not be revealed by the NHL, though there are reports that the league has offered to immediately fully guarantee current contracts. That would represent a move from the offer the NHL presented Oct. 16.
The lack of hostility in statements released Sunday by Daly and Fehr hinted at a break in what had become a labor impasse filled with acrimony over recent weeks.
Monday is Day 51 of the owners’ lockout of players. Games through November and the New Year’s Day Winter Classic have already been canceled by the NHL.
Americans will elect a President on Tuesday. Predicting that outcome may be easier than calling what will happen at the NHL/union meeting in New York. At this point it seems the best hockey fans can hope for is that negotiations don’t break off.
If the meeting does not carry into Wednesday, this tenuous labor negotiation may go off the rails for longer than even the worst nightmare for a positive-thinking hockey fan.