SAN JOSE Anyone who has read about or paid attention to the recent NHL-NHLPA collective bargaining negotiations knows theres been a dearth of optimism. The two sides remain far apart on core economic issues with just five days to go before the expiration of the current deal on September 15, and no formal meetings between the two sides are scheduled this week.
Ryane Clowe, however, offered a glimmer of hope - faint as it is - on Monday, after an informal practice at Sharks Ice that featured more than 20 NHL players and prospects.
I think when you get to these situations, people say why didnt you start negotiating sooner? But, it always seems to come down to the last minute anyway, Clowe said. Im guessing thats whats going to happen.
My feeling is that both sides want to get something done. I strongly believe that. When, and how soon? Maybe sooner rather than later, but thats just my gut feeling.
Make no mistake though, Clowe doesnt think a deal is imminent, and by no means is he declaring that he expects the season to start on time. Like every other member of the players association, the rugged Sharks forward of seven NHL seasons views the owners initial CBA proposals as unfair. The owners would like to significantly reduce what they are paying out in terms of player salaries from the 57 percent that was agreed to under the current CBA.
Increased revenue sharing from the big money makers, to the smaller clubs that struggle to generate enough money, remains a key issue for the players despite Gary Bettmans declaration that that particular issue is distracting.
We understand that if were going to give something back, we want the owners to do that also, and contribute, sad Clowe. We feel like with the proposal we made, it takes care of some of the issues as far as having a strong league in the future, and a healthy league.
Clowe doesnt foresee the players waiving that revenue sharing request, and is hopeful that the owners will reconsider their stance on the issue when they meet on Thursday.
We feel strongly about that. I dont feel like thats something thats going to change or come off the table.
The owners took some time, I think, to think about that one, and theres a Board of Governors meeting this week in New York, and I think what they discuss in there will be key for how we go ahead here.
Its believed that some of the big market clubs are, not surprisingly, reluctant to write bigger checks to some of the small market teams despite record revenues and the fact that theyve cashed in on extravagant expansion and relocation fees over the years. The league also has a new 10-year, 2 billion television contract with NBC set to begin.
The NHLPA will be holding meetings of its own in New York, and several hundred players are expected to attend. From the Sharks, Tommy Wingels, Brent Burns and Douglas Murray will be boarding a cross-country flight to sit in on the meetings led by union boss Donald Fehr. Murray, the Ivy League graduate from Cornell, has been involved in a number of sit-downs with Fehr and Bettman in recent weeks.
How do players not directly involved in the meetings stay up to date? Well, theres an app for that.
You log in and read what went on for the day, and Fehr keeps us really informed, Logan Couture said.
Like Clowe, Couture is trying to remain optimistic as the deadline approaches. He recently returned to San Jose, as has most of the roster, in the hopes that training camp opens on time on September 21.
Were all here ready for the season to start, Couture said. Thats why you see so many guys here. We all came out early, working out together as a team and skating as a team. Were all getting ready for the season to start so well see what happens when the time comes, but right now were all getting prepared.
We all want to play the game we love. We play in the best league in the world, and we want it to start on time. Im sure all of us are optimistic, but as time gets closer and nothing happens, you can only start to get a little pessimistic.