OK, the Armageddon clock is five days and counting. The players are getting more adamant and vocal for the lockout to be stopped. The players want to play, and they’re frustration is now being shared more openly with the media. Players have already started discussing openly to likely possibility of them playing next season in the AHL, OHL, or Europe. Andrew Ference, current defenseman, and former NHLPA rep for the team offered up his feelings on the state of the impending lockout.
“It’s disheartening to a lot of fans and players that’s the road that’s taken [by the owners], where a lockout is the first option,” (Sadly for us hockey fans, two previous lockouts have given Bettman and the owners a near Pavlovian response) “I think that’s where the frustrations for a lot of people sets in, where it doesn’t even seem like it’s a real negotiation. You throw numbers around like that and — like I’ve said, if it weren’t for the last lockout where [the players] gave up a tremendous amount to come up with a system that I think [the owners] were extremely happy with.” (As opposed to the one the NHLPA came up with that could have fixed the league and quite possibly ended its financial woes.)
Ference even had a moment of respect for NHL commissioner Bettman. “I think Gary has done a tremendous job with getting the revenues up under his watch and under his plan — then all of a sudden they act surprised where those numbers are at is, I think, disheartening.” # 21 said that the players are willing to play under the current system as negotiations continued. He still hopes that the NHL will chose to extend the deadline rather than lock the players out on Saturday. “The system that Gary and the league created has been successful, as I said, from the players’ view and the league’s point of view. If you look at the numbers, you can’t argue that. That’s why we were and are fully committed to keep playing under the system.
“If you look at what’s happened in negotiations, we’re fully committed to playing and continue to playing and not have any work stoppage at all.” offered Ference. While the current NHLPA rep for the Boston Bruins is ‘Merlot Man’ Dan Paille, Ference has been in the league for a decade, and has seen his share of craziness take part in past league/labor issues. “But once that first offer was thrown out there, it obviously sends everybody for a little bit of a curve, and we responded with our proposal to combat some of the things they’re complaining about so we don’t have to revisit this in another couple of years.”
“We can talk all we want, and it doesn’t matter when there’s no real date from their side. If the first option of pressure is a lockout, then it doesn’t really matter. We’re coming at this from a mature point of view and a realistic point of view. Our proposal we believe was realistic. It’s not like we have a guy [Fehr] in there that doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He brought a lot of financial success to baseball under his leadership and his plans as well. So to continue playing under a system that they so badly wanted and got, I don’t think is such an extreme idea.”
At this point Bruins Nation, an extreme idea would be seeing the league’s season start on time.