Bondra shares thoughts on lockout

Bondra shares thoughts on lockout
October 26, 2012, 12:00 pm
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Former Capitals star Peter Bondra has two words of advice for players being locked out in the most recent NHL work stoppage: Just play.

“If anybody has a chance to play somewhere else I suggest they do,” Bondra said Friday in a phone interview.

“I played for seven games back home [in 2004] and I was in the game. I felt that’s where I wanted to be, that’s what I wanted to do. I think the guys who have gone to play in the KHL and the European leagues, it’s much more easy to go through this process than the guys sitting home.”

The NHL lockout has prompted a mass exodus overseas, with 128 NHL players signing with teams in Europe, including the Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Brooks Laich, Wojtek Wolski and Michal Neuvirth.

Bondra lived through two NHL lockouts as a member of the Capitals. During the abbreviated 1994-95 season, he signed with the Detroit Vipers of the International Hockey League and played seven games. And in 2004-05 he signed with HK Poprad of the Slovak Extraliga and played six games.

“Some guys may benefit from staying home because hockey is a lot of travel and if they have families their wives are probably happy to have their husbands around,” Bondra said. “But for a whole year it would be tough.”

With no agreement in place and no scheduled talks between the owners and players, the NHL announced on Friday the cancellation of all games through November.

“It’s kind of tough,” Bondra said. “Obviously, [as a player] you want to stay positive. You’re trusting your union. As a player you’re trying to find as much information as you can and you just have to hang in.”

Like most players, Bondra said he still regrets missing out on the entire 2004-05 NHL season and now wonders how much was gained from that work stoppage.

“As a retired player, I’ve been through it,” he said. “Looking back, I missed a whole year and that’s a year you’re never going to get back. How stupid was it? The salary is a part of it, but you miss a whole year in your career. Now it’s just a big zero on my stats.

“It’s not necessarily about the stats, but I hope the players don’t have to go through another year of not playing. Some players might miss two years of their career because of these lockouts.”

Back in 2004-05, before the installment of a salary cap, the NHL was taking in $2.2 billion in revenues and players were averaging $1.4 million in annual salaries. Last season, the NHL brought in $3.3 billion and players earned an average of $2.4 million. Now the two sides can’t agree on how to split the revenue.

“It’s a business with a lot of money and there is a big cake laying on the table,” Bondra said. “Who’s going to cut the bigger piece? It’s like two brothers trying to share. It sounds nice but the time hopefully comes soon that they solve the problem and both sides benefit from this. I hope fans will stay with hockey and not turn in another direction.”

Bondra has a personal stake in the NHL and its players coming to an agreement, or at least his oldest son does. David Bondra plays hockey for Michigan State, which is scheduled to participate in the Hockeytown Winter Festival Dec. 27 at Comerica Park. The event is contingent upon the playing of the 2013 Winter Classic between the Red Wings and Maple Leafs at Michigan Stadium.

Bondra said that while things may look bleak between the owners and players he does not see the NHL blowing up the entire season as they did eight years ago.

“I think there will be a season,” he said. “Just looking back at the numbers, hockey has grown as a sport and it would be a shame to not have a season. The last time, hockey benefited from the lockout, but I think this time will be different.

“Just look at the economy and look at how much money is involved in this. It’s a shame. Hopefully, in the next couple weeks or before December 15th, hockey season will be on.”