Capitals center and NHLPA representative Brooks Laich is passionate about his hockey and can talk a blue streak.
Combine the two and you have an explosive 12-minute interview Laich gave reporters Friday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, one day before the NHLs Collective Bargaining Agreement is set to expire.
The Q and A starts slow, but picks up some serious steam, so here you go:
On current CBA negotiations:
Pretty even keel. There hasnt been any movement. They havent shown us any light at the end o the tunnel yet. Theres nothing to get too worked up about. The deadline hasnt come and gone yet. Were still pretty calm."
On Saturdays midnight deadline passing without a deal:
Well cross that bridge when we get there. The 15th is a deadline, the 21st is when camps are supposed to open, so thats a deadline. The first preseason games Sept. 23, thats when revenues start to come in, so thats a deadline. We understand what were fighting for and were prepared not to give in.
Its not like this has just come upon us. Weve had CBA prep meetings as far back as two years ago, so the players are prepared. Last time 2004-05 we feel we got the raw end of the deal and we have to fight this time. At some point you have to dig your heels in and fight. If we dont this time, then next time what happens? Appeasement only makes the aggressor more aggressive. The players really understand and we believe in our cause and in our leadership and I believe were more unified this time and ready for a fight.
On the leadership of NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr:
Having worked with Donald Fehr I believe hes the tip of the sword in sports labor negotiations He is a shark and if theres a deal to get done he will be able to make it. And if theres not a deal, hes not going to make a bad deal on our part. That man is sharp, wise, intelligent, crafty. He connects with his players, I think, in a better way than weve ever seen before. Im fully behind him and if you ask any player hell say the same thing. We believe in the leadership of our negotiating committee and this is the most unified our union has ever been."On if players are prepared to sacrifice an entire season to get what they want: If thats what it means. Players have long memories. One, NHL owners want to roll back our contracts, which I dont care what business youre in, is going to kick a fire under a lot of people. And the second part of it, which maybe goes overlooked a little bit because of the financial aspect, is that every contract ends with a handshake -- every single contract. Where I come from you honor your handshakes. If you dont honor your word you have nothing.
If I make a bad deal or sign a bad contract thats my fault. I accept that and Im a man and I work through that. Thats something I deal with. I dont go crying foul or looking for somebody to fix my mistakes. I accept that as a man, that I made a bad decision. Hockey players are pretty honest people and they dont like it when its coming back the other way.
I was raised when you give a man your word and you shake a hand its as good as gold. Thats something that I think really upsets the players, that were not being treated that way."
On the NHLs insistence on salary rollbacks:
Take the same context and apply it to a car dealership. If a car dealership sells all its cars for a thousand bucks and then a year later says, Geez, were not making any money or were having problems here, is that the consumers fault? Do you come asking them for more money? If you make a bad business decision, thats your fault. My brother and I own a business and if we make a bad business decision thats our fault. We accept it and we live with it. Players are passionate and were going to fight and were not going to give in. We believe in our leadership. At the end of the day a lockout is what happens when adults get in the way of a kids game. If we miss one day its truly a shame."
On playing in Europe:
Yeah, I grew up loving the game of hockey, not loving the NHL. All players want to play hockey. The beauty of the game today is that its a global game and there are other opportunities.
On July 15 the NHL says theres going to be a lockout if we dont have an agreement by Sept. 15. And then they come out and say the game is going to return because we have the greatest fans in the world. What happens if a lockout comes and the top 100 players in the world sign over in Europe for a year-long contract? Then what? Is the game going to return? The fans are coming to see the players, not coming to see the owners. The top players are always going to play. Theres always going to be a spot for them. This is the most competitive and toughest league to make it in the world. This is where the best hockey players are, so if theyre available other teams are going to come calling."On players leaving right away to play in Europe:
Weve discussed that. I will say this. One hundred percent of our effort is focused on getting a deal done. We all want to play for the Stanley Cup. We want to play for our respective teams. That is our goal. And until that is taken away from us were not really going to look for Option B. We believe in our stand, we believe in our fight and that is on the forefront of our minds. It isnt until the other side says thats not going to happen that well look elsewhere.
Every comment you see from every play is were looking for a fair deal. The state of the game is so great right now. We want to move this game forward. Its the other side saying, If we pass the deadline without a deal were locking you out. And that is a choice. Nowhere does it say that we cant proceed with training camp or even into the season without a new CBA and continue to negotiate in good faith, which, as a players association, we said we would do. The other side just isnt cooperating with that and we dont understand why."
On the impact a lockout will have on arena employees:
It has a massive, massive ripple effect to the tune I dont think people really understand. Parking, merchandising, everything. It affects a lot more people than just the players. Coaches. It affects families. If husbands have to go over to Europe to play hockey and their kids stay back for school. It affects kids. There are so many things this will affect. Its truly going to be a shame if we miss one game. Thats what happens when adults get in the way of a kids game.
On balancing getting a fair deal and impacting people who rely on the game:
Its actually pretty easy to balance because we 100 percent believe in our cause. If they came to you seven years ago and said, Were going to slash your salary 24 percent. That was a deal they bargained for and won and got. And now theyre coming and saying it didnt work, we need to do it again. Anybody would dig their heels in and say, Not this time. Im not accepting that. We believe in our cause. Any conversation starting with a rollback of players salaries is the end of the conversation. When they start with that, thats the end of it for the PA. Were not going to accept that. Thats why we are where we are.
On the NHL losing potential growth:
Its frustrating because the state of the game is better than its ever been There are so many good hockey players and good teams and good rivalries. Just look at the playoffs last year. The energy and the excitement the game of hockey created all across North America and even into Europe, its amazing. The other thing is that the Olympics are right around the corner. If we can keep hockey going and get hockey into the Olympics again were poised to take a major step with this sport and I dont see any benefit in having a work stoppage right now. The fans lose. Ultimately, theyre the ones that lose. They are the reason were able to do what we do and Id really feel bad if we missed one game and cost one kid a chance to see an NHL hockey game or to meet one of the players or get an autograph or a picture. It is truly going to be a shame if that happens.