From the very start of the NHL lockout, Capitals player representative Troy Brouwer has been on top of every aspect of negotiations between the NHL and its players’ union.
So when the NHL extended cancellations of regular season games through Jan. 14 on Friday, Brouwer’s reaction was strong and to the point.
“It’s a little disappointing that the league doesn’t have enough faith in the process that they’re getting closer to canceling the season,” Brouwer told CSNWashington.com. “We think there are definitely terms for an agreement to be reached right now but there needs to be talks or nothing is going to work itself out.”
Representatives from the NHL and its player’s union have not spoken since last week, when the owners rejected the players’ counterproposal to an offer that called for a 10-year Collective Bargaining Agreement, a five-year maximum on player contract lengths and a 5 percent variance in player salaries from the start of the contract to its conclusion.
Asked if the league might be sending a message with Friday’s cancellations, presumably the last before the NHL calls off the entire season, Brouwer wondered what the NHL’s motive might be.
“I don’t know, maybe their strategy is to drag this out as long as they can and hope something breaks on our end rather than playing games,” he said. “It’s disappointing because we feel we should be playing hockey right now and there’s no reason we shouldn’t, except for some stubborn people who aren’t willing to make a deal and just trying to create more money for themselves.
“The last time we tried to talk to them they told us to take their offer or we’re not talking to you. We’re assuming that’s still the premise. If they’re not willing to talk and get off their offer and start negotiating instead of giving us a take-it-or-leave-it, I don’t know if anything’s going to happen because obviously the players aren’t happy with the last deal they gave us. If there’s no room to negotiate and no room to have any movement we might be facing an end-of-the-year stoppage.”
With Friday’s cancellations, the NHL has set itself a new deadline for an agreement. In 1994-95, the league and its players settled on a new CBA on Jan. 11 and began a 48-game season on Jan. 20.
Asked the minimum number of games that would need to be played to constitute a legitmate regular season, Brouwer laughed and replied, “Eighty-two.”
“Really. I mean, unless you have a full season it’s not the same. But with that being said I think at least more than half of the games need to be played.
“Let’s face it, if you have a shortened season like that and you go on a four-game winning streak it almost ensures you make the playoffs. On the flip side if you lose four a row you might have to win six or seven in a row to get back in the playoff picture.
“It makes every game more important but if we did have a season and the Stanley Cup was handed out no one would care how many games were played.”
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has stated that if an agreement is reached, he would accept no shorter than a 48-game schedule. If that occurs, games would need to begin no later than the third week of January.
In other words, a deal needs to be reached within the next two weeks or you can kiss the 2012-13 season goodbye.
“With this round of cancellations we have to be getting close to [a drop-dead date] because you can’t just continue on and expect to get enough games in and stretch the season into the summer and expect guys to have enough rest and be 100 percent for the following season,” Brouwer said. “I think the deadline is getting a lot closer.”