More than 200 NHL players are in New York today, hoping another proposal by executive director Donald Fehr will lead to a Collective Bargaining Agreement before a lockout is ordered on Saturday night.
Its crunch time, says Capitals defenseman John Carlson, who is in New York with teammate Karl Alzner.
I think itll be big for everyone to shell out what we want to shell out. Were all on board. Were all on the same team and were all trying to do the same thing and thats play hockey.
Capitals forward Jason Chimera says players are willing to play without a contract, as long as there is enough progress to get a deal done at some point during the season.
But dont expect league commissioner Gary Bettman to accept those conditions. He has already stated the owners will lock out the players if an agreement is not reached by 11:59 Saturday night.
It would be pretty embarrassing as a league to lock us out and not start the season on time, Chimera said
Its frustrating. We want to play and I think thats the biggest thing. We want to play and kind of hash it out during the season. Under law we can still play and get a new CBA during the year, so thats what the guys want to do.
But the owners and Gary Bettman dont want to do that. So it would be pretty unfortunate if it comes to Sept. 15 and were not playing.
NHL rookie camps are scheduled to begin on Sept. 16, followed by training camps for veterans on Sept. 21 and preseason games shortly thereafter. The NHL regular season is slated to begin Oct. 11.
Capitals defenseman Jack Hillen said he is encouraged by the fact that Fehr and Bettman are talking, but wonders if there is enough time to close the economic gap that exists. The NHL has offered the players 46 percent of league revenues, while the players have not moved off their current take of 57 percent.
Hopefully, it doesn't get to a lockout, Hillen said. But from everything Ive heard it doesn't sound too optimistic right now. From what I understand there's a bit of a divide, but they're both working and that's all you can really ask at this point.
If nothing else, the NHL players union has shown unyielding support for Fehr and seems prepared to wait as long as necessary to get a deal it deems fair to the more than 700 players in the union.
From the meetings I've been with him, hes really smart, really organized and I think hes the best man for the job, Hillen said. I'm really glad that hes working for us.
You can say hes a hard negotiator. I think he just wants whats fair for the players. And thats all were trying to do, is get a fair deal for both sides. He's sticking up for us; thats all you can ask of him.