The Capitals were supposed to be finishing up their preseason schedule this weekend with home games against the Nashville Predators Friday night and the Detroit Red Wings Sunday.
Instead, seven Capitals hit the ice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex on Thursday, Day 19 of the NHL lockout, waiting for the first slate of regular season games to be canceled. The Caps were scheduled to open the season Friday, Oct. 12 at home against the New Jersey Devils.
With no negotiations scheduled and each side still waiting for counter-proposals, it could be months before the NHL is back in action.
Its up to the owners, Capitals veteran left wing Jason Chimera said. They keep saying we need to come back with a proposal. It seems like were the only ones making concessions right now.
Its tough for the regular fan to get into it because its billionaires against millionaires. But ultimately they want to take 17 percent off our paychecks and they wont back down from that. Weve made proposals in their direction every time.
In the expired Collective Bargaining Agreement, NHL players took in 57 percent of the leagues hockey-related revenue. In his initial proposal, commissioner Gary Bettman cut that figure to 43 percent before eventually raising it to 47 percent. The players most recent proposal has their share of revenue never falling below 52 percent.
I think we would have had a deal done if they hadnt started off with that initial proposal they made, Chimera said. The initial proposal was absurd. It was just a slap in the face.
Most players were optimistic when we heard we got a proposal and when they threw that at us a lot of guys were kind of shocked and bewildered. Why would they do that? Its their choice for locking us out. We could be playing in a weeks time. Thats the kicker. We said all along wed hammer it out while we play.
On Thursday Chimera was joined by forwards Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Ribeiro, Jay Beagle and Matt Hendricks and defensemen John Carlson and Mike Green. Defenseman Karl Alzner, in town for a fund-raising event, watched from the bench.
Two fans watched from the stands.
Its going to have a very big impact on the game when you start losing games, Chimera said. At this time of year the stands are usually packed with people. Thats not the case. People just arent thinking about hockey and it hurts the game, big-time. We were just gaining popularity in the States and its a shame to lose that over something that should be hammered out.
Deep down, Chimera says he believes an agreement will be reached within a month or two and that an abbreviated season will begin before the turn of the calendar. Until then, most of his disappointment is directed at Bettman, who is on the verge of losing regular season games for the second time in his tenure.
The NHL's last lockout wiped out the entire 2004-05 season.
I think there will be a season, Chimera said, but players are pretty adamant. The players are pretty unified. I dont know if Gary thinks a lockout is another tool to help him. Hes the only guys in sports who seems to like lockouts.