'Ill feelings' remain as Capitals return to work

'Ill feelings' remain as Capitals return to work
January 9, 2013, 4:00 pm
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Now that the NHL’s owners have ratified their agreement with the players and commissioner Gary Bettman has apologized to the league’s fans, it’s now the players’ turn to vote.

Bettman did his part on Wednesday by getting the league’s 30 owners to unanimously ratify the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

“To our players, our partners and our fans - I am sorry," Bettman said in the league's news conference. "I read the letters. I followed the tweets. I read the blogs. We have a lot of work to do to gain back your support." 

On Thursday and Friday the league’s 700-plus players will begin casting their votes to ratify the agreement.

“We’ll see how it turns out,” Capitals alternate player rep Troy Brouwer said Wednesday, “but I’m assuming there’s going to be hockey this season.”

Let’s hope so.

Once the players complete their vote, the 300-plus-page document is expected to be ratified on Saturday, which would allow training camps to officially open on Sunday.

For those wondering if players are willing to kiss and make up after missing more than three months of paychecks, well … not so fast, says Brouwer.

“There’s probably going to be some ill feelings,” he said. “It’s hard not to when all you want to do is play hockey and you’re being locked out. But at the same time it’s a business. They’re trying to better their industry and we’re trying to help.”

“You’ve kind of got to shrug it off a little bit. But it’s still going to linger.”

Following the ratification process the NHL will release its 2013 schedule, beginning with games on Jan. 19. On the original 2012-13 schedule the Capitals were to visit the Tampa Bay Lightning that night and it appears that’s where they will open their season, especially since U.S. presidential inauguration falls on that Monday.

The Caps are tentatively scheduled to play their first home game on Tuesday, Jan. 22.

Capitals general manager George McPhee said there will be no preseason games and that could make for an interesting start to the season.

“There are going to be a lot of unknowns here,” McPhee said. “No one knows what this is going to look like. Who’s in shape; who’s not? Who gets off to a fast start; who doesn’t? It’s going to be like 48 playoff games, really unpredictable. But I guess that’s what’s going to make it exciting.”

Although a schedule has not been finalized, it appears each team will play five games against two divisional opponents, four games against two other divisional opponents and three games against the other 10 conference opponents.

That means the Caps will be seeing a whole lot of the Hurricanes, Jets, Lightning and Panthers.

As for the many other issues involving the 300-plus-plage CBA, representatives from the league and players have agreed to meet over 10 consecutive days in February to iron out details of the agreement.

In the meantime, Brouwer said players are welcome to participate in conference calls that allow them to better understand how the new CBA affects them individually, like how much of their salaries are placed in escrow.

“It’s hard to make the escrow predictions because we don’t know what the revenues are going to be for this season,” Brouwer said. “Other than that, guys should know what their contracting rights are.”

Brouwer managed to secure his future shortly before the lockout took effect, agreeing on a three-year extension worth $11 million. The extension begins with the 2013-14 season and carries through 2015-16.

“It was important from a personal sense because I wanted to have a little security for my family with the baby coming,” said Brouwer, whose wife, Carmen, gave birth to a baby girl named Kylie Marie in October. “I wasn’t sure how the new rules would be and I didn’t want to have too many questions of whether I was going to have to move to a new team and a new city.”

“I like the atmosphere here in Washington. I like the ay we played last year and how much fun it is to play in the Verizon Center and how passionate the fans are. It was a pretty easy decision.”