NHL locks its doors

NHL locks its doors
September 16, 2012, 3:55 am
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Adam Oates has a new office and a new coaching staff but no players to coach.

George McPhee has a perch above the Capitals' practice rink, but no hockey to watch.

When the clock struck 12 Saturday night and Sept. 15 slipped into Sept. 16, the NHLs Collective Bargaining Agreement expired and a work stoppage became official.

The leagues second lockout in eight years came quietly late Saturday night, without an announcement from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman; without a statement from NHL players association executive director Donald Fehr.

Until the leagues 30 owners and 700-plus players can agree on how to divide an estimated 3.3 billion in annual revenue, players will be locked out of team facilities and the tedious process of cancellations will begin.

First to go will be all NHL rookie camps, originally scheduled to begin on Monday. Next will be the start of training camps, originally set for Sept. 21, followed by preseason games slated to begin on Sept. 23. And, unless there is significant progress in talks between Bettman and Fehr, the Oct. 11 start of the regular season is in serious jeopardy.

Nobody ever wants to see a lockout, Caps veteran right wing Joel Ward said. It doesnt matter what kind of work you do.

Its hard because we waited all summer to get back in the swing of things and build off the positives of last year. Guys were looking forward to get back and it just sucks we wont be able to get a chance to play.

Few in the Caps organization were looking more forward to the 2012-13 season than Adam Oates, who is anxious to begin his first year behind the Washington bench along with assistants Tim Hunter and Calle Johansson.

Im frustrated because obviously I want to start coaching, Oates said. But its part of life. The union issue is the same with everybody. When it happens Ill get my chance.

The players are being locked out by the owners because they rejected a proposal in which their share of league revenue would be sliced from 57 percent to 49 percent, a figure that would be reduced to 47 percent in the final year of the NHLs six-year proposal.

The players most recent proposal called for salary increases of 2 percent, 4 percent and 6 percent in the first three years and featured no salary rollbacks.

Capitals defenseman John Carlson was among the nearly 300 NHL players in New York Wednesday and Thursday to meet with Fehr and show a united front.

The number of people that showed up should tell you something -- that were together and how much we care, Carlson said.

You look around and you see guys you battled against in the playoffs. It doesnt matter at this point. Its cool to see that guys you might hate youre on the same side now and were all trying to do the same thing.

Several players, including Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, have said they will begin playing in Europe as soon as this week and many are making preparations for a long lockout, saving paychecks from last season and relying on stipends from the union.

If they go out for another year I think it will be a big impact because some of these guys, like the Russians, are going to go home and find out they can really make good money there, said Fred Welker, a Capitals season ticket holder for 23 years.

The Stanley Cup is a big thing, dont get me wrong. But money talks.

Jean Williams of Owens Mills, Md., is concerned that if the NHL lockout drags on for several months, the fans that were cultivated after the last lockout of 2004-05 may never return.

Its a lose-lose for everybody, he said. The fans, the players, the league. I think people will go other places. I think people will find it hard to forgive.