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updated: 9/17/2012 8:09 PM

With both sides silent, NHL players hold informal practice

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With NHL players unable to use team facilities, it was up to Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews to organize Monday's informal practice that included paying for ice time at Johnny's Ice House West.

"It's like pulling teeth trying to collect 10 bucks from everybody," Toews joked.

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Welcome to another NHL lockout.

A total of 30 players showed up to skate, scrimmage and basically keep in shape while waiting for what's going to happen next.

There were no formal talks Monday between the league and players association, and none are expected until at least Wednesday. The lockout threatens to prevent training camps from opening Friday as scheduled.

"I would love to be able to say and do believe there will be a season, but I can't guess when that might be," said Hawks union representative Steve Montador.

"I don't think anyone on their side or our side will be saying we'll sit out the whole year to get what we're after, but if it gets to the point of no return we'll cross that bridge when we get to it."

Montador was a young defenseman with the Calgary Flames during the last lockout that wiped out the entire 2004-05 season.

"It's a different mentality this time around," Montador said. "I think there's a sense of strength and empowerment as a union we didn't have before. It's a confidence that we can go in any direction because we believe in what we're doing.

"So if it takes five minutes or five days or five weeks, we understand what we're doing and why."

Montador credits NHLPA executive director Don Fehr with helping unite the union.

Most players remain optimistic there will be a season at some point.

"My gut feeling says that eventually we'll agree on something that makes sense for both sides," Toews said. "I think we've shown we're ready and willing to work toward a reasonable deal that's fair to both sides."

"I am optimistic, but at the same time it is frustrating understanding this situation," Toews said. "It doesn't make a lot of sense. You look at how well the league's been doing and how the game's been growing the last eight years or so and there's no reason that it can't be worked out.

"But it's up to them to figure it out. I think the plan we've come up with makes a lot of sense. There's no reason why they can't accept that. It's more stubbornness than anything else."

Former Hawk Brian Campbell, who still lives in Chicago and worked out with his ex-teammates, was with Buffalo during the last lockout in 2004-05, and he said there is no way the players will accept another substantial pay cut like the did back then.

"We're willing to help out and we definitely want to get something done," Campbell said. "For us we'll sacrifice, but I don't know we're going to sacrifice 24 percent. We've already done that once. We're willing to help out, but I don't think the burden should always be on us."

Added Hawks center Dave Bolland: "It's just a waiting period right now. You never know how long this will take. You just keep skating and be ready. It could be a few weeks or few days.

"You do get frustrated, but you can't let that take over. We are (unified). Players are sticking together, and that's how it should be."

tsassone@dailyherald.com

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