NHL closer to repeating bad history
Patrick Sharp was there the last time NHL owners locked out the players. Now it's as if he is living a bad dream all over again.
Sharp was a rookie with the Philadelphia Flyers when the NHL canceled the entire 2004-05 season because of a failure to negotiate a new collective-bargaining agreement, and it's looking like history could repeat itself.
"I'm sure it can (happen again)," Sharp said of the possibility of missing a second season in seven years. "I was there in 2004. I was excited to start my NHL career with Philadelphia, and now it's a similar situation.
"You almost can't believe it's happening again and it's getting away from you. It's frustrating as a player. I'm still optimistic that something can get done, and that's what keeps you going.
"We're all frustrated, there's no question about that. It's been frustrating since early September when this was being talked about. You try not to think on the negative side; you just take it week by week. There's no question I want to be playing hockey."
Patrick Kane, who is headed to Switzerland to play while the lockout continues, agrees with Sharp that the entire season is in jeopardy.
"Right now it doesn't look too good," Kane said. "Hopefully they can put something together and try to get a season in. I know with basketball last year they started on Christmas Day and had a pretty successful season."
Jonathan Toews has been one of the most outspoken players, criticizing NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and the owners about their tactics. Toews also is worried that the whole season could be missed.
"I don't know, I wasn't there in '04-'05, and there's a lot of things you can look at that differentiate the two situations, but at the end of the day it's the same ownership group and it's the same commissioner, so you can't rule that out," Toews said of possibly missing the whole season.
"I saw it in the meeting room last week where everyone worked very hard on coming up with those three proposals and they didn't even have the courtesy to look at them for more than five minutes or even discuss it.
"There was no discussion. I don't know what's going to happen the next week or so, but we've stood up and stayed together this whole time and worked very hard to try and negotiate.
"They've done all this so far because they can. It almost to the point where you believe they're excited to do this because they're the NHL."
There were chants of "Bettman (stinks)" at Friday's "Champs for Charity" game at the Allstate Arena as the more than 11,000 on hand unleashed their anger.
"I think the fans are probably as frustrated or more frustrated than we are," Toews said. "We're right there with them. It's not fair to them."
Players Association executive director Donald Fehr attended Friday's game and steered clear of the question of whether the whole season could be lost.
"I hope that's premature discussion," Fehr said. "We certainly hope it isn't true. From a personal matter, I don't see any reason for it."
The NHL already has canceled games through November, and now the Winter Classic, scheduled for Jan. 1 at Michigan Stadium between the Red Wings and the Maple Leafs, could be the next casualty.
The announcement to scrap the sport's largest revenue-generating event could come as soon as next week. "It would reinforce the notion that the NHL isn't interested in playing," Fehr said. "I hope they don't do it."
As for growing fan unrest, Fehr said most fans know what the owners are trying to do.
"I think there's a general understanding out there that this is about the NHL owners insisting on concessionary bargaining," Fehr said. "I get asked this all the time: What is it in the NHL's offer that moves in our direction? All I can do is shrug my shoulders because I don't know that it is."
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