OTTAWA – At this point many NHL players are willing to grab on to any glimmer of hope that the lockout will come to an end, but frustration has definitely set in.
Speaking at a news conference to announce plans for NHL Players’ Association charity games, Senators defenceman Chris Phillips chuckled when asked about reports the league and union may soon resume talks.
Phillips, the team’s union representative, said it has been a disappointing process.
“Everything has been about what we’re going to give. Obviously we’re prepared to bend, but we’re not going to break,” he said Friday. “We’re not going to be bullied into something. We’re trying to come up with a deal that’s fair.
“We’re not trying to win anything and I think you’ll see once a deal is signed that we gave up a lot. At the end of the day it’s still got to be fair.”
The NHL and NHL Players’ Association haven’t held negotiations since Oct. 18, when the union responded to the league’s latest offer by tabling three proposals. None of those gained any traction.
Despite Friday’s cancellation of the Winter Classic—one of the NHL’s premier events—many players remained optimistic that the season can still be salvaged.
“We’re still hoping for the best,” said Senators forward Chris Neil. “To see all the stuff that’s gone on and the stuff that’s been cancelled, it’s frustrating. Not just for us, but for the fans as well.”
Senators centre Zack Smith admitted he’s getting a little tired of taking part in the informal workouts and just wants to see a resolution. He’s disappointed for all those that are being affected by the work stoppage.
“Each week it seems like there’s another blow or another setback,” he said. “It is what it is and hopefully they can just get to talking. It seems like the NHL has their feet planted right now and they don’t want to meet in the middle at all.
“Hopefully talks can get done and salvage the season.”
Phillips would love nothing more than to get back to work, but at the same time feels there is already an agenda in place.
“It seems like there’s deadlines out there, but we’re not there yet as far as (commissioner) Gary Bettman is concerned,” said Phillips. “We want to make a deal that we can all live with. That’s what negotiating is. For us it’s not about trying to win.”
While waiting for a resolution, Phillips will be one of the players taking part in a series of charity games taking place to benefit First Assist, a charity that funds programs to benefit First Nations youth in fly-in communities.
The first game will take place Monday at the Cornwall Civic Complex. Players tabbed to participate include Phillips, Neil and Smith along with Ottawa teammates Marc Methot and Peter Regin.
Some others confirmed to play include Grant Clintsome of the Winnipeg Jets, Brian Gionta of the Montreal Canadiens, Stephen Gionta of the New Jersey Devils and Tyler Kennedy of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The games are being organized by former NHL player and coach John Chabot, who works closely with First Nations communities by teaching life skills through hockey.
A second game is currently being organized to take place in Thunder Bay on Nov. 12, followed by a trip to the Northwest Territories through Yellowknife, Inuvik and Hay River.
“It’s making some good out of some bad,” said Chabot. “This is going to give some kids an opportunity to see NHL players that otherwise they might never get to.”