On Monday morning at the University of British Columbia, most of the Vancouver Canucks convened for an informal but spirited practice. Captain Henrik Sedin, his twin brother and star scorer Daniel Sedin, and presumptive starting goaltender Cory Schneider all skated for the first time on Monday with their teammates, some of whom have gathered for practices for the past 10 days or so.
After practice, players spoke with reporters. Below are highlights from conversations with Schneider and Daniel Sedin. (Henrik Sedin left early and said he would speak Tuesday.) Schneider is one of two Canucks on the players’ 31-man bargaining committee as the union and National Hockey League executives negotiate a collective bargaining agreement. Schneider will be in New York on Wednesday for the players’ meeting. Sedin said he will remain in Vancouver.
On the number of Canucks – 20 or so – on the ice for the practice:
“We’re preparing as if there’s going to be a season. Until it’s official, or till we’re locked out, we’re going to plan on being ready no matter what.”
On the large gap between the players and owners, and the prospects for a resolution in the short-term:
“You know, I don’t know. Things change quickly. … We’re getting down to the wire here, so I think that’ll bring groups together. Perhaps this week will be a telling week, if we can reach out to some of the owners who we haven’t heard from, or haven’t been able to get in contact with throughout this process, and see what their feelings and opinions are, and just see with the whole group [of owners], everyone there [on Thursday], that maybe we can make some progress.”
What is the mood among players? Is there optimism?
“We have to make sure it’s the right deal for us, and a fair deal for us. In negotiations, you have to do a little give and take, and you know, in most of their [the owners] proposals, we’re giving everything, we’re not gaining anything. … If we give more back now, then what’s going to happen the next time, and the next time. It has more impact than just this season, so you can’t get shortsighted, you have to think about the health of the players’ union and the league going forward.”
What is the solidarity among players like?
“It’s been amazing. You hear from guys who went through the last lockout. It sounds like this time around, they said it’s a complete 180 from what it was before. Don [Fehr] is extremely transparent, he’s very open, and willing to answer any and all questions. He doesn’t do anything unless we give him the say so. So he doesn’t do things out of his own interest, or his own motives. He works for us. He always says it, ‘I work for you guys.’”
On the owners’ offers:
“It’s a little disappointing that they’re just kind of looking for a cash grab, that they’re not really looking to solve their problems, they’re just trying to take the money from us and maybe throw that at some of their problems, and see if it works. But I think our proposal is really trying to get to the root of the issues and really help the teams that are struggling, and figure out why they’re struggling, and not just trying to throw some money at it and see if it goes away.”
What about solidarity of the owners? You mentioned the union reaching out to some:
“I can’t speak to that at all. I think I’ve only heard of four or five owners who have been at the meetings in person. Gary [Bettman] represents them [the owners], so you have to take his word for what they’re thinking and saying. We have no idea how much contact they have with each other, or how much every owner knows about the situation, to be honest.”
Are players willing to lose the season?
“We’re not thinking in those terms yet. I don’t think we’ve gotten to that point. There’s a deadline on Friday. And we’re seeing what we can get done before that deadline, and I don’t think anyone’s thinking in terms of losing a season at this point, I think it’s way too early in the process for that. Again, I think most guys are optimistic. Everyone said so. The tone is just much different than it was last time around [in 2004-05]. So, we’re very hopeful.”
Is there a possibility of a swift resolution?
“Sure. You can never say never. Things happen very quickly sometimes. And all it takes is one phone call, and that could be it. Again, I know there is, you know, a bit of a divide yet to be overcome, but I think both sides want to get something done. I don’t think anybody wants to miss hockey, the owners or players. We’ll see what happens this week.”
On the situation in general:
“It doesn’t look too good. I’m not too optimistic … but we’re going to hope a deal gets done. We’ll see what happens.”
Have you thought about the risk of losing a season, given you are getting older, and the team has a shot at the Cup?
“Yeah, for sure. That’s the one thing we would think about all summer. Every year now, we’ve got a chance to play for the Stanley Cup. … Hopefully, like I said, if not the whole season, have at least part of the season, get a chance to get in the playoffs again. And we’re getting older too. We don’t want to miss any games, or a season, that’s for sure.”
Would the players be willing to lose a season?
“Like I said, it’s a different mindset I think among the players [than 2004-05]. We’re a stronger group. Everyone has been sitting in on conference calls, and meetings, and everything. We know more what’s going on. Everyone’s prepared to do this. It’s a different feeling.”
You’re normally quite an optimistic person, by nature, but don’t seem very optimistic right now:
“I’m like anyone else: we’re too far apart right now to really be optimistic. But you never know, there’s four, five days to get things started. We’ll see what happens.”
What was your response to the original owners’ proposal?
“Almost in the shock. It was an offer that, you never want to laugh at it, but it was almost like that.”
Do you think it was intended to provoke a response?
“Yeah, maybe. You never know. It’s going back and forth, I guess.”
What about the perception happening that the players are millionaires just complaining about losing some money but they’re still rich?
“It always does, which I think is understandable. We make a lot of money. But I think we make some money for the owners, too. It’s got to be some give and take, but like I said, a fair deal is what we want.”
With the wide gap, is it possible both sides give ground and come to some sort of middle point?
“That’s going to be talked [about] this coming week. We’ve got a meeting on Wedneday in New York. We’ll see what comes out from that meeting. Like I said, where we’re at right now, we’re not even close.”