Henrik Sedin says players better prepared this time for lockout

The Globe and Mail

Vancouver Canucks centre Henrik Sedin of Sweden celebrates his goal during the third period of Game 4 in a first-round NHL Stanley Cup playoff series against the Los Angeles Kings, Wednesday, April 18, 2012, in Los Angeles.

(Associated Press)

"A little bothersome."

Henrik Sedin is a diplomat, perhaps as all Swedes are, since being on the wrong side of the Napoleonic wars in the early 19th Century - and thereafter hatched what became known as "Swedish neutrality," a decision underpinned by the idea that warring might not be the best method with which to conduct life.

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But this is hockey, not war, even if there is, occasionally, blood on the ice.

Still, three almost-tranquil words - "a little bothersome" - are indicative, however modestly and diplomatically stated, of what the workers of the National Hockey League, the players on the ice, feel right now. The Vancouver Canucks captain - and 2009-10 NHL MVP (over Sid Crosby and Alex Ovechkin) -- spoke with reporters on Tuesday after an hour or so on the ice as many of the Canucks conducted another informal practice ahead of a preseason that likely won’t occur on schedule.

After reporters dissipated, Sedin, still in full gear, skates to helmet, sweating after a hard-hustle practice, including a full five-on-five scrimmage at the University of British Columbia, posed for photographs with fans, and signed autographs.

Deeper in the interview, there were, beyond three words, another eight words that may jump out: "If the owners are staying where they are."

How important is this week, and the Sept. 15 date?

"Well, it is important for sure, the 15th is coming up pretty fast here, but we’re still positive. There are discussions going on. We’ll see what happens."

Is the 15th really important, or is it Oct. 1, or is it missing games?

"Yeah, we’ll see what happens. That’s a date [Sept. 15], that’s when the last CBA ends. If it goes another week, I don’t think it’s that important. We’ll see."

How do you feel to be in this position, again, eight years after the last lockout?

"Yeah, that’s the tough part. We gave up a full year the last time around, and we gave up a lot, and the game is, we believe, in a really good spot right now, with a lot of fans watching. The game is good, the product is good. You would think that everyone would be happy about it - but we’re back to eight years ago."

How do you mean? The owners want more, even though revenues are up a lot?

"That’s the way it is in a deal like this. They want to get out as much as they can and we think that we gave them a good deal [the last time]."

Do you think a lot of games will be missed?

"The players haven’t really talked about a lockout. It’s the owners that are talking about it. We’re still working out, we’re preparing for the season. For us, it’s business as usual."

Was it a challenge to motivate yourself, over the summer at home in Sweden, to train for the season, even if it seemed the owners might lock out the players?

"No, it’s been normal. We’ve been preparing like we’re going to start training [camp] as normal. Like I said, when you look at where the game is right now, with the money the league is earning, and the product on the ice and everything, you would think that everything should be getting [settled] pretty soon. But we’ll see what happens."

More philosophically, league revenues are up 50 per cent, the players gave major concessions last time, and now wants more major concessions. Is this a slap in the face?

"Well, I mean, it’s nothing I want to get into too much but, like you said, we gave up a lot the last time around. The game has grown. A lot of fans are watching. It’s a good product on the ice. And here we are and they [the owners] want to take us to before the last lockout, so that’s a little bothersome."

Your brother is normally quite an optimistic guy. On Monday when he spoke, he wasn’t very optimistic. So, do you see a 70-game season, a 50-game season, 82, or no season? What’s your thinking?

"It’s tough to say. Like I said before, the owners are talking about a lockout, the players are preparing as normal."

You and your brother are the same age, almost 32, and your team can compete for the Stanley Cup. For you, is it harder to maybe face losing a season than it might be for other hockey players in different situations?

"If the owners are staying where they are - this is not for us, this is for the whole league, it’s for the younger guys coming up, it’s for young guys in the league right now, it’s for everyone. You can’t be selfish in a situation like this."

What’s the unity of the players like, is it different than 2004-05?

"I think so. I think we’re better prepared, I think we’re well-educated. I think last time around it was a lot of anxiety, and guys were nervous. This time around we’re prepared, and we’re ... whatever happens."

The last lockout, players said the same thing at the start, Trevor Linden who was president of the PA said it. Then players started losing paycheques and by Christmas some players starting speaking out and the union was divided. Why is this different?

"You never know. Whatever happens, we’ll see. Right now, it is a different feeling among the players. And that’s all you can put a finger on. What happens when the paycheques stop coming, that’s another thing."

Follow on Twitter: @davidebner

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