NHL players would not trust drop-dead date in lockout

| Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Pascal Dupuis swears he has only one date in mind regarding the NHL lockout.

“Dec. 1, because that is the first day they (NHL owners) say we can play games for now,” Dupuis said Friday after a Penguins players-organized practice at Southpointe.

“Other than that, I'm not thinking about dates.”

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has called for a two-week break in talks with the Players' Association.

Games through Nov. 30 are canceled, as is the New Year's Day Winter Classic outdoor game and all surrounding events.

Locked out by owners since the last labor deal expired Sept. 15, Penguins players at Southpointe this week shared assessments on the reason for this work stoppage.

Tyler Kennedy, waiting to play the final season of his second NHL contract, which was worth a total of $4 million, declined comment.

Eight of his teammates —ranging from veterans such as Dupuis and Matt Cooke to stars Sidney Crosby and Marc-Andre Fleury — cited Players' Association talking points such as revenue split, guaranteed deals and contracting rights like length maximums and free agency.

Craig Adams, the Penguins' union rep, said the root of this dispute is, simply, “money.”

“It's completely about money,” he said.

Specifically, based off the latest proposals from each side, this fight is about a few hundred million dollars over the course of a labor agreement for an league that last season generated a record $3.3 billion.

There is no way the league can fairly project growth potential given the anticipated backlash from fans and sponsors over a second lockout in eight years, deputy commissioner Bill Daly has said.

NHL business will take a hit in the short and long term, predicted Ed O'Hara, managing partner of New York-based SME Branding.

“If I'm a sponsor, and I'm already looking at the NHL as a fringe sport compared to the Big Four (NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL), this lockout is a real issue,” he said. “It's just not a pretty picture for the NHL going forward.”

The NHL has not set a drop-dead date to play games or cancel another season.

The NHL did not cancel the 2004-05 season until Feb. 15, 2005 — its imposed drop-dead deadline. It began playing a 48-game season in late January of 1995.

Adams said he is not sure if a drop-dead date would change the dynamic of this dispute. The previous lockout, which ushered in a salary-cap era, has left players with little trust of owners, he said.

“And, yeah, it's getting worse all the time,” Adams said.

Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at rrossitribweb.com or 412-380-5635.

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