- Jesse Rogers, Chicago Cubs beat reporter
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CHICAGO -- Frustration is starting to set in for NHL players as the league has begun the process of canceling events starting with all pre-season games through Sept. 30.
They may be frustrated but that doesn’t mean they’re anywhere near ready to give in to the owners' demands as the NHL lockout continues through its first week.
“The owners want rollbacks (on salaries),” former Hawk Troy Brouwer said on Wednesday. “The players are not willing to take rollbacks. If that’s as far as the conversation goes that’s as far as it goes.”
Brouwer, along with many of his ex-teammates and other NHL players and prospects, held another informal workout at the Hawks public training facility, only there weren’t any Hawks team personnel in attendance nor could the players use the Hawks locker room. Captain Jonathan Toews instructed the drills.
“It’s getting a little more organized every day. I guess the challenge is coming up with new drills for the guys so they don’t get bored too quick,” Toews said. “We’re feeling strong with what we’ve come up with, our proposals and what we’ve presented to the league. We feel that our sacrifices have been substantial and our attempts to be reasonable and come up with something that makes a lot of sense. If they can’t wrap their heads around it we need to find jobs where we can play hockey.”
Toews and fellow star Patrick Kane aren’t ready to commit to playing in Europe or elsewhere just yet. They want to see if there is movement within the negotiations, but Toews doesn’t sound optimistic and saved some criticism for commissioner Gary Bettman.
“In Canada people really understand the history of what’s gone on the last 20 years,” Toews explained. “Or maybe the last 18 or so since Gary Bettman has been the commissioner of our league and the repetitiveness of these situations. People in Chicago are more disappointed when you look at hockey over the last 5 years ... People are scared we’re going to miss the season.”
Toews is referring to two previous work stoppages under Bettman’s reign including a lost season in 2004-2005. And he’s also referring to Chicago’s renewed interest in hockey over the last half a decade when they broke a 49-year championship drought in 2010. That momentum is all on hold.
“We’re just asking the owners to honor the contracts that they previously signed,” Brouwer said. “In any other business in the world that’s perfectly acceptable.”
So for now its informal workouts, but soon enough Hawks’ players will be joining others across the ocean to play in various European or even Russian leagues.
“It’s something you have to look at, when that time comes,” Kane said. “I don’t know when that will be or where I’ll be or who I’ll be with. We all don’t want to be sitting around waiting for something if nothing is going to happen. Summer has been long enough ... we all want to play hockey.”
Kane said he wouldn’t mind playing with Toews in Europe if it came to that. The two share the same agent but would not commit to when they would make that decision. Until then it's ‘Coach Toews’ leading the way with a rotating group of players.
“I think it’s starting to hit home now,” he said. “The fact that we’re here and we can’t get into our own locker room.”