TROY, Mich. -- Veteran forward Shawn Horcoff was one of the few on the ice still wearing the logo of his NHL team during informal player workouts Monday morning in suburban Detroit. But the fact that he wasn't wearing a NHLPA jersey wasn’t any sort of statement.
It was more about a jersey shortage.
"There’s only so many [NHLPA practice jerseys]," he said, smiling. "The [Oilers] never took mine back in time. I had it from the summer. I said, 'You know what? I’m going to wear this out of spite.' "
Horcoff is a veteran of multiple lockouts. The Oilers' captain has been active in the NHLPA for years, and even though he's not surprised that another round of regular-season games are expected to be chopped this week, it doesn’t make it any easier.
"It’s the same thing every time with the owners. [Commissioner Gary Bettman's] first defense is to cancel games and test the players. There’s been no effort to negotiate on his stance. Their negotiation is 'The players have to come down to us or we’re not moving at all,' " Horcoff told ESPN The Magazine. "Gary has forced the players' hand into this situation and frankly, he’s [ticked] us off. I think at the start, that first offer they gave out, that was a big, big mistake on Gary’s part."
But it’s not even the cancellation of games or the stalled negotiations that appear to irk Horcoff the most. He questioned the sincerity of the league when it comes to concern for hockey fans.
"I sit there and read Gary and Bill’s comments about, 'We feel sorry for the fans.' Well, I find that really hard to believe," Horcoff said. "I think it’s a blatant lie, personally. I don’t feel they feel sorry for the fans at all. Gary feels like no matter what, [the fans are] going to come back and couldn't care less if they're frustrated with this. He’s going to do what it takes to get the best deal and couldn't care less what they feel."
The 34-year-old Horcoff had offers to play overseas, including an offer from the KHL, but opted to stay in North America because of his family. The former Michigan State Spartan is one of a dozen or so NHL players skating regularly in the Detroit area. He said he’ll reconsider his options in mid-November but conceded that the jobs in Europe are drying up.
His plan now is to enjoy the time with his family, stay in shape and hope a deal is struck. The NHLPA and NHL are expected to pick up negotiations Tuesday, and Horcoff hopes the talks extend beyond the secondary issues that dominated talks last week.
"Until the core stuff gets settled, nothing is going to get done," he said. "If the core stuff got done, I think the other stuff would take two days. The league needs to state what they want most. ... If we knew what they wanted most, we could probably do something. But right now, they want everything and it's not going to happen."(