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Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Ryane Clowe: Players aren't cracking

By Pierre LeBrun

Ryane Clowe has never been one to hold back his thoughts and the San Jose Sharks winger is certainly growing frustrated as the NHL lockout drags on.

But he also believes the 700-plus NHL players in a battle with owners for a new collective bargaining agreement won’t wilt.

"Players are on the same page," Clowe told ESPN.com Wednesday. "No one’s cracking. We’re informed and updated and guys have a good understanding of what’s going on. ...

"We’re hockey players," he added. "We’re not going to get pushed around."

Of particular irritation to Clowe has been the league’s proposals, which would call for the players to pay more escrow as their share of hockey-related revenue drops in any new agreement.

In Clowe's mind, the signing of a whole slew of players to contracts before the lockout was an obvious attempt by owners to get a shave back from those new deals in player escrow.

"The way I see it, if Shea Weber or Ryan Suter or Zach Parise signed those big deals in July and then arrived at training camp and said, 'We’re not playing until we get 20 percent more on our contract,' there would be an uproar," said Clowe. "The owners would say, 'No chance.’ Well, it’s the same thing. Contracts have been signed, both the owners and the players have signed these contracts. Now they’re trying to take whatever percentage off the top? It’s all about principle. It’s a handshake and an agreement. Why did all these owners rush to sign all these players before the lockout?"

This issue of wanting to earn full value of their existing contracts isn’t going away, particularly with the likes of Alex Ovechkin threatening to stay in Russia’s KHL if his NHL contract is devalued by too much escrow in the new CBA.

NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr has clearly struck a chord here on this issue with his membership.

"Players are passionate," said Clowe. "This is our game. I know we get paid a lot of money but we worked hard to get here and we put a lot into it. We put our bodies on the line in a physical sport."

Clowe also said he found it "astonishing" the way in which owners have respected the gag order imposed by commissioner Gary Bettman during the lockout.

"I’m sure there are owners that want to be playing now and probably like our last proposal," said Clowe. "Obviously Gary has done a good job keeping the reins tight. But I can’t believe how the owners are kept on the back burner like that."

In the meantime, Clowe is skating in San Jose and bides his time. Will Europe be an option?

"I haven’t really put any serious thought into it yet," Clowe said. "I had a couple of options in Finland and Sweden and obviously there probably could have been an option in the KHL, but I didn’t pursue that. Maybe I’m just being the optimist and I think this will be over sooner rather than later. At some point, I’ll have to make a decision though. I’ll need to see how long this drags out. I’m not going to sit around all year."

Asked about Bobby Ryan's comments in which the Anaheim Ducks winger said he wouldn’t go overseas because he feels players should stay on this continent to fight the fight in labor talks, Clowe understood Ryan’s perspective but doesn’t himself have an issue with NHLers going overseas to play.

"You have to realize guys are in a different position as far as salaries and how much money they’ve banked in their careers," said Clowe. "You look at Logan Couture and Jason Demers going over, they’ve only been in the league a couple of years, they don’t want to sit around. They’re young guys that want to play. You can’t blame them for that. And you look at Joe [Thornton], his wife’s from Davos and he skates there in August, it’s a perfect setup for him. So why not? I mean, I can see where Bobby Ryan is coming from in terms of everyone needing to be on the same page, but I don’t think guys are drifting apart at all just because some of them have gone overseas.

"We’re on the same page, no question."