Rangers blast moratorium
NEW YORK -- Commissioner Gary Bettman's suggestion that the NHL and NHLPA take a two-week break from negotiations is an idea that's not sitting well with some of the New York Rangers.
Gathered in a local ice rink for a charity hockey clinic for kids to benefit Sandy victims, several players took exception to Bettman's proposed "moratorium."
"(I'm) very frustrated. I didn't expect for it to go this long. I don't think there's any need for it to be this long. We've been going for a while and then for Gary to come up with a comment about another two weeks off, is mind-boggling, to be honest with you," said Rangers alternate captain Brad Richards, who organized Friday's event -- a two-session clinic with 110 participants and nine of his fellow teammates.
"I don't know what good that's going to do, I don't know what the tactic is. We want to get to the table; we feel we're close. ... We've indicated to them in the last meeting and ... it seems like they don't want to listen to that. They want to create this other view that we're so far apart."
Bettman floated the idea as a possibility in a conversation with NHLPA executive director Donld Fehr on Wednesday. A league source said Bettman's suggestion was in response to Fehr's uncertainty on how to proceed through what has seemed to become a pretty poisonous stalemate.
The two sides last met for a formal bargaining session Sunday, although it ended in less than an hour and yielded no progress. The league and union remain divided on key issues, such as the division of revenue, player contracting rights, as well as how to account for the revenue loss due to the lockout.
However, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr did have a brief conversation during the day Friday and planned to talk again this weekend.
The season already has lost 327 regular-season games, as well as the Winter Classic, and more cancellations may come next week.
With the players already facing a shortened season -- a Dec. 1 start and 68-game schedule even looks unlikely -- there is a collective sense of frustration.
"I don't see the point behind that," Rangers captain Ryan Callahan said. "I know we want to negotiate."
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Callahan called Bettman's suggestion of a two-week hiatus a "waste of time."
"It doesn't make sense to me," he said.
Callahan and Richards, who signed with the Rangers last offseason and led them to the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, were able to mute the lockout talk for a while Friday, though, partnering with a high school team to organize "Skating for Sandy."
Defensemen Steve Eminger, Dan Girardi, Anton Stralman and Marc Staal, as well as forwards Carl Hagelin, Jeff Halpern, Taylor Pyatt and Marian Gaborik joined Richards at the Staten Island Skating Pavilion for two afternoon sessions with area children.
"Being part of the community makes you a part of everyday life," Richards said.
The idea was broached by Steve Rose, a community affairs officer in Brooklyn and a friend of Richards. Rose estimated the event raised between $10,000-$12,000.
"Obviously, you know what's gone on with New York," Richards said. "It's scary to see what the damage is."
Richards also will play in a Sandy-related charity game next Saturday in Atlantic City, N.J. He will be joined by Eminger, Halpern and Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. Also in that game will be several members of the Philadelphia Flyers.
"We're excited about that," Richards said. "We've got a lot of good people on board."
The charity games are one of the few ways to play right now. Unlike Callahan, Richards has been through a lockout before -- he played overseas in Russia during the 2004-05 work stoppage that ultimately resulted in an entire season being lost -- and he says the current situation is a stark contrast from the previous standoff.
"Very different. In 2004, the gap was huge," Richards said. "We're not that far apart. I don't see what the need is to keep stringing it along. It's a whole different system the last time, and now it's going to be a big change again.
"They just keep wanting more, and I don't know where it stops."
That "enough-is-enough" stance was a sentiment echoed across the table last Friday, when the two sides ended four straight days of bargaining in a terse meeting that set the tone for the week to come.
Richards, one of a handful of players present at that meeting, declined to single out any owner when asked about mounting tension between the two sides. He did point out, however, that this is the third lockout under Bettman's watch.
"There's one face that has been through three lockouts," Richards said of Bettman. "He's got to do his job, but that's where it gets frustrating. It seems like it's the only tactic they have."
Despite the sense of skepticism that a deal can be brokered soon, Richards remains optimistic that the two sides will come to a resolution -- "With all the doom and gloom, I still think there's a way to get a season," he said -- but that will be difficult to achieve if the players consent to Bettman's recent idea.
Said Richards: "The only way you get a deal done, (is) if you're talking."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.