The NHL players are feeling the pain of hockey fans when it comes to Fridays cancellation of the Winter Classic. But it also hasnt hurt their funny bone when it comes to a sense of gallows humor around a lockout situation that appears grim at first glance.
Were all disappointed that it had to come to the Winter Classic being cancelled. I know that personally I just want to get back to work, said Bruins enforcer Shawn Thornton, who was making a Saturday morning appearance at the Thomas Joyce Memorial Playground 5K in South Boston on Saturday morning. "But (Bettman) makes 8 million a year, doesnt he? You expect he would have 250 grand kicking around in an ash tray somewhere to keep the Winter Classic alive."
Thornton was clearly kidding while taking a dig at NHL commissioner Gary Bettman in a CBA negotiation thats grown contentious in the 50 days since the lockout began. The 250,000 he referenced is the early November contractual payment to the University of Michigan that the NHL avoided by cancelling the Winter Classic on Nov. 2. While the players are still feeling embattled by the two months worth of paychecks wiped out by the lockout, there are glimmers of hope amid the mounting cancellations.
The No. 2 in command for the NHL, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, and NHLPA, head counsel Steve Fehr, were scheduled to meet at an undisclosed location on Saturday afternoon to continue negotiations. It will be the first face-to-face meeting for the two sides in CBA negotiations since the acrimonious Oct. 18 exchange of ideas at the NHLPA offices in Toronto.
It will also be the first chance for both sides to offer olive branches in negotiations including the owners footing a portion of the make whole provision that appears to be the biggest sticking point for the players. In essence its a cap on escrow and will provide strict guidelines for just how much of a bit the NHL owners can take out of existing NHL contracts before things drop down to a strict 5050 split in Hockey Related Revenue.
The overwhelming question is why it took this long and the cancellation of a Winter Classic game expected to draw in upwards of 120,000 spectators to spur on both sides toward a discussion. But all Thornton and the rest of the NHL players care about at this point is getting back to work, and making sure there is a 2012-13 regular season along with a new CBA that they can live within.