Movement, but not at the bargaining table

Chris Johnston
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More stars, including Ovechkin, head overseas; league informs employees about planned cutbacks

Alex Ovechkin has signed to play with Moscow Dynamo of the Russian-based Kontinental Hockey League and has hinted he may stay there even after the NHL lockout ends. — Associated Press file photo

The NHL lockout is only a few days old but its effects are already being felt around the league. With a number of big-name players continuing to head for Europe, NHL employees were informed Wednesday their salaries are scheduled to be cut 20 per cent across the board. That will come into effect on Oct. 1, when full-time staff are reduced to a four-day work week.

The news was delivered by commissioner Gary Bettman during a Wednesday staff meeting.

The NHL also announced the cancellation of pre-season games through Sept. 30, as well as the postponement of the Kraft Hockeyville pre-season game scheduled for Oct. 3 in Belleville, Ont., to the 2013-14 season.

Unlike in September 2004, when more than 50 per cent of NHL employees were laid off just days into the lockout, the league is trying to avoid cutting staff. Deputy commissioner Bill Daly told The Canadian Press over the weekend that there were no immediate plans for layoffs, although multiple sources who attended Wednesday’s meeting said employees were warned that further cuts could be coming in the future.

A number of teams, including the Ottawa Senators and Florida Panthers, announced layoffs earlier this week. The Senators also placed their remaining staff on a reduced work schedule.

“Every full-time, every part-time employee is affected by a work stoppage,” team president Cyril Leeder said Monday.

Bettman and Daly both decided to forgo their salary during the lockout, according to sources. Donald Fehr, the executive director of the NHL Players’ Association, hasn’t been paid since the beginning of July.

As the lockout moved into its fourth day, there were still no formal bargaining sessions scheduled between the league and NHLPA. The sides last sat down together on Sept. 12.

With it becoming clear NHL training camps won’t open as scheduled on Friday, players continued to seek work overseas. On Wednesday, Jason Spezza signed a deal with Rapperswil-Jona in Switzerland, Anze Kopitar agreed to join brother Gasper with Mora in Sweden and Russian stars Alex Ovechkin (Moscow Dynamo) and Pavel Datsyuk (CSKA Moscow) each returned home to play in the KHL.

Ovechkin even spoke about the possibility of not returning to the NHL when the lockout ends.

As to the future, it will depend on what kind of conditions there will be in the NHL with the new CBA,” Ovechkin told the Russian news agency RIA Novosti. “If our contracts get slashed, I will have to think whether to return there or not. I won’t rule out staying in the KHL, even past this season.”

Rick Nash also arrived in Switzerland, where he’ll again play alongside Joe Thornton with HC Davos, and said that he believes the lockout could last the entire season — just as it did in 2004-05.

“It doesn’t look positive,” Nash told newspaper Sudostschweiz. “It could be a season-long break.”

Even though that remains a long way off, frustration is clearly mounting. Buffalo Sabres goaltender Jhonas Enroth became the latest player to take to Twitter and blame Bettman for another NHL work stoppage, the fourth in two decades.

“So sick of this lockout. Playing in the NHL (has) been a life long dream and now we can’t bc GB (wants) more money from us? imlosingtime,” Enroth wrote Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Montreal owner Geoff Molson said he remains confident a settlement can be reached quickly.

“It is our priority and we hope that an agreement will be concluded soon so that fans can enjoy our new team,” Molson told reporters Wednesday at the Canadiens’ charity golf tournament.

Molson added that he has unwavering support in Gary Bettman and that the league’s owners are firmly behind him.

NHL owners are subject to a $1-million fine for speaking out of line about the lockout.

“For the league to be healthy, for the economic system to be good for all teams, there must be adjustments, as Gary mentioned,” Molson said. “The 30 owners are standing together and are united and they support Gary’s approach.”

Organizations: NHL, Kraft Hockeyville, Canadian Press Ottawa Senators Florida Panthers Molson CBA Buffalo Sabres Canadiens

Geographic location: Europe, Belleville, Switzerland Sweden Davos Montreal

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  • Dude
    September 24, 2012 - 14:11

    i might have a spot for a couple of the local NLH boys at our rec game.....By the way....We Pay to play we love