Blackhawks defenseman Steve Montador couldn't find any good words to describe the current situation the league, the players, fans and those who depend on hockey in some way to make a living are in right now.
"It's a [expletive] situation," Montador told the Sun-Times Thursday after the NHL announced its first round of regular-season cancellations (Oct. 11 -24) because of its lockout of players. "There is a collective sigh of disappointment right now that it has to come to this."
Montador, the Hawks' NHL Players' Association representative, and every player have every right to be upset. Recent meetings between the union and the owners, represented by commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy Bill Daly, yielded little progress. By all accounts, the owners are insistent that the players accept their proposal, which calls for
significant financial concessions and less contract rights compared to the previous collective bargaining agreement.
The Hawks were scheduled to open the season on Oct. 13.
''It's another disappointing but expected move from the league," Jonathan Toews said via text message. "This seems to be our commissioner's bread and butter. It's almost like he is excited to take away hockey from the fans and the players just because he can.
"Personally, I still haven't heard a valid argument from the league for what they are doing, just that they want more and last time it wasn't enough. If they would be as determined to solve these issues as they are quick to point the finger at us, this would be settled by now. But they aren't, and now we know we'll miss at least two weeks because of it.''
The fear, of course, is that this could be 2004-05 all over again. The previous CBA, which included the owners' salary cap, was agreed upon after the entire 2004-05 season was lost to a work stoppage.
The league and union both released statements on Thursday, but neither made it sound like compromise is imminent. Each side continues to stand by their conflicting proposals.
The players, though, are even more convinced that the loss of regular-season games always was a strategy of the owners, but Montador said they aren't about to fracture because of it.
"It never reaches a point where somebody says forget it: 'Let's just take whatever, so we can play games,' " Montador said. "I think guys realize it's not fair to us right now, it's not fair to the health of the game because taking the deal that they've offered basically insures that there is going to be a lockout next deal.
"This is how it's going to go down. You really want to pick a fight - and I'm not sure we're really in one yet - we're not the type of guys to shy away from battle."