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Tampa Bay Lightning players worry about potential NHL lockout

BACK AT IT: The Lightning’s Ryan Malone, right, parks in front of Mathieu Garon in an informal workout Wednesday in Brandon.

DIRK SHADD | Times

BACK AT IT: The Lightning’s Ryan Malone, right, parks in front of Mathieu Garon in an informal workout Wednesday in Brandon.

BRANDON — Concern and frustration and even some anger.

Those were the primary emotions in the Lightning locker room Wednesday as more players assembled for informal skates while stalled labor negotiations have put the Sept. 21 start of training camp in jeopardy.

"Usually time takes care of things like this," W Marty St. Louis said at the Ice Sports Forum. "But am I worried? Yeah, absolutely."

The league has said it will lock out players if a new collective bargaining agreement is not in place by Sept. 15, when the current agreement expires.

The sides are far apart on economic issues, and no negotiating sessions have been held since Friday and none are scheduled. Add to that a monkey wrench revealed by the New York Post: The league wants management rights that would give it unilateral power over issues such as realignment, scheduling and playoff format.

"There's not really a partnership. There's bickering back and forth, and that's what we're trying to get rid of," said RW B.J. Crombeen, part of the union's negotiating committee. "It's frustrating they're not willing to talk right now."

Players also are upset that the framework of the league's updated proposal cuts the players' share of hockey-related revenues from 57 percent to 46. Under the current agreement, players gave back 24 percent of salaries after the 2004-05 lockout.

"You can only … take so much," LW Ryan Malone said.

Said D Marc-Andre Bergeron: "It's frustrating. We gave them what they wanted, and all of a sudden it's not good enough. We're not the only one who should make sacrifices. It seems like we're too good of guys. They try to take advantage of us because they know what we gave the last time, I guess."

For St. Louis, the concern is an extended lockout would cost the league the steam that in the past seven seasons helped it increase revenue from $2.1 billion to $3.3 billion.

"We have so much momentum as a league," he said. "It didn't happen overnight. Players are working harder than ever off the ice, and I think there's a direct correlation with how good the product is on the ice and how much the game has grown."

Even so, St. Louis said, "Last time we lost a full season to get (the owners') deal. If we have to sit, we'll sit. That's how I feel."

FIXED: G Mathieu Garon, who missed last season's final 16 games with a groin injury, and Bergeron, who missed 39 of the final 40 games with a back injury that required surgery, said they have healed without limitations.

HAIRY COMPETITION: Malone's hair is almost down to his shoulders, part of what he called a "friendly wager" with Coyotes goalie and former Lightning teammate Mike Smith. Both have avoided clippers since March 2011, when they shaved their heads at the Tampa Bay Cut For A Cure charity event for cancer research.

"We pretty much look the same," Malone said of the contest for the longest locks. "Trim up the neck hair every once in a while, but that's it."

ODDS AND ENDS: Crombeen said he recently received a business degree from the University of Phoenix. … Captain Vinny Lecavalier's annual Texas Hold 'Em Charity Poker Tournament is Sept. 13 at TPepin's Hospitality Centre in Tampa. Proceeds go to the Vincent Lecavalier Pediatric Cancer and Blood Disorders Center at St. Petersburg's All Children's Hospital. For more information go to vinny4.com. … The team is scheduled for 10 national TV games. Go to tampabay.com/blogs/lightning for details.

Tampa Bay Lightning players worry about potential NHL lockout 09/05/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 5, 2012 8:28pm]

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