With formal negotiations between the league and Players' Association nonexistent since Oct. 18, with no resumption in sight and with expectations the Jan. 1 Winter Classic is all but canceled, Tampa Bay Lightning right wing B.J. Crombeen needed to let off a little steam.
His main target: the league for declining to meet with the players unless the union is willing to negotiate off the league's last proposal or will bring a new proposal of its own.
"We want to get a deal done, but it's very, very frustrating," said Crombeen, a member of the union's negotiating committee. "What's just as frustrating as that is them telling the fans they want the game back, they're working as hard as they can, but they won't even meet with us. They won't even talk with us on anything."
Asked if he saw any hope for the season to be saved, Crombeen did not offer his usual optimism.
"It's something you hope the switch turns and they actually begin to negotiate and begin to talk," he said. "I personally don't think it's a major gap. It's not like that last time when there was a salary cap coming. There's obviously differences, there's some things, but I'm fairly certain if they were wiling to negotiate something could get done fairly quickly. So, it's something where you try to hang on that hope, and hope it finally clocks with them, and they realize everyone wants the game to get back and get back quickly."
Crombeen is right when he says the sides don't seem far apart. Both agree the revenue split will be 50-50. The difference is the league wants it implemented immediately while the players, who last season received 57 percent of revenues, prefer it to be gradually phased in. Players also want existing contract honored. An immediate implementation of a 50-50 split would mean, as it stands currently, a 12 percent pay cut for players, who took a 24 percent cut after the 2004-05 lockout.
"It's frustrating," Crombeen said. "They're taking a lot from us and are not willing to give us anything. We know we're going to have to give up certain things, and we've already shown that we're wiling to do that. ... Like I've said numerous times, and it's been repeated numerous times in the media: we've been sitting there in New York. we've been telling them, 'We're in New York. We're in Toronto. Tell us when and where and we'll be there.' We're ready to meet but we're not really getting much traction out of it."