Red Wings right wing Danny Cleary tries to score on Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward in the first period tonight at Joe Louis Arena. / Rick Osentoski/U.S. PRESSWIRE
(DETROIT FREE PRESS) - Detroit Red Wings forward Danny Cleary warned today that the lockout that is threatening the start of the NHL season might linger on and on.
"I think people don't think it can go a year," Cleary said after several Wings held an independent skate at Troy Sports Center. "As players, we think it can. Maybe longer."
The NHL shuttered Sept. 16, when owners locked out players the day after the collective bargaining agreement between the NHL and the players' association expired. The last time the league went into lockout mode, it wiped out the entire 2004-05 season. This time around, the trend among pundits has been predicting a 60-game season that will start around Thanksgiving. But that hope might be fading.
"Just trying to be realistic," Cleary said. "I think the league is waiting for us to make the move, and we're waiting for them to move. So someone has to move. And I don't see it coming from our end. We've given them a couple of good options that they can work with, and they, obviously, feel it's not good enough.
"We're at a stalemate, I guess you can say. We're stuck in the middle right now."
The NHL already has canceled exhibition games through September and is likely to cancel October's slate this week. The Wings are scheduled to start the 2012-13 season Oct. 16, but Cleary doesn't see it happening.
"It's not going to start on time," he said. "No way."
Cleary, Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen were among the Wings who wore their regular team sweaters during the informal skate. Niklas Kronwall opted for a youth hockey sweater, while Drew Miller wore a Team USA sweater. So did Jonathan Ericsson, despite being Swedish. His sartorial choice prompted Franzen to yell out "traitor" at Ericsson, but Ericsson had good reason to choose a U.S. sweater. Seems he wasn't allowed to take his Wings one with him when he left Joe Louis Arena on Sept. 14, though he was allowed to leave with his skates and sticks.
"We don't have any jerseys," Ericsson said. "They didn't let us keep any jerseys."
Ericsson joked that the guys who did have Wings jerseys on "must have stolen them. No, I'm just kidding. I don't know how they got a hold of them, but I didn't get one in my bag. I had to borrow a jersey. It's a nice jersey."
All of the veterans skating say they plan on doing so for the foreseeable future, as none is in a rush to go overseas to find a place to play. The only Wings to have done so at this point are Pavel Datsyuk, who went to Russia, and Valtteri Filppula, who went to Finland.
One of the biggest NHL names to have signed in Russia is Alex Ovechkin, the Washington Capitals superstar. Over the weekend, he hinted that players like him might not return to the NHL if the owners succeed in implementing a salary rollback again.
Wings players said that's within his right.
"They have all rights to play wherever they want to play," goalie Jimmy Howard said. "If that's with them staying over and playing in the KHL, then they'll have to deal with it."
The overwhelming sentiment among the Wings is a desire to see this lockout end.
"You would think there would be a little urgency to get together, but that's just the way it is," Kronwall said. "I know they're planning to meet this week, so hopefully, we can have some good talks and go from there."
Asked about the possibility of the entire season being lost, Kronwall said, "Well, it could be. It could be two years. If you look at it that way, anybody can just put things out there. But I think everybody is looking to end this sooner rather than later."
Detroit Free Press