There’s a lockout… so now what?

September 15th has come and gone without a new CBA agreement being reached. The NHL and NHLPA are now playing a game of lockout chicken that could last a while. In the meantime the players must figure out what to do.

I remember very clearly how I felt when the last lockout began… ‘ok, so now what?’ I had already made a plan in my mind to head overseas after Christmas to play if the lockout was still in effect but it was the day to day plans that were harder to figure out. No one knew how long the lockout would last.

Staying in good shape was a priority, especially when I was fighting for a new contract every year. But how to approach that? It is impossible to hit the gym hard every day, week after week for an endless period of time. Your body and mind both give out.

For summer workouts, the end is training camp so you plan your hard work periods, some down weeks and prepare to peak in the middle of September. It is actually a pretty easy process. But with no end in sight the planning becomes more difficult. Without a plan, your conditioning can easily slip away from you. I saw more than a few players who looked like they swallowed a beer barrel by Christmas!

The same went for skating. It got a little old heading to skate at the Knights of Columbus twin rinks every morning. Although it was nice to see the other guys, the skates went from organized practices to five versus five dangle fests pretty quickly. I have never tried to toe drag guys more often, even going back to street hockey when I was ten! Socially it was fun but my hockey skills were not as sharp as I wanted.

About a month into the lockout I went to the horse races with a couple of other players and we all were feeling the same. We had the same questions and issues. What should we do? How are your workouts going? What are you up to? Are you going to play somewhere?

Hockey players are creatures of habit. For so many years, your life is set in stone. Train and skate all summer, go to training camp, play through the season, rest and then start all over in the summer. Suddenly there was a big glitch in the routine. We were all trying to figure it out.

I actually really began to enjoy other activities. With the NHL schedule being so intense there is not a lot of time for anything else. I got a chance to downhill ski, cross-country ski and even to help a friend with a home renovation. It was all fun but most of the time I was wondering where the CBA negotiations were at.

There were more rumors about the CBA going around then a guy could handle. Someone would text and say the negotiations were heating up, get ready to play. The next week another player would call and say it was hopeless. Talk about up and down!

Although I went over to play in Hungary just before the lockout officially wiped out the season, just getting on that plane to fly there put all those rumors in my rear view mirror. It was a good feeling. I was going to do what I wanted to do, play hockey, the CBA would look after itself.

My advice to all NHLPA players is to go and play, somewhere, anywhere. Get into your normal routine of playing. Time will pass a lot quicker. Don’t wait, find a team now either in one of the North American or European leagues. You can stay updated with negotiations through in the Internet. I promise you will not miss a bit of info!

Jaromir Jagr (s.yume/Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 2.0)

Already on Sunday, about a dozen players, some very high profile, like Jaromir Jagr and Pavel Datsyuk, have already committed to teams in Europe. They are the smart ones. No doubt there will be some issues to work out especially player insurance. This can be resolved. If Datsyuk found a way, everyone can.

Go play, take your mind off the CBA negotiations. Settle into your normal hockey season, even though it might not be in the NHL. You will be better prepared when the season does start up… if and when it starts.


    • MessyEH!

      The owners are the ones who locked the players out. Players are willing to play, the league mininium is more than these guys will make in Europe or the AHL.

  • RexLibris

    Hey Jason, a great perspective, thank you.

    I was wondering about that aspect, that players often have much of their year scheduled and structured by largely external forces, how might they deal with suddenly being told that there is no schedule. Nothing. Just a seemingly perpetual holding pattern of waiting for news.

    Were I in a player’s position I would likely be looking at the last lockout as a model for expectations and be signing a European contract right away. Aside from remaining in the country for family reasons, playing would have to be my primary consideration. I don’t think there is much, if any, chance that this dispute will be resolved within the next six weeks. In fact, I believe that the PA ought to be targeting the Winter Classic and All-Star game as scheduling soft-spots on the NHL. The closer they can get the lockout to those dates the larger a wedge they might be able to drive between the owners. If that is the case, then this entire season is virtually lost.

    I guess we’ll see. In the meantime, as Robin Brownlee and a few others have already suggested, perhaps this is time that we can use to explore the other things in life that matter. Like the Oil Kings. 😉

  • RexLibris

    Besides, as one local media guy is fond of saying, “indifference to the outcome” is the key to negotiating success. What is more indifferent than just playing and letting the lawyers do their thing. I support my family on

  • Do you know if Union is pressing for a mediator , arbitration or even compulsory arbitration at this point ? The lockout could end abruptly if owners would agree . Us fans should put pressure and deluge the owners and Bettman with e-mails, etc. to involk arbitration . Unfortuneatly , i doubt the owners are, or have ever been interested in bargaining in good faith or fairness . Don’t just e-mail our own owners but all 30 of them to put on pressure . Maybe you can get a list of all of them for fans to vent on ? They can play in interim until mediation process is concluded , te only thing holding them back is the owners – Bettman only the owners messenger . Fans pay to see the entertainment the players bring to the game , and care little for the owners .

    Where does the owner greed stop ? Seems to me players have already offered almost $800 M of their own money fairly made in contract negotiations in cutbacks over a new contract . That’s about $26.66 M for each owner and thats not nearly enough for them when they are already making a good profit ? We the fans deserve better than this from the owners .

  • Bah! stupid ‘less than’ symbol killed the rest of my comment.

    …less than $50G/yr. Could easily go 2 years without working with a $100G escrow cheque in October. If the players can at least feign indifference for the duration, there is no barrel to be held over…

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Well that approach will certainly help forward a solution.

    Get away, play some hockey, take your mind off things.

    The lockout is two days old and I am already tired of the players suggesting they have no role to play in Gary Bettman’s lockout.

    How about this? Don’t go play and pressure on Fehr to work with the league on putting together a deal that compromises with everyone.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Thinking both sides hunker down for the long haul on this. Part of me wants to see whats left of teams and fan support when they put together a makeshift 50 gm shedule in 16 months time.

  • Oil Bog

    Jason (you likely have a good perspective of the following question), do you have any sense of who first discovered or exploited the use of long term contracts in the new CBA? That is, was it ownership or agents? I read many comments pointing the finger at ownership for handing out these big money, long term contracts, but what choice do you have as an owner if the agent states he is prepared to shop the term around? If all owners were offered Weber at an annual cap hit of 7 to 8 million surely most would accept. If all declined I would suspect the NHLPA would claim collusion.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    The articles are great reading……..especially from a former player but what is the point of these articles if there is no response from the author?

    The point of a blog is a forum for all to get involved. It does not mean the author has to respond, but every once in a while it would be nice to see the author debate with his readers, like JW, RB, AM.

    JS must think he is above responding.

    • Strudwick has responded here numerous times in the past, and nothing I’ve ever seen him say suggests a haughty attitude.

      More likely, the reason is that he submits his pieces, then we format them for the site and post them. Thus, he’s not always on the Nation to post his work, the way other authors here are.

      Assume good faith. There’s absolutely no reason to blast the guy.

    • paul wodehouse


      y’shoulda stopped at “The articles are great reading ……..”…give the guy a break man!

      …I remember shooting Martin Gelinas’s wedding Christmas Eve 1994..we briefly discussed the lockout that night and he worried about his investments and how he was going to keep up the payments without his paycheque…that particular lockout started in October one and he was starting to feel the stresses of managing his finances saying he did have enough money to pay for his wedding and honeymoon[a full blown affair at The MacHotel] but if the labor strife was going to go a whole lot longer he’d have to take out a loan to carry on…it’s kinda what i think of most these days …there are players who just must have that paycheque and they, I’m guessing must have to play in the KHL instead of the low wage AHL…Sid? you still here?

    • Jason Strudwick

      I think I respond quite a bit. Although maybe not as much as some other writers here. I will reply more often. And trust me I do not think I am above anyone on Oilersnation, other then Brownlee and Gregor.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I think Hall will be in AHL and he will follow Eberle and RNH down to the minors. Hall, RNH and Ebs are best buds and probably want to keep growing and developing as a trio.

    I defintely will be watching AHL games online this year!

  • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

    With a bunch of NHL players playing in the AHL this year, no doubt there will be several career AHL’ers who are out of a job. I feel bad for these guys who will have to go without a paycheque while the lockout goes on to make room for the multi-millionaires. Same situation in Europe, lots of guys who were planning on earning a living playing hockey this year will have to look for work. Doesn’t seem right to me.

  • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

    Hey jason, you think any of your buddies ever thought about getting a real job while the lockout is on? You know, the kind of job where you get up at 6 AM, have your shower, haul on your work clothes, a bite to eat, grab your lunch box, pull on your work boots and head out the door? And actually go work for a living? You ever try that? Any of your buddies ever try that? I doubt it.

    You will never know what it takes to hope to make enough money to afford the mortage, food, electricity, gas, vehicle payment, insurance..etc. Never. Because you were privileged. Just like all NHL professionals.

    After the last lockout I attended one game. I took two co-workers. That was five years ago. $700.00 later I decided I had much better things to do with my money than to just give it away to people who were not very good at entertaining me. So you see, some people will quit going to games.

    Next time you join your fellow players at some event, maybe mention those $15 – $20 labour jobs available instead of complaining about not making millions this year. You people only think you know about reality. The reality is, you don’t.

    • The 'Real' Ron Burgundy

      This was one of those posts that really made me take a step back and think.

      While I may not have worded in such matter of fact terms, I do think there is merit in this post.

      I understand that these professionals are used to a certain quality of life – but it doesn’t mean that there isn’t something else out there for them.

      Nice post!

    • Reg Dunlop

      Wow. That was a working-class hero blast if ever there was one. Not to defend pro hockey players necessarily but does that $15/hour labor job come with the constant threat of career ending injury and life altering concussions? Do people pay thick stacks of cash to watch forklift operators?

      After saying that I guess I sort of agree with you anyway.

      • MessyEH!

        Yes Reg, that $15 – $20 hour person does have in many situations constant threat of career ending injury.

        I agree, nobody pays stacks of cash to watch a forklift operator. But the forklift operator will pay stacks of cash to watch any NHL hockey game.

        And yes, in the real world of working class people, there is a “constant threat of career ending injury and life altering concussions”. And none that I know off come with million dollar guarantees.

        • Wanyes bastard child

          You lost me at this post. Obviously you don’t live in Alberta, either that or you are a painter or a professional “labourer” with no upside to his career.

          Speaking as a fellow blue collar/lunch box type I can tell you that I am a journeyman drywaller and you know what, I do pretty ok for myself. No chips on my shoulder over what other professions make at all.

          As to your threat of career ending injury and life altering concussions for us working class folk, guess you never heard of COR or any of the endless hazard file reports, files, paperwork, assesments (sp) or any of that other stuff that is going to make us safe. Yes the chance is there but what the jobsite is coming to is that we are waaaaaaaaay more protected then your average hockey player so don’t give me any of that bullship!

    • Klima's Mullet

      I see where you are coming from and respect your Opinion but to be honest you don’t know me or the values I live my life by. Don’t judge me and lump me in as ‘you people’.

      Just like everyone in this world the current group of Nhlpa members are making choices and decisions they feel are best for them personally and as a group. What may seem crazy or stupid from the outside are decisions not reached on a whim but thought out to serve a purpose.

      I agree the prices of tickets are very high, I would like to see a reduction so more people had access to a game. If you don’t feel entertained watching a hockey game then for sure don’t go. Spend your entertainment money on other options.

      • MessyEH!

        I think Turnover may have been referencing all hockey players as a group based on their average NHL salarys which far eclipse the 30some thousand a year the average Canadian earns.There is some possibility that you lumped yourself into that group with your first professional contract.

        I wouldnt want to carry the physical scars aches and pains a pro Hockey player normally accumulates,however we are all exposed to occupational hazards,I myself was injured on a Construction site,I suffered serious permanent spine and hip injurys which will ultimately require surgical intervention.I didnt ever have the fiscal dynamic present where I could provide for my complete potential 20yr future earnings every single YEAR.So there is no comparative value available when dicussing these dynamics,by virtue of being lumped into the average NHL player salary category,you are unavoidable defined in certain areas,notwithstanding your personal qualitys or values.They are seperate issues.

        There is no power on Earth that can justifiable remove an individuals right to free will and the direct manifestation of that ability or expression.

        There is however a societally catalysed definition of morality that has been expressed through the Occupy movement and other great changes we are seeing on todays world.We are seeing a definition and recognition of the 10% vs the 90%.We are seeing a reverse stereotype in which excessive personal accumulation of wealth at the manipulated expense of Everyman is being identified as a dynamic and illuminated.People can name names now,and their has been a backlash.I would suggest that I interpret the post by Turnover as an appeal on that societally moral level to NHL players from the Everyman perspective,not a scathing attack more of a plea for a brotherly aknowledgment and understanding.

        I dont think that I have a right to judge anyones personal choices or be envious of their sucess or judgmental of their lack of sucess.However I do aknowledge the importance of and the indirect power of Societally defined morals,their evolution and the effects that evolution can potentially have on my and anyone elses life.

        I respect the rights of Players to organise and work together to create a better working and earning environment for themselves,but it is extremely hard not to pass judgment on dynamic actions within the context of that selfrepresentation that filter down to my wallet as a fan.Just like we hate it when the price of gas or oil rises when WE havent gotten a pay raise to balance the greater and unexpected cost.The solution to both dynamics is the same,seek out the source of the atrificially inflated value and stop it at a dynamic level,stop the short-trading.We understand it now as consumers because we see the same squeeze put on us in other areas of our lives,consumers are more and more educated every day.Sorry for the backlash Players seem to take but after all they are the product and we all know what gets criticcly analysed every time a price goes up—the product–If you are in the grocery store and your favorite soup has tripled in price,you will naturally pick it up and look at it out of instinctive reflex,but then you will view it in a different light than ever before,roll it in your hand and then put it back on the shelf and go for a no-namer,unless you dont care about the extra cost.

        Sorry for seeming to do the same to hockey players,but please remember we are consumers and you are product ,neither one of us controls the store{owners}the product is sold in or the factory the manufacturer makes the product in{NHL}.Just keep praying a no-name hockey alternative doesnt show up and allow us to put you guys on the shelf for a looooong time,{KHL}We dont want that as fans.We like our Campbells so dont price us out of your purchasing range ,once its done its done,each time the price goes up the potential market shrinks.

    • MessyEH!

      You attack free content at a personal level. There are more pro hockey players making less than a hundred grand than there is making more than it. If it was easy to make the NHL why don’t more of your laborer buddies do it. That’s right; it takes too much talent and hard work to do it.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        And how many of these under $100,000 a year players are in a league bitching over revenue sharing? None. But many of them just lost their job to millionaires.

        Maybe one of their laborer buddies might be the person they need to help them into the blue collar work force.

        • MessyEH!

          Don’t think for a minute that career minor leaguers are not chomping at the bit to get the same silver spoon that the NHLPA has. As for the league being a business, you are correct, it is a very successful business making Billions of dollars. Bettman confirmed that the league had record profits last year. Owners do not want to share the wealth among each other, let alone with the players. This is entirely an exercise in greed, on both sides. But I have to side with the talent. Would a NHL by anyother name not be as sweet. Maybe a relaunch of the WHA is what’s needed. Take the legs right out from under the greedy owners. The courts have already decided that the Stanley cup will be awarded this year. The players should organize a championship tournament if this lockout lasts until January or maybe the KHL starts a north americian division.

    • MessyEH!

      You sound bitter, complaining about the cost and lack of entertainment vlaue, yet you seem to care enough to post a comment on this site.

      I constantly hear people whine about having to pay hundreds of dollars to attend a game, and think they have to sit in the lower bowl in one of the gold or silver sections. If you want to reduce cost, find some buddies to share season tickets with. I have good seats in row 32 of the Colonnade that cost about $50 per seat per game, which to me is fair value.

  • The 'Real' Ron Burgundy

    I dont agree with players going to compete at a high level and risking injury,potentially career ending–see Crosby–.

    I am not referring to insurance to compensate the team fiscally either ,I mean that an NHL team invests much more into a player than money,organisational planning and tactics are based on players intangibles–types of players,and loseing an intangible might mean you cannot replace the player in your system with just money because the market may not have a player like that available to sign.Hemmer is a good example because of what he brings at an elite level every year injurys aside.

    If I could stop it as an organisation I would do so on every level.As a player I would expect my stock to drop if I made such a decision for “conditioning”reasons.
    Sounds like dynamic pressure being exerted across the board to the degree that players will risk their entire careers by risking injury with other teams to support a dynamic that their union is being paid to dynamicly support in the boardrooms.

    As a fan I dont find this funny.

    I also agree with every single word Turnover posted,I am sure there are a lot of Construction workers and Rig workers who would be willing to billet players and help them out through these tough times by getting them a little work to tide them over,sounds like a great idea—wonder whos up first??
    There’s a Lockout ,,,so now what???


    Pool your pocket change as Players and take the 20000 each you would have wasted this summer and then take that 460K and start renting ice and buying skates and stuff for kids here in Edmonton,there are lots of ways for the team to stay together and support the paying fans in their home NHL citys. And still support their labor situation without a conflict of interest.That is unless the fans are intentionally being targeted by NHL teams who are willing to let the players scatter to create another manipulation dynamic.Are the fans being manipulated here to some degree by this stance by teams and players?

    Those contracts were informally signed with the fans,just as the fans formally paid the dollars for their tickets to the teams.Looks like another tag-team play on the fans to me,Yea we sure like watching our star players risking themselves on the Farm and the KHL,what say the teams send back all the cash the fans give them while all these guys are risking themselves everywhere,dont worry the money will return when the players return.No ,NHL players ,we dont understand and as Turnover pointed out there is a blue collar reason why we dont understand,and its not going to go away.You fellas seem to have forgotten that.If you are going to endure this difficult time as Players why not endure it right here at home with the fans who have always and will continue to support you??And why not do it as a group with some continuity,its only a few months?

  • ubermiguel

    I’d love to see the NHLPA organize player rec leagues in every major city with enough players. Have them at local rinks, “charge” fans some voluntary food bank donations to watch, players stay in shape, NHLPA wins the goodwill of the fans…everyone wins.

  • Subversive

    This is good stuff. I also agree that the players should go play elsewhere, if only because it’s really the only leverage they have over the owners.

    And @Turnover, get a life. Or, maybe get a skillset that’s among the top 1% of all the people in the world at what you do. What a ridiculous comment. The players don’t force anyone to pay them these ridiculous salaries, they provide the service that generates the billions of dollars. Given that the players have publicly stated that they’re willing to keep playing while negotiating, I think you need to calm the hell down and look at who is locking who out here.

    • The Soup Fascist

      I seems economics is not one of your strong characteristics. Numerous NHL teams are losing money. Every year. In order for the league to survive the losses of these franchises, they have to get it under control. This is their last chance.

      As for you telling me to get a skillset in the 1% of what I do? I might already have it. After all, the business I own turns a profit. Every year. Just like a business is suppossed to do. If it did not, it would get changed. Immediately.

      As for the players willing to continue playing? Why not? Nothing changes for them. For now. But all those owners losing millions each year are going to have to face reality. Not every team losing money was meant to be a writeoff. That’s where the issue of economics comes into play.

      • MessyEH!

        If you’re in the top 1% of business owners you are definitely going to be making a lot more than a $15/hr labourer. And if your business failed for any reason would you take a $15/hr job just to know what it was like, or would you start another business?

        Actually, that’s all beside the point. The point is that this is a job that requires a huge amount of skill, practice, and physical conditioning. On top of that, it’s highly competitive. Getting a job laying bricks will mean that they wouldn’t be able to practice enough to keep their skill level where it needs to be as soon as the lockout ends.

        A hockey player can’t just stop doing what they do and expect to be able to pick up exactly where they left off a year ago. They have to keep their skills up and keep learning or they will fall behind.

        That being said, it’s fairly obvious that the players had a sweet deal at 57%. It was a foot-in-the-door deal as the owners were trying to push a salary cap in the first place and then balance it the next time around (which is, unfortunately, now).

    • RexLibris

      He only did it to ensure that Babchuk and Karlsson’s contracts will expire over a lost season. It is something of an extreme measure, but the man loves his team so no price is too high.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I have to admit: I am pretty disgusted with these young NHL stars who are still on EL contracts, turning their noses up at AHL assignments where they would develop chemistry playing high level hockey with future teammates.

    Instead they would rather go to Europe to take a job from a career minor leaguer who has an opportunity to bank some decent after-tax coin for the first time in his career.

    I also must admit I lose sympathy pretty quickly for the players when they say things to the press like, “We only want what’s fair.”

    What’s FAIR?

    Fair is what a teacher or policeman makes. More than fair is what a CFL or AHL player, or local sports media presenter makes.

    What the lowest paid player in the NHL makes is many multiples of fair.

    What is also not fair is the admin people living pay cheque to pay cheque at Oilers office get the crappiest treatment and benefits, and will be the first to be layed off even though they make 1/20th the money of the “Hockey ops executives”

  • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

    I laughed pretty hard at this! Bravo!

    You gotta think Millhouse was never really good with his FISTs, except when alone in his bedroom.