ROSEMONT, Ill — NHLPA head Donald Fehr said Friday the players are prepared for the eventuality of an owners' lockout if a new collective bargaining agreement can't be reached.
Fehr wrapped up a meeting held over parts of two days with about 40 players at a hotel outside of O'Hare International Airport. The union will hold similar informational meetings next week in British Columbia and Toronto.
Fehr said it's no surprise for players to hear about the possibility of a lockout, especially since both the NFL and NBA have recently weathered shutdowns.
Players are not surprised and fully understand what the ramifications of a work stoppage would mean, since most of them either lived through or have teammates who were playing when the NHL shut down in 2004, he said.
"It was interested. It was focused. It was sobered," Fehr said, describing the tone of the meetings.
"Players understand what is going on, understand what the issues are and understand how the owners' proposal will affect them, understand how this compares to what happened seven years ago. ... understand that this will affect their lives if we can't find a way through this in the immediate future."
The league wants the players to give up a significant amount of salary to stabilize the industry while the union maintains that goal would be best accomplished with the wealthy teams doing more to help their struggling counterparts.
Fehr is scheduled to resume formal discussions with the league Aug. 22.
When that starts, the league and the union will have just 24 days left to reach a new agreement and avoid a lockout. The current CBA runs out on Sept. 15 — by which time Commissioner Gary Bettman wants a deal in place. The regular season is set to start Oct. 11.
The entire 2004-05 season was lost to a lockout and then the players eventually accepted a 24 percent rollback on salaries and a cap. Despite the wide philosophical gap between the two sides, Fehr said there is still time to reach an agreement.
"If there is a mutual will to get this done, if we can find a common platform around which to construct an agreement, then obviously there is plenty of time in which to do that," he said, adding he's out of the prediction business.
"Unfortunately, what you saw in the last two negotiations in football and basketball, and can be argued what happened in hockey in 2004, is that the lockout was the strategy of first choice, not the strategy of last resort," Fehr continued.