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WILMINGTON — In some ways, Friday’s informal practice at Ristuccia Arena was business as usual. Every player projected to make the 2012-13 roster, minus Nathan Horton, Brad Marchand, and Chris Kelly, participated in a brisk on-ice session. After leaving the ice, some players swapped their equipment for workout clothes to hit the weights and stationary bikes.
In other ways, Friday’s session looked more like an end-of-season breakup day than a prelude to training camp.
With the NHL set to lock out its players upon the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement at 11:59 p.m. Saturday, the rank-and-file spent part of Friday preparing for the inevitable. Zdeno Chara taped together his sticks for transport. Shawn Thornton asked the Bruins captain to sign several sweatshirts and T-shirts. Thornton left Ristuccia with his equipment bag over his shoulder.
The rink the players consider one of their two primary work sites (TD Garden being the other) will, in short order, no longer be available for use.
“Both sides have exchanged proposals, so I think, for sure, it’s probably going to take some time for both sides to think about things,” Chara said. “We’ll go from there. It’s one of those things that goes day by day. We’ll see what will be new tomorrow or the day after that. But as of right now, both sides know it’s not going to be the start of training camp. We’ll see where it goes from there.”
The NHL and NHLPA did not negotiate Friday. They have not engaged in a bargaining session since Wednesday, when, after brushing off an NHLPA proposal, the NHL offered a counterproposal. The deal, which Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs helped to construct, would be a six-year term granting the players 49 percent share of hockey-related revenue in 2012-13. By term’s end, player share would decrease to 47 percent annually.
The players currently receive 57 percent. The NHLPA is wary of giving back salary via escrow. The players have proposed to assist small-market teams via revenue sharing. They have not succeeded in selling that idea to the owners.
“The association tried to make a solution for the NHL teams,” Chara said. “That’s a huge positive. We tried to implement the plan to help every team. Especially teams that are not doing so good financially. It’s up to [the owners] if they decide if they like it or don’t like it.”
On Friday, the Bruins should have kicked off their rookie camp.
The rookies were scheduled to participate in a tournament in Florida along with the Panthers, Lightning, and Predators. That tournament was canceled.
Next week, the veterans would have continued their skates and off-ice training at Ristuccia to prepare for the start of main camp on Sept. 21. Instead, they are preparing to skate at an undetermined facility. They may be joined by local players Ryan Whitney, Keith Yandle, Ryan Bourque, and Alex Berry. The four non-Bruins participated in Friday’s on-ice session.
Friday’s skate was the first time on the ice for the Bruins since returning from New York via train. On Wednesday and Thursday, the players attended meetings with NHLPA executive director Don Fehr. They were briefed on the status of negotiations. They also stood alongside Fehr during a Thursday media conference at a midtown hotel.
During the meetings, the players recognized how deep the NHL’s proposal would cut.
“Just knowing what to expect and talking about we need to stay strong as players, stay together as a union,” Milan Lucic said of the meetings. “We had almost 300 players come in there to show up for something like that. That alone shows that we are together. We are all on the same page.”
Short term, the players will continue to skate in the area in hopes of a prompt end to the labor disagreement. If the players are locked out for some time, they will consider their options.
Dennis Seidenberg (Germany) and David Krejci (Czech Republic) have expressed interest in playing overseas during an extended lockout. However, both players will remain in town for at least a few weeks.
Just as the players were considering their next move, their employer was doing the same. On Friday, the Bruins assigned 19 players to Providence. Matt Bartkowski, Ryan Button, Carter Camper, Jordan Caron, Colby Cohen, Tommy Cross, Craig Cunningham, Justin Florek, Michael Hutchinson, Jared Knight, Torey Krug, Kevan Miller, Adam Morrison, Tyler Randell, Max Sauve, Ryan Spooner, Niklas Svedberg, Zach Trotman, and David Warsofsky will be eligible to play for the AHL club.
They will be joined in Providence by Garnet Exelby, Christian Hanson, Jamie Tardif, and Trent Whitfield. The four players cleared waivers Friday and were assigned to Providence.Continued...