One of the greatest hockey players ever to play the game doesn’t expect a long labour dispute this year.
“If there is, it won’t be long,” Bobby Orr said Monday in Charlottetown. “Things are going too well in the game with our talent, the L.A. markets, the New York markets and so many other things.”
The collective bargaining agreement between the National Hockey League and its players expires Sept. 15. It could result in the first lockout in the game since the 2004-05 season was cancelled.
The owners and players have meetings scheduled in New York during the coming days where they’ll discuss an impending lockout. But unless the sides can find a way to get back to the bargaining table and hammer out an unlikely deal before 11:59 p.m. ET on Saturday, it’s a mere formality.
In fact, commissioner Gary Bettman won’t even have to make the case for a third lockout under his tenure when the Board of Governors gathers at a Times Square hotel on Thursday afternoon.
“The commissioner doesn’t need specific board authorization to institute or implement a lockout,” deputy commissioner Bill Daly told The Canadian Press in a recent interview. “That has been granted already in connection with his authority to conduct collective bargaining.”
Essentially, the NHL is back where it started when the current CBA was signed in July 2005. That six-year deal — extended through a seventh because of an option held by the NHL Players’ Association — ended a lockout that saw the league become the first in North America to ever have an entire season wiped out by a work stoppage.
The union is planning its largest gathering since that deal was ratified with more than 200 players expected to attend meetings Wednesday and Thursday. A number of stars, Sidney Crosby among them, are expected to take part in the show of strength.
“We want to brief the broadest possible group of players and it’s always better to do it in person,” said Donald Fehr, the NHLPA’s executive director. “Whenever you’re facing the possibility of a lockout what you need to do is make it as easy as possible for the maximum number of your constituents to hear it directly.
“We’re going to have a very large number of players it looks like and you know how fast information travels through locker-rooms, so it won’t be a problem getting it out to everyone else.”
For more on Orr's visit, see Tuesday's edition of The Guardian.
– With files from The Canadian Press