Hockey Hall of Fame welcomes new players as lockout drags on
Published Monday, November 12, 2012 12:03PM EST
Last Updated Monday, November 12, 2012 9:24PM EST
Hockey fans frustrated with the ongoing NHL lockout had a rare reason to celebrate the sport Monday, as the Hockey Hall of Fame welcomed four new members to its hallowed halls.
Players Mats Sundin, Joe Sakic, Pavel Bure and Adam Oates were all inducted to the institution.
The players were presented with Hall of Fame member rings at a news conference in Toronto, ahead of a formal induction ceremony Monday evening.
"It's a very special feeling and to join the likes of those all around us here, it's very humbling," former long-time Toronto Maple Leafs captain Sundin said, dismissing the suggestion that the day’s events were tarnished by the ongoing lockout.
"No, not at all. I think it's a great celebration for hockey today, obviously as former players and as hockey fans we want the season to get going as soon as possible but at the same time it's a great celebration for hockey," Sundin said.
One fan reflected on Sundin’s achievement, by saying, “I think it’s awesome. He worked really hard all those years, he was scoring leader for all his time there (with the Leafs). I think it’s pretty good.”
However, Sundin said the NHL is the "driving force" for the sport of hockey around the world, and said the lockout is hurting the game. As a former player and now a fan, Sundin said he just wants the two sides to reach a deal.
"It's sad, I think, as a former player but more importantly as a hockey fan, it's obviously very disappointing. You want the season to get going. I think all hockey fans deserve to have the NHL going on so hopefully both parties can get to the table and get a deal as soon as possible."
Meanwhile, many fans and analysts are losing hope that the 2011-2012 season can be salvaged as the lockout hits 58 days and counting.
Representatives for the players and owners met last week for four days straight, but came out of the talks admitting that little or no progress was made, said Howard Bloom of Sports Business News.
After a day’s break, they met again on Sunday to talk solely about player contracts, with similar results.
"This time they got smart. They met for 90 minutes, realized they were getting nowhere, then went their own seperate ways," Bloom told CTV News Channel.
The NHL wants to limit player contracts to five years, keep players ineligible for unrestricted free agency until they are 28 or have eight years of professional service time, cut entry-level deals to two years, and make salary arbitration after five years. Owners also want to eliminate back-diving contracts the league feels circumvents the salary cap.
Sakic lost an entire season of his career during the 2004-05 lockout.
"I lost a year of hockey," Sakic said prior to the induction ceremony. "It would have been 21 years instead of 20. That's what you lose."
Both sides appear to be dug into their positions, and Bloom said the players will likely have to be the ones to offer up a compromise.
"It doesn't make it right but the owners hold the hammer and the players have to realize that."
President of the Player’s Association Don Fehr and National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman walked down the red carpet at Monday evening’s induction ceremony. In a speech in which Bettman paid tribute to the inductees, he had this to say about the lockout: "All of us -- fans, teams, players -- look forward to the time the game returns.”
Although talks have not been scheduled in the near future, there is hope a new deal might not be all that far away.
Steve Fehr, special counsel to the Players' Association, said bargaining agreements can be settled quickly.
"One thing (deputy commissioner) Bill Daly and I agree upon is that when the moment is right the deal could be done very quickly," Fehr said during a panel discussion at the PrimeTime Sports Management Conference. "One days, three days or whatever."
Fehr told the panel that there are three unresolved issues: the split of money, player contract rights and who pays for the damage caused by the lockout.
It`s not all doom and gloom at the negotiation table. It is reported that both parties are close to an agreement on revenue sharing, with the NHL agreeing to bump the annual pot to $220 million, an increase from $140 million.