Flyers' Timonen: NHL players more unified and organized in this labor impasse

NHL players listen as their union chief, Donald Fehr, speaks at a news conference Thursday in New York. Owners will lock out the players if a labor deal is not reached by Saturday night. AP
NHL players listen as their union chief, Donald Fehr, speaks at a news conference Thursday in New York. Owners will lock out the players if a labor deal is not reached by Saturday night. AP (AP)
Posted: September 15, 2012

After the NHL lost the 2004-05 season to a labor dispute, the players crawled back and were big-time losers in the negotiations.

Salaries were drastically cut and a cap was installed.

This time, the players are more unified and determined to stand up to the owners, veteran Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen said.

The owners are united, too. After a board of governors meeting in New York City on Thursday, Gary Bettman, the NHL commissioner, said owners unanimously support a lockout if a new collective-bargaining agreement isn't in place at Saturday's 11:59 p.m. deadline. (The players' union has said it wants to continue playing - and negotiating - if a new CBA hasn't been worked out.)

Bettman said even a brief lockout will cost the players more money than what the league is proposing in the new CBA.

"Seven years ago, we missed a year, and then the players gave up," Timonen after working out at the Skate Zone in Voorhees on Thursday. "We gave up a 24 percent rollback; we gave up a salary cap."

This year, the league's initial offer "was the same it was seven years ago - 24 percent [rollback in salaries] and 43 percent of the revenue-sharing," as opposed to 57 percent in the last CBA, Timonen said.

"I think that was the wrong way to start the negotiations this time," he said. "I think the union is much better this time around. We're more informed, we're more open. You can lock in [to information] on your phones. We know what's going on."

The players have received 57 percent of hockey-related revenue in the current CBA, and the owners wanted that sliced to 43 percent when negotiations started his year. Since then, the owners have upped the players' ante to 49 percent in the first year of a six-year pact, which ends with that figure at 47 percent.

According to Bettman, the league's proposal includes player salary reductions of approximately 9 percent, 7 percent, and 4 percent in the first three years.

Donald Fehr, executive director of the players' association, said that after all the concessions the owners received in the last CBA, they want to "see what else they can get."

If the owners impose a lockout, it would be the third since Bettman became the commissioner in 1993.

"Hope is kind of slim right now, but we'll see," said Timonen.

As for the owners' demands, "I don't think it's going to work this time around," Timonen said. "Both sides have to give up something, but coming from seven years ago and what we gave up, I don't think it's going to happen this time. That's why I'm afraid it might take a while."

Fehr is "more open" and "asks a lot of questions," Timonen said. "There's no closed-door meetings like happened way back. It's easy now to follow what's going on, and he tells us in simple words what's going to happen."

Bettman isn't as impressed with Fehr as the players. The commissioner said that the NHL first asked the NHLPA to begin CBA negotiations last summer, but that the union said it wasn't ready. "There was no urgency on their part," he claimed.

Timonen played in Finland during the 2004-05 lockout, but this time he is leaning toward staying in the area and working out with some of his teammates.

If there's a lockout, the Flyers are not allowed in their spacious locker room at their Voorhees practice facility, but they can use a tiny locker room down the hall and rent the ice. They would miss their first paycheck Oct. 15.

Timonen, 37, a Haddonfield resident, is coming off back surgery, so easing into shape may seem more appealing. And by staying home, he would get to spend more time with his three children, ages 6 to 13.

Since he is part-owner of a team in Finland, "that would be a pretty easy choice if I wanted to play," he said. "But I have three kids in school here, so I'm going to wait it out for as long as it's going to take. If the whole year is canceled, maybe then I'll decide to play somewhere."

During the 2004-05 lockout, "I was seven years younger. It's not that easy for me this time around to go there by myself and leave my family here," Timonen said. "But a lot of young guys are asking if there's a spot for them to play. I'm sure our team can take a few of the guys, but not many. We'll see what happens. It's kind of a wait-and-see mode."

Breakaways. The Flyers put defenseman Danny Syvret and winger Matt Ford on waivers. If they clear at noon Friday, they will take part in the Phantoms' AHL training camp, which starts Sept. 29 in Voorhees. . . . Flyers defenseman Andreas Lilja was allowed to walk around without crutches Thursday for the first time since he had surgery in late July to repair a degenerative condition in his left hip. If there is a lockout, Lilja will get paid and be able work out in Voorhees because he is rehabbing from the injury.

Contact Sam Carchidi at or follow on Twitter @BroadStBull.

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