Donald Fehr engendered a reputation as a tough negotiator during his work with the Major League Baseball Players Association, but this week he indicated some flexibility about upcoming NHL collective bargaining negotiations. Fehr said he might be amiable to the season starting on time without a lockout even if a new CBA isn’t reached by Sept. 15.
Following in that same optimism, Washington Capitals right wing Troy Brouwer said Thursday he’s “very optimistic” the season starts on time.
“We are confident that we’re going to be able to get to a new agreement, with the league revenues going up,” Brouwer said. “We are, as players, all preparing and getting ready and training as if the season would start on time.”
Brouwer was one of two Caps players in Chicago this week for NHL Players’ Association executive meetings, along with captain Alex Ovechkin. Brooks Laich is still the Caps’ player representative but Brouwer wanted to attend.
“For me it was just because I really wanted to know what was going on. A lot of people have asked me what is going to happen, what is looming right now,” he said. “And I just wanted to go so that I knew what was happening, I knew what the issues were and also it was a little bit of a convenience factor that it was five miles from my house.”
Brouwer is making his offseason home in Chicago this summer, where he and his wife, Carmen, still own a house.
He said the three days of meetings helped players hash out some major issues and “all get on the same page” to ensure the season starts on time. But what was discussed wasn’t a surprise.
“We all kind of had a good idea of what the big topics and what the big issues were going to be because throughout the season we’ve had meetings with the Players’ Association and Don Fehr. He’s informed us kind of all along what potentially will be the big issues and what will be the smaller issues,” Brouwer said. “Guys knew coming into this week kind of where the bargaining was going to have to begin. It was more of an informative week where he explained all the numbers and everything that should be expected and then we kind of broke down into little smaller groups and were able to talk a little bit more about where guys really feel we need to improve.”
Neither side is willing to talk about the big issues, which are believed to include dividing league revenue, escrow and length of contracts.
Brouwer and others are getting ready as usual, but preparations for a potential lockout started long ago.
“We’re all in a situation where we’re fortunate enough to be able to make the money that we do. Guys knew that a lockout was maybe looming,” Brouwer said. “Still we’re very optimistic that we’re going to start season on time as every other season does. But guys have been preparing for it financially and we know the situation and the repercussions that might happen if there isn’t a season [beginning in October].”
Brouwer was not named to the 31-member NHLPA negotiating committee, which includes no Caps representation. He was approached but initially declined because his wife is pregnant and due to give birth Oct. 14. Brouwer said he’d be willing to be added if Laich doesn’t want to take part because the NHLPA would like someone from each team.
“With a baby on the way and doctors appointments and things, I just don’t want to have to get into a situation where I can’t go to a meeting because I have family business to take care of,” Brouwer said. “I want to be very involved in what happens in the negotiations, but at the same time, it’s my first child and I want to be there for my wife as much as possible.”