BOLTON – With the deadline for the owners and players’ association to reach a deal before the Sept. 15 expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement just days away, those who would be skating for the Bruins come Sept. 21 — but might find themselves locked out — have a lot on their minds.
More than a dozen Bruins attended the team’s annual charity golf tournament Monday with their immediate future cloudy in terms of what they’ll be doing and where they’ll be doing as soon as a week from now.
“It’s been a waiting game for a while now,” said goaltender Tuukka Rask. “We’re confident in the guys we’ve got negotiating there to get a deal done. But if we’re going to get locked out on the 15th there, we will, but I’m sure we’re going to get a deal done in the future.”
A Hail Mary deal could get done in time for Bruins camp to open on time Sept. 21. Camps could be delayed. The start of the season could be delayed until November, December, January … who knows? All the while, players will have to start deciding what they want to do. You need look no farther than former Bruins Nick Boynton and Andrew Raycroft to see what not playing during the lockout can do to young players on the cusp of stardom.
That’s one of the unfortunate side effects of labor disputes in sports. Players’ fortunes can be turned by the opportunity to compete at a high level or their inability to “find a game” so to speak. Many veteran players didn’t come back after the 2004-05 lockout wiped out that season. Many came back shadows of their former selves.
A year off, or playing against minor-leaguers or inferior Europeans, could also impact younger players’ development.
By the end of this week, Bruins star Tyler Seguin hopes to have a clearer picture of what his options will be should the owners lock out the players. Playing overseas or in the American League could at least keep Seguin on the right track toward becoming one of the best players in the NHL.
“I’ve never experienced not playing, so I wouldn’t know,” said the 20-year-old Seguin when asked what not playing would do to his game. “I’ve been training all summer like there’s going to be a training camp and a season and that’s just been my mentality. Obviously I want to play hockey, I want to play NHL hockey, number one. But if that doesn’t happen on time, I can’t say I know what I’m going to do yet.”
Rask needs to get some game action soon because he hasn’t played since early March. An overseas option – although not in his native Finland – could be in his future. David Krejci’s considering a return home to the Czech Republic and other players might also have to cross the pond to play while others do the talking.
From what’s been reported after recent negotiations, the owners are taking a pretty hard line. They might want to consider not only what a labor stoppage will do to their bottom lines but also what it will do to the players they’ve invested in so heavily.