Bruins hope owners are willing to play ball
LOWELL — Dennis Seidenberg’s alternate plan has already been conceived. If the 2012-13 NHL season does not progress as all parties desire, Seidenberg would like to play for Mannheim in Germany. Yanick Seidenberg, the Bruin defenseman’s 28-year-old younger brother, plays for the club.
Naturally, an on-ice family reunion is not Seidenberg’s first wish.
“It would be nice to play with him if it gets to that point,” said Seidenberg. “But for now, I haven’t really put enough thought into it to say what I’m going to do.”
Seidenberg was one of several Bruins who participated in Milan Lucic’s annual charity softball game Wednesday at LeLacheur Park. Others included Tuukka Rask, Johnny Boychuk, and Mike Mottau. The five players are hopeful that larger Black-and-Gold gatherings are in store when training camp officially opens Sept. 21 at Ristuccia Arena.
By then, however, the players might be locked out.
“Hopefully we can get an agreement done,” Boychuk said. “It’s too bad we’re at where we’re at. But as teammates, you stick together. We’ll get through this.”
The five (Mottau remains without a contract) represent the first wave of Bruins returning to their in-season home. They join Shawn Thornton and Daniel Paille, who live in Boston full time. They will continue their workouts locally. They will reunite with teammates when they make their respective returns.
However, based on the status of negotiations between the NHL and the NHL Players Association, the players may be returning to nothing. The current collective bargaining agreement is scheduled to expire Sept. 15. The NHL and NHLPA have exchanged proposals, but there has been little traction in negotiations.
Some components of the league proposal include limiting contracts to five years, allowing unrestricted free agency after 10 years of service, and reducing the players’ percentage of hockey-related revenue to 43 percent.
The NHLPA has proposed greater revenue sharing, a fixed rate of salary growth for three seasons, and a snap-back to the current CBA in the fourth year.
On Wednesday morning, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly met with NHLPA executive director Don Fehr and adviser Steve Fehr in an impromptu meeting, then called off the talks for the day. Another meeting is scheduled for Thursday in Toronto. Rask said he plans to attend.
“You could probably observe there’s some degree of frustration between the parties,” Don Fehr told reporters. “But that doesn’t surprise anybody.”
Seidenberg recalled playing in the AHL in 2004-05, during the last NHL lockout. He was just 23 at the time. Now, the 31-year-old has a wife and three children.
Seidenberg has been more engaged with NHLPA conference calls.
“Last time I was pretty young, so I wasn’t really involved in all that stuff that was going on,” he said. “I played in the minors back then. I got the news here and there, but I didn’t really know what happened.
“This time, being a little bit older and knowing a few more players, you really feel the players are sticking together and really caring for each other. We’re believing what Don Fehr has to say.”
During the 2004-05 lockout, Seidenberg played for the Phantoms, Philadelphia’s AHL affiliate. Seidenberg played against Boychuk, who was a first-year pro for Hershey, Colorado’s farm club.
As a rookie, Boychuk figures it helped his development to play against top-flight talent. That year, some of the AHLers with NHL experience included Patrice Bergeron, Jason Spezza, and Eric Staal.
“It was kind of weird, because everybody I knew was playing with me in the minors,” Boychuk said. “A lot of guys went over to Europe. I was coming into the league. It was my first year. I didn’t know what to expect. To come and have a lockout was kind of different.”
In 2004-05, Rask was just a teenager kicking off his pro career in Finland. Now he is on the cusp of finally becoming an ace NHL goalie. Had this been a normal season, Rask would be the Bruins’ go-to puck-stopper with Tim Thomas on a one-year sabbatical.
Rask, like his NHLPA brothers, now must wait.
“There’s going to be a lot of players without a job [in the event of a lockout],” Rask said. “A lot of teams are going to be packed.
“I haven’t really given any thought to it. Maybe I’ll figure something out if that happens.”