Gilbert Perreault is hopeful the NHL lockout will come to a swift end. Other than saying that, the Buffalo Sabres’ legend has no desire to immerse himself into the fight between the league and its players’ association. It’s not his place because hockey is so much different now than when he played.
“It’s a different time,” Perreault said Tuesday. “Money was not there like it is today, but we had a lot of fun playing that game.”
Indeed, it’s a very different time. Today, there’s a lot of money, but no one is having fun or playing. Based on Tuesday’s negotiations, they won’t be playing for a while.
Representatives from the NHL and NHLPA left their meeting in New York with potshots and pointy barbs, but once again they departed without a collective bargaining agreement. The frustration was evident.
“Today wasn’t overly encouraging, that’s for sure,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told reporters in New York. “Unless and until we hear from them and they make some movement or show some willingness to compromise, I’m not sure how we get this done.”
Donald Fehr, executive director of the NHLPA, wasted little time answering.
“The definition of no progress that comes out of the NHL office seems to be, ‘They didn’t give us what we want yet,’” said Fehr, who talked informally with Commissioner Gary Bettman later in the day. “I choose to believe that they would like to make a deal.”
What’s all but certain to come first is a delay to the start of the season. The first puck is supposed to drop Oct. 11, but that date is expected to be scratched.
“By definition you have to get closer to making that decision,” Daly said.
The lockout, which started Sept. 16 when the owners closed the doors on the players, has already cost the NHL its preseason. Daly put a price tag on that Tuesday.
“By losing our preseason, we’ve probably done close to $100 million damage to the business that’s not going to be recouped, and that’s going to cost both sides,” he said. “That’s unfortunate, but it’s a reality of where we are.”
“This is a lockout they decided to have,” Fehr countered. “And so, if there’s a problem here, maybe someone ought to look in the mirror over there.”
Instead of a mirror, Perreault and French Connection linemate Rene Robert got to look at the beginning of Alumni Plaza outside of First Niagara Center. The Sabres are erecting a statue of the players Oct. 12, and the duo came to Buffalo for a preview luncheon and news conference.
“It’s a great honor to have our statue in front,” Perreault said. “Just make sure that you’re going to keep our beautiful faces clean over the years.”
The statue depicting Perreault, Robert and late linemate Richard Martin will be the centerpiece of the plaza. The immortalized players from the 1970s and early ‘80s will stand 7-feet tall and draw fans back to a time of wavy hair and Stanley Cup dreams.
“I’m sure that better things are to come yet,” Robert said. “I’m sure with this new ownership it won’t be long until you forget about this statue that’s going to be unveiled next week to take a look at the Stanley Cup because it’s on its way.”
The plaza will be more about the past than the future. Plaques with the name of every player who has dressed for the Sabres will be affixed to the brick columns outside the arena.
“It’s truly an honor that the new ownership of the Sabres are remembering us, the old players, the alumni and the beginning of the franchise,” Robert said. “This has been a long time coming, but it’s nice to see that finally there’s going to be a plaza remembering each and every one of us that played here, whether he played one game or 1,000 games.
“It would have been a lot nicer if it would have been on game night, but that’s the way hockey is now. They have their differences that they have to sort out, and hopefully they’ll come to terms soon. I’m pretty neutral. There’s both sides at fault.”