Los Angeles Kings enforcer Kevin Westgarth isn’t shy when it comes to dropping his gloves on the ice, nor is he shy about speaking his mind about the NHL lockout.
Westgarth has been present for almost every bargaining session since before the NHL lockout began in mid September and the 28-year-old spent the weekend informing his fellow NHL Players’ Association members on what happened at last week’s negotiations in New York.
Those talks ended with the NHL rejecting the NHLPA’s latest counteroffer before talks fell apart, but earlier in the week players met with owners and Westgarth said those discussions were positive.
“The players and the owners had some great dialogue, great discussion and I think it’s pretty clear that over those few days we did make a lot of progress,” Westgarth told Hockey Central at Noon on Sportsnet 590 The Fan Monday. “We’re far closer than we were a week ago today. We’re looking to get over that last hump but unfortunately it seems like, today at least, that owners aren’t looking to be at the table. … It’s kind of tough to get a deal done when you’re not talking.”
A graduate of Princeton, Westgarth added that although there is some common ground on certain issues there is a lot of room to player contracts.
“A lot of these issues are incredibly important to players. Like the ability to negotiate contracts, it’s very strange to me to see that the owners are so hard-lined about some of these issues when clearly they’re more important to a player, an individual player, than to a club,” Westgarth explained.
“You have one career as a hockey player … and for them to try and start eroding the abilities of guys to maximize their limited time they have (playing professional hockey), it’s a strange place to be in the negotiations.”
Westgarth also said that he and the players union have their full support behind NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr.
“The guys are 100 per cent behind Don and clearly he’s done an exceptional job of communicating with the membership.”
On Monday, the NHL cancelled all regular season games through Dec. 30.