TORONTO — With a lockout looming larger, the National Hockey League Players’ Association is quietly making plans for a series of star-studded exhibition games should the NHL shut down this fall.
Sources tell Sportsnet’s John Shannon that games between a team of Russian all-stars from the Kontinental Hockey League and “world” all-stars from the NHL are tentatively set for Moscow, Halifax and Quebec City, as well as an undetermined site in Southern Ontario. Donald Fehr, the NHLPA’s executive director, spoke with representatives of the Russian league while overseas last week.
On Thursday, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said NHL owners would lock out players if a new collective bargaining agreement is not reached by Sept. 15, when the current agreement expires. Talks continue between the two sides, but both Fehr and Bettman said Thursday there is a wide gap between the two sides’ positions. The NHL presented a proposal last month that called for a reduction of the players’ share of revenues from 57 per cent to 46 per cent. The PA is expected to present a counter-proposal on Tuesday.
The NHLPA would neither confirm nor deny it is making any such plans for exhibitions.
“We are focused on making our proposal next week and getting a deal done before Sept. 15,” NHLPA spokesperson Jonathan Weatherdon said via email. “We have no comment on events that may occur after that date.”
A spokesperson for the NHL said it is not aware of any plans the NHLPA might be making.
During the most recent lockout in 2004, the NHLPA helped players join teams in Europe or Russia. In the 1994 lockout, Wayne Gretzky organized a team that played exhibition games in Europe, while the NHLPA held a four-on-four tournament in Hamilton.