Of the players on the Capitals’ projected roster for next season, only four – Mike Ribeiro, Jason Chimera, Roman Hamrlik and John Erskine – experienced the 2004-05 lockout first hand as NHLers.
Across the league, though, there are plenty of players who remember those negotiations and losing a season before finally agreeing to a salary cap and 24 percent rollback. Ribeiro, 32, said that work stoppage taught players valuable lessons that carry over to the NHLPA in the current labor negotiations.
Given that the owners’ request for sizable salary cuts comes after a summer that saw several prominent players sign large, lengthy contracts – Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Shea Weber and Sidney Crosby, for example – players find the push for rollbacks or increased escrow payments particularly tough to accept.
“They want us to fix the mistakes they made,” Ribeiro said Thursday after an informal workout with teammates at KCI. “Last time, fans were on the players: ‘Oh, you guys are making so much money.’ Well, they gave it to me. They did the same mistakes [with large contracts] again and they want us to fix it again for them. It’s hard to understand.”
Ribeiro said the owners don’t seem to be on the same page, considering the contradiction between the contracts doled out and the requests for players to accept immediate cuts.
“I think there are owners that they’ll do whatever they want to do and not really care about the bottom ones,” Ribeiro said. “I think they should, between them, figure out what they want to do as owners and come back and give us an option. It’s just common sense. In five years are [owners] going to ask for another 30 percent [back from players] because they made the same mistakes?”
Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin expressed the same concerns earlier in the week: “Why they still sign the guys for 10 years and five years? It looks strange and look stupid and they right now say, like, ‘We want to cut salary and want to cut everything.’”
Ribeiro added that going overseas to play in the event a lockout does begin on Sept. 15 seems less daunting than it did last time.
“I think guys are less nervous now than we were because there’s an option for us,” said Ribeiro, who played in Finland in 2005 but said he would likely stay in Washington this time around because his three children are attending school here. “If they want to lockout, guys will find somewhere else to play and we’ll keep playing. As players. we learned last time you can play other places and make a good living.
“At the end of the day, we want to play hockey. If there’s somewhere that accepts us, we’ll go there and play.”