The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Troy Brouwer frustrated by comments from Roman Hamrlik and Michal Neuvirth

(Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

Washington Capitals forward Troy Brouwer was frustrated Thursday to read comments made by two of his teammates that questioned the direction of the NHLPA during the lockout.

In the previous 48 hours, veteran defenseman Roman Hamrlik said that he was “disgusted” and spoke out against NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr while goaltender Michal Neuvirth voiced support for the blueliner’s view, adding that he believed the lockout was about “several superstars with big contracts.”

Those comments didn’t sit well with Brouwer, who along with Jason Chimera serves as the Capitals’ representatives to the NHLPA and has spent much of the past few months learning the details of the union’s proposals and helping relay the information to others.

“Those are two guys that have never been on a conference call, never been to a meeting, never paid attention,” Brouwer told The Post in a telephone interview Thursday. “People are going to have their own opinions but when you’re fighting for something with 700 other guys, all you’re doing is just making it harder to make a deal and making it harder to accomplish the things we’re fighting for.

“For me, I think those guys selling us out, being selfish like that and making those comments … ” Brouwer said, trailing off. “Me being on their team, how am I going to trust them as a teammate from now on? Because you know they’re not going to support players in the big scheme of things when you go and you play on the team with them; it’s going to be tough to want to back those guys from now on.”

Hamrlik made his comments to Daily Sport in his native Czech Republic on Wednesday, and they were translated by TV Nova’s Roman Jedlicka on Twitter.

“I am disgusted. We have to push Fehr to the wall to get the deal,” Hamrlik said. “Time is against us. We lost 1/4 season, it is $425 million. Who will give it back to us? Mr. Fehr? There should be voting between player. Four questions – YES or NO – then count it. If half of players say lets play, then they should sign new CBA. If there is no season he should leave and we will find someone new. Time is our enemy.”

On Thursday, Hamrlik expanded on his views to TSN and the Globe and Mail, backing off some of his criticisms of Fehr slightly while reiterating his view that the players need to push for a speedy resolution.

This marks the third lockout during Hamrlik’s 19-year career. The 38-year-old defenseman is in the last year of his current contract, during which he was slated to earn $3.5 million, and at this stage in his career a prolonged lockout could impact how much longer he plays. Brouwer can empathize with Hamrlik, but he believes negotiating the right collective bargaining agreement for the entire NHLPA membership is the most important goal.

“Hamr’s getting older. He knows he’s got limited years to play and I understand that he wants to get a deal done as quickly as possible,” Brouwer said. “But if the circumstances aren’t there, they’re not there.”

Neuvirth, 24, who falls on the other end of the spectrum having played in just three NHL seasons, shared his support for Hamrlik in an interview to TV Nova Sport. The following quote was translated by Jedlicka on Twitter.

“I agree 100 percent with Hammer,” Neuvirth said. “This lockout is not about majority of players, I think. It is about several superstars with big contracts.”

Brouwer didn’t understand Neuvirth’s stance given that whatever agreement is eventually settled upon will impact his livelihood directly for the next several years.

“It’s the superstars that are fighting for the other guys, for the younger guys and the guys coming to the league in the future,” Brouwer said. “You have to continue fighting for those rights for every player. That Neuvy says only a few super stars are the ones that are making the decisions here is completely off. We were just on a conference call and there were hundreds of players on it, sharing responsibility and we all had the same attitude.”

Given the reaction he’s heard from fellow locked-out players about Hamrlik and Neuvirth’s comments, Brouwer is confident that the NHLPA remains steady in its pursuit of a new collective bargaining agreement.

“It’s frustrating as players having other players come out and say this but we still as a core are very strong,” Brouwer said. “We still believe the same things. We stand by the proposal that we made [Wednesday] and nothing’s going to change.

“We still have the views that we can’t give into a few of these contracting rights and that we can’t continue to give unless we get something back,” he continued. “Until there’s some sort of movement on the owners’ side, some willingness to give us some concessions — like we are to them — it’s in the owners hands. We’ve given a very good proposal. We’d love to play hockey if the conditions are right and we’re trying to still work toward reaching an agreement that’s good for both sides.”