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NHL lockout looking more and more likely

“The sense is thit’s going happen. Their intentiall along is lock us out least initially for however long.” |

“The sense is that it’s going to happen. Their intention all along is to lock us out, at least initially, for however long.” | STEVE MONTADOR, Hawks defenseman and union rep

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Updated: October 14, 2012 1:49PM

Blackhawks will stand with Canucks and Red Wings. Bruins will join Canadiens and Rangers. Penguins will side with Flyers.

Approximately 300 players will descend on New York as the NHL Players Association gathers Wednesday and Thursday in a sign of solidarity and strength with the league’s third lockout since 1994 looming.

The collective-bargaining agreement expires Sept. 15, and commissioner Gary Bettman said the league would lock out the players if a deal is not reached. While it’s possible the NHLPA will introduce a new proposal, many issues still need to be resolved, and a large gap remains. After a few recent informal sessions, the two sides are scheduled to meet Wednesday morning.

“Finding out a month ago that we’d be locked out come Sept. 15 is shocking,” Hawks defenseman Steve Montador, the team’s union representative and a member of the negotiating committee, told the Sun-Times. “But it’s also a potential reality.”

That means preparing for months without NHL hockey, or quite possibly another full season. The union recently sent out a memo outlining what players can expect and are allowed to do, such as play in Europe, during a lockout.

“[A lockout] seems to be more and more the case now,” Montador said. “There’s been a lot of talk on what guys are going to do, whether guys are going to consider going overseas to play [or] where guys are going to train together in North America for the guys staying back. Guys are getting prepared.”

Jonathan Toews, Brent Seabrook and Ray Emery will accompany Montador in New York. Duncan Keith also might attend, and “there might be a couple surprise acts there, as well,” Montador said. Stars such as Sidney Crosby also are expected.

The NHL’s board of governors also will convene with Bettman on Thursday in New York. By all accounts, the owners are as united as the players and seemingly prepared for another long work stoppage.

“The sense is that it’s going to happen,” Montador said. “Their intention all along is to lock us out, at least initially, for however long.”

The owners are very unlikely to concede to anything worse than a 50-50 split of league revenues, which have continued to reach record levels.

The owners proposed dropping the players’ cut from 57 percent to 46 percent, which is 3 percent more than their initial offer. They also want a $58 million salary cap for next season, which is a $12.2 million decrease from the current mark.

The NHLPA stood by its initial proposal from negotiations in August. It essentially calls for limited growth for players and a new revenue-sharing plan that would assist troubled teams.

“It’s basically just money and how you want to cut it, slice it, color it, design it and move it around,” Montador said. “We feel that instead of it just being a cash grab one way or the other, we want to design and implement a proposal that’s effective for everybody.”

That said, the NHLPA, led by executive director Don Fehr, and the owners, represented by Bettman, have yet to find common ground to base a new agreement. Hindering negotiations is that the owners want to change what constitutes hockey-related revenue, whereas players want it to remain as is.

In another sign of the long fight to come, the NHLPA also is attempting to block the Canadiens, Flames and Oilers from locking out their players through provincial labor laws.

Montador has been in constant contact with Hawks teammates, relaying every bit of information he gets. He said they’ve been responsive and supportive.

“Everybody is handling it really well,” Montador said. “It can certainly be unique and be a challenge given it’s something a lot of the guys haven’t been through.

“[A lockout is] going to affect everybody a little bit differently.”

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