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NHL Lockout would cause future shock for Blackhawks youngsters

Kings winger Kyle Clifford Hawks winger BrandBollig both get fighting majors for their first period scrap as Chicago Blackhawks host

Kings winger Kyle Clifford and Hawks winger Brandon Bollig both get fighting majors for their first period scrap as the Chicago Blackhawks host the L.A. Kings Sunday March 11, 2012 at the United Center. | TOM CRUZE~Sun-Times photo

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Updated: October 15, 2012 10:01AM



NEW YORK — Blackhawks brute Brandon Bollig spent years literally fighting his way onto an NHL roster.

And after earning a spot on the Hawks with his fists, grit and enthusiasm — or at least a good chance for one next season — Bollig and many young players around the league might be heading back to the minors thanks to the looming lockout.

There is nothing they can do about it on the ice.

“Hopefully, that doesn’t happen, and hopefully we don’t have to cross that bridge,” Bollig said Thursday after the NHL Players’ Association meetings concluded. “But if it does, with my contract and where I sit, and that’s what Chicago wanted me to do, that’s what I’ll do.”

Bollig signed a two-year extension with the Hawks this summer with a two-way option in the first year. He, Nick Leddy, Marcus Kruger, Andrew Shaw and Jimmy Hayes played for the Hawks in the playoffs last season, but might be looking at time in Rockford because of an extended work stoppage.

“Obviously guys want to play,” Bollig said. “ You want to stay in shape and at least be part of a team.”

It’ll take a miracle for that team not to be the IceHogs.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said after a board of governors meeting, which included Hawks owner Rocky Wirtz, that “unless a deal is made” the lockout will commence when the current collective bargaining agreement expires at 11:59 p.m. on Saturday.

After a formal motion, the board also unanimously voted in favor of the lockout on Thursday.

“There are no changes in the timeline,” said Bettman, who added the onus on the NHLPA to respond to the owners’ latest proposal. “We have been clear that the collective bargaining agreement upon it’s expiration needs to have a successor agreement for us to move forward because the league is not in position — not willing — to move forward with another season under the status quo.”

Despite all the activity in New York this week, little progress was made between the players and owners. The rhetoric from each side continues to become more visceral, whether it’s the league criticizing the union for the pace of negotiations, the players continually ridiculing the owners’ initial proposal, while praising their own revenue-sharing plans or endlessly debating statistics and percentages used in proposals.

“We’re trying to make a fair deal out of this,” Panthers forward Kris Versteeg said. “You can’t say the same about the other side.”

Negotiations remain stalled on the players’ 57 percent take of hockey-related revenue. The owners want to decrease it dramatically right away — “we believe as a league we are paying out too much money,” Bettman said — while the NHLPA prefers to see their share dwindle over time and as business grows.

After that, there are still changes to player-contract lengths, salary arbitration, entry-level deals and unrestricted free agency to debate.

“Less money and fewer rights,” NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr said of the league’s latest ­proposal.

There’s a perception among players that owners are using the lockout as a negotiating ploy.

“Maybe a lockout should be an option and not the precedent,” Bollig said. “Hopefully, that’s not their mind-set. All we can do is stick by what we’ve been creating here and see where that takes us.”

Right now, it looks like Rockford for Bollig.



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