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NHL lockout seems inevitable

Hawks winger Michael Frolik tried remaoptimistic despite lack progress. | Sun-Times

Hawks winger Michael Frolik tried to remain optimistic despite the lack of progress. | Sun-Times

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Updated: October 16, 2012 6:11AM

NEW YORK — Blackhawks winger Michael Frolik had a smile so large, he looked as if he had just scored a goal when he exited an elevator for the NHL Players’ Association meetings this week.

He looked optimistic, but the doubt in his voice was unmistakable.

“It’s hard to say,” Frolik said of the inevitable NHL lockout. “I try to prepare for the start [of the season]. I want to start at the right time like how it’s supposed to be. Hopefully, we’re going to make it there.”

But, as Frolik understood, there are many hurdles to get over for that to happen. When Saturday ends and Sunday begins, the NHL will lock out its players for the third time since 1994.

There were no formal discussions held between the NHLPA and the NHL owners, represented by commissioner Gary Bettman, on Friday, and no discussions were initially planned for Saturday.

Despite the NHLPA’s frequent insistence that players were willing to play under the current collective-bargaining agreement as talks progressed toward a new deal, the owners never were willing to do that.

With training camps across the league set to begin Sept. 21 and the Hawks having scheduled their annual training-camp festival a day later, the NHLPA and owners have yet to agree on a framework that could lead to a new CBA.

The sides are still far apart, and each is reluctant to back down from its philosophies. For example, the NHLPA says the owners are asking for a 17.5 percent reduction in salaries; the league says it’s 9.7 percent.

“The players very much want to reach an agreement provided that it’s fair and equitable and treats them appropriately,” NHLPA executive director Don Fehr said. “We approach it as we always have: one day at a time. If we don’t find an agreement today, we hope tomorrow we find a way to make an agreement. If that doesn’t work, you get up the next day and think about it some more. We don’t have artificial deadlines.”

Of course, similar rhetoric — which has become more contentious on both sides — has come from Bettman.

“Nobody wants to make a deal and play hockey more than I do,” Bettman said, repeating a common refrain that has drawn criticism from players and fans. “This is very hard, and I feel terrible about it.”

During the last lockout that resulted in the cancellation of the 2004-05 season, CBA talks didn’t pick up steam until several weeks after the lockout officially commenced.

While it’s too early to tell if that will reoccur, there is one “deadline” worth noting: Players are due their first paychecks in October as the regular season gets going. If they’re locked out, they won’t receive them as numerous changes go into effect league-wide.

“As a player, you just want to play,” Penguins star Sidney Crosby said in New York. “This stuff is not what you want to be doing at this time of year.’’

NOTE: Blackhawks youngsters Nick Leddy, Marcus Kruger, Andrew Shaw, Brandon Bollig, Brandon Saad, Jimmy Hayes and Dylan Olsen were listed on the Rockford IceHogs’ official 2012-13 roster Friday night.

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