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Blackhawks players’ current state: New jerseys

Patrick Sharp

Patrick Sharp

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Updated: October 29, 2012 6:43AM

Gone are the Indianhead sweaters. The Blackhawks who remain in Chicago and practice together at Johnny’s IceHouse West will don NHL Players’ Association jerseys from now until the league’s lockout of them ends.

“We’re just trying to show everyone we’re unified,” forward Patrick Sharp said.

“It is solidarity. It’s the union. It’s the players,” center Dave Bolland added. “We’re the ones behind it.”

And they’re the ones who remain strongly with NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr and his staff, who have formal talks with the league scheduled for the first time since the work stoppage began this Friday in New York.

One by one, the Hawks reaffirmed their faith in Fehr on Wednesday as issues other than revenue-sharing – which is the main dividing point in negotiations -- are put on the table for serious discussion for the first time since the two sides exchanged extremely different proposals long ago. Contracts lengths, arbitration rights, pensions, scheduling and discipline are among topics that will be addressed on Friday.

“They’re all very important,” winger Bryan Bickell said.

The players also hope that simply holding talks are a step toward ending the lockout, since the last formal negotiations were weeks ago. During the 2004-05 lockout, the two sides went months without talking.

“It seems like the past week or so, when both sides don’t meet, it almost feels like there’s a sense we’re starting over from scratch,” said Jonathan Toews, who said the NHLPA jerseys arrived Wednesday.

“You can go exchange as many proposals as you want but if there’s no movement, no progress or no talks, it doesn’t really matter. It’s good to know that we’ll have some meetings on Friday, and we’ll see what comes of it.”

Across the sea

Winger Viktor Stalberg started practicing with Frolunda of the Swedish Elite League. Stalberg told News 24, a Swedish media website, that Frolunda was his top choice to play if there’s a long lockout, but there’s no official contract with them as of yet.

“He is just working out with the team for the time being,” his agent said in an email.

Stalberg also told News 24 recently that Toews informed him that if there’s a long lockout he wants to play in Sweden. Toews, meanwhile, has said he’s looking at all options.

The Swedish Elite League is expected to attract a number of NHLers after their initial ruling that banned players if they didn’t sign full-year contracts was deemed illegal.

Sharp stuff

Like Toews and Patrick Kane, Sharp stressed that he’s not going to rush into making a decision when it comes to playing in Europe. He said he remains hopeful that the lockout ends soon.

“I’m looking at all my options and there’s a few out there,” Sharp said. “I’d like to play hockey. Obviously, I want to play in the NHL. With the family, it kind of changes things, but I’m taking it day-by-day and week-by-week. But I definitely want to play somewhere.”

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