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Sidney Crosby and the great NHL players’ sacrifice

Sidney Crosby was put before the media after Donald Fehr's grim CBA negotiation update on Thursday because Sidney Crosby is symbolic of a great many things.

He's the biggest hockey star in the world, front and center for his union, which isn't exactly commonplace when it comes to sports labor disputes. It's also a position many never believed Crosby would be in earlier in his career — perhaps expecting him to be above it all or disinterested in the process — and yet there he was.

He's a reminder that, in some cases, the name on the back can be more valuable to fans than the logo on the front — essential when the owners are acting like they're herding cattle in dealing with the labor force.

Most of all, he's symbolic of what this lockout garbage robs from all of us, which is NHL hockey and having players like Sid on the ice.

Consider this, courtesy of reader Thomas Bink: "If there's no hockey this season, over his sixth, seventh and eighth NHL seasons Sidney Crosby will have amassed a total of 40 goals and 103 points due to injury and labour strife. Over the same three seasons of his career, Wayne Gretzky recorded 212 goals and a startling 628 points."

If Crosby has a stake in this fight, that's it: There's extra weight to the "we just want to play" cliché when he says it, because he's had so much time taken from him already. Hence, when he talks about this CBA process, you can sense his exasperation that the lockout was seemingly predestined based on how the NHL has negotiated.

"You don't want to say this, but it seems like it's been kinda in the works anyway," he said.

Here's Crosby at the NHLPA presser Thursday:

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"We're showing we're willing to move and we're willing to sacrifice things with our proposal. With that, both sides have room to grow and continue to have success. I think if we're to look at their proposal it isn't the same kind of thing," said Crosby. "You look at hard numbers, and there aren't a lot of incentives for players. It doesn't seem to address the key issues that we hear are issues."

That's the thesis from the NHLPA two days before the CBA ends: That there's no sacrifice from the NHL in its offers, which ask plenty from the rank and file without suitably addressing systemic problems with the system.

"What's in it for the players?" NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr asked, echoing what he said was the players' most frequent question in their New York meetings.

"We have to have the salary concessions all over again, plus we have to go in the owners' direction on all contracting issues," he said.

"Less money, fewer rights. I think everybody understands why the owners would like that. Every employer would like that. I have a difficult time understanding why anyone would expect the players would make an agreement on that basis."

Fehr was clear: The NHL asks the players to give up money and contractual rights, but has yet to seem interested in controlling other costs.

[Related: League will suffer if NHL, NHLPA don't embrace compromise and common sense as lockout looms]

"What you might call 'shared sacrifice.' If there is going to be sacrifice here, and the players are going to take less money than the current agreement provides them, then the question is are they the only ones whose compensation and circumstances are to be limited or reduced. Is there any other cost or expense — anywhere in the NHL, National Hockey League enterprises, any team or anywhere — where the owners are willing to say they are willing to constrain those costs as well. So far, the answer is 'no,'" he said.

Of course, player salaries are the primary expenditure for NHL teams. Capping executive bonuses is a nice, populist request, but it's not fixing flaws in the NHL's economic system.

So far, the NHLPA hasn't attacked that system with the ferocity one assumed it would, given Donald Fehr's antagonistic history with the salary cap.

But if there is a lockout … would he consider going after the salary cap?

"If we get past that point, then the players are as free to reconsider their positions as the owners are," said Fehr.

Oh good. Here we were worried that there might be NHL hockey played sometime in the next year …
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