Montador hopeful but realistic about talks

CHICAGO -- As he sets off for NHL player meetings in New York on Wednesday and Thursday, Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Steve Montador is hopeful training camp and the season will start on time.

But he’s realistic.

“It’s a big couple of days, but it’s not the be-all, end-all,” Montador said Tuesday in Chicago. “But we do want a lot of attention on it because obviously we all care and we want to work … You hope for the best, but plan for the worst.”

That last sentiment has been echoed throughout the summer in regards to the labor strife happening between the players and owners. On Saturday the collective bargaining agreement between the two sides expires and unless a new deal is struck the owners will lock out the players.

It means no contact between the Hawks organization and its players can take place and training camp, set to begin next weekend, will most likely be delayed. Montador has been as close to the action as any Hawk, attending many sessions.

“This meeting will be about a lot of things,” he said. “We’re always talking about potential counter-offers and also what will happen beyond Saturday … The Board of Governors meet at the same time and perhaps we’ll all get a chance to meet together and have something to do on Friday.”

Montador will be joined by Hawks captain Jonathan Toews and other teammates along with many players from around the league. Owners will have their own meetings and then maybe there will be something to talk about. Maybe.

“There’s been some conversations on both sides that haven’t been made public, but there’s not a whole lot that everyone doesn’t already know,” Montador said.

Montador was part of a conference call on Tuesday afternoon prepping players for what’s to come in New York. The gulf between the sides is simple in one respect but certainly complicated in all ways. The owners want a good portion of the players’ salaries rolled back while the best the players will do is simply slow down their increases. That’s a wide gap.

“What they proposed was in one direction, and we could have countered with conversely but we didn’t,” Montador said. “We gave a much more dynamic proposal that works for everyone.”

He didn’t finish that sentence with “in my opinion” but that goes without saying. The players did give a more dynamic one but only after receiving a rigid and dramatic offer from the owners. It didn’t solve the problem but the players came out looking better.

“They want money for revenue sharing and to cover costs, and they want it to come from us,” Montador said. “We don’t want to go backwards, but we are willing to limit the percentage of growth from our salaries in the coming years.”

Many involved have used the phrase “pressure points” in guessing when movement in negotiations will happen. Could it be Saturday when the current CBA expires? Doubtful. Camps don’t open for a week anyway. Could it be then? Possibly. But training camp is hardly a money maker for teams, and players don’t even get paid their salaries. So that means the beginning of the regular season certainly is one, but who is it more important to? Or could the biggest pressure point come near New Years as the players’ lost paychecks pile up and the very sponsor-centric Winter Classic approaches. It’s anyone’s guess.

“Whenever those pressure points get decided then a lot of things could happen,” Montador said. “Just when it appears things won’t happen at all it can change in a minute.”