NEW YORK -- Flanking NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr, the league's top talents gathered in a show of solidarity by the players' union Thursday afternoon.
While Fehr addressed the media and reiterated the union's stance on negotiations -- little new was offered in the NHLPA's latest availability -- a contingent of league superstars, including Sidney Crosby, Henrik Lundqvist, Zdeno Chara, Claude Giroux, Zach Parise and Daniel Alfredsson, was on hand to lend its support.
According to the NHLPA, 283 players attended the meetings -- held Wednesday and Thursday in advance of Saturday's expiration date for the current collective bargaining agreement -- making it the largest turnout since the union ratified the CBA to end a lockout in 2005.
Fehr discussed the large chasm that remains between the players and owners on the core economic issues, differences that make a lockout a virtual certainty. He also touched on how the players feel about the situation.
"Of course they're frustrated. Of course they'd like this done. Of course they'd like it to be over so they can get back on the ice," Fehr said. "That's what they want to do. No athlete likes to lose games. If they are willing to [go through a lockout], there must be some powerful reasons."
The players seemed prepared to do that if the league does not bend on its request for an immediate and absolute salary reduction.
"We've shown we're willing to give, but they've got to be willing," Crosby said. "It seems like there's a pretty hard line there, and they're not willing to budge."
The concessions requested by the league are particularly hard to stomach for the players who sacrificed a whole season in 2004-05 and ultimately gave up 24 percent in salary.
"It feels like déjà vu," said Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla. "It feels like we've just been there."
With two days until the deadline passes -- the league has said it will impose a lockout if no deal is reached by Sept. 15 -- players seem prepared for a work stoppage.
“Hopefully some developments can happen and something can get done relatively soon, but if not we're prepared for it and I think we understand there's a good chance that a lockout is coming," Islanders alternate captain John Tavares said.
Even if an agreement were to be reached soon, it would take a significant amount of time to iron out the details and address the secondary issues. Seven years ago, it took five weeks from handshake to puck drop, making it unlikely a full season could be played as scheduled.
Crosby, for one, was not optimistic.
"I'm not sure," he said. "Right now, it's not looking great."