Awkward was the word Jimmy Howard used to describe the scenario after he and his Detroit Red Wings teammates cleaned out their lockers Friday at the Joe Louis Arena.
The Red Wings, like players on all NHL teams, gathered up their gear and went home as the midnight Saturday deadline approached for the current collective bargaining agreement.
A new agreement wasnt reached by midnight Saturday, meaning NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and team owners locked out the players and invoked the the leagues fourth work stoppage since 1992.
Before that, players waited, watched and hoped as sides kept up communication but did not get involved in any bargaining sessions.
It was certainly an awkward morning to pack up and leave The Joe in September, Howard said Friday. Right now, I am just trying to remain as upbeat as possible.
Howard reported that the resolve among the NHL players is rock solid and that the solidarity among the Red Wings is just as firm.
While many NHL players expressed their intention to play oversees in the event of a lockout, Howard said that the Red Wings plan to stay in Detroit at the present time.
As a team we are going to stay together, train and work out and hope that an agreement can be reached, he said. Myself I really dont want to go overseas. But there could come a time when you have to re-evaluate.
Like he has done throughout his NHL career, which saw him become an all-star goaltender in his third season, Howard is looking to veteran teammates for help and guidance as he approaches his first lockout experience.
I wasnt in the NHL for the 2004 lockout so I have been relying on the older guys for advice and just taking things day-by-day, Howard said.
The 2004 lockout claimed the entire 2004-05 season and was not resolved until the players made the concessions of taking on a salary cap and a 24 percent reduction in salaries.
In the current stalemate, the owners are asking for the players to reduce their percentage of hockey-related revenues, which now stand at 57 percent. Some reports say the owners want the drop to be as low at 43 percent.
Like the rest of the rank-and-file of players, Howard expressed his disappointment with the managements stance.
The NHL has enjoyed a period of growth ($2.1 to $3.3 billion in overall revenue, according to published reports) and it is hard to believe that this has happened when things are going so well, he said. The players gave up a lot in 2004-2005 and now they (the NHL) wants even more to fix everything.