Detroit’s Cleary: Players think lockout can go a year, “maybe longer”

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Those looking for positive developments regarding the NHL lockout, avert your eyes.

Detroit Red Wings forward Dan Cleary — a veteran of the last lockout — told the Free Press this current work stoppage could be as long, if not longer, than the one that wiped out the 2004-05 season.

“I think people don’t think it can go a year,” he said. “As players, we think it can. Maybe longer.”

Cleary, 33, has been a prominent voice throughout the current strife.

He’s attended numerous labor meetings and while he isn’t on the NHLPA’s 31-player negotiating committee — Henrik Zetteberg is the Wings’ rep — Cleary understands the importance of being an active part of the process.

“It’s important to have veteran presence there, and to represent Detroit,” he told USA Today back in August. “It’s not too far to go, either; the meetings are usually either in New York or Toronto.”

Three weeks before the expiration of the CBA, Cleary put the odds of a lockout at 50/50, saying he was optimistic when the NHLPA made its first offer but less optimistic upon hearing the owners’ counter-proposal.

Now, pessimism reigns.

“Just trying to be realistic,” Cleary said. “I think the league is waiting for us to make the move, and we’re waiting for them to move.

“So someone has to move. And I don’t see it coming from our end.”

On the other end of the spectrum sits Washington forward Mike Ribeiro. He feels the owners are waiting until players miss their first few paychecks — in what would essentially mimic a rollback of around 20 percent.

“This time I think we’re more optimistic,” Ribeiro told CSN Washingon. “Hopefully [this ends] by the end of November, so we can have December with hockey. But [the owners’] game plan, at least in my opinion, is that they’ll start paying guys after a month and a half or two months, after they get the 20 percent they wanted.

“They want their 20 percent [rollback of salaries] and the players don’t want to give it back, so let’s just not play until the 20 percent is not spent.”

NHL players usually receive their first paycheck in late October but, this year, they are expected to receive eight percent escrow checks at that time.

As such, many players won’t feel the financial pinch until well into November.