His red Carolina Hurricanes equipment bag fully packed today, Eric Staal shouldered it and took a quick last look around the Canes' Raleigh Center Ice locker room.
Staal headed for the door, telling Canes equipment manager Skip Cunningham, "Hope to see you sooner rather than later."
No one can say when the Canes will return to the Canes' RCI workout facility, which has a weight room, treatment room and dressing area. If a new CBA for the NHL is not approved by Saturday at 11:59 p.m., the NHL players will be locked out, meaning the Canes players will not be allowed to use the Canes' locker-room area at RCI.
Staal has said the players likely will continue to rent ice time at RCI. Many will still hold informal skates there. But they must use the cramped locker rooms on the other end of the rink.
Staal, the team captain, has been frustrated by the CBA negotiations and the proposals by the league that would significantly reduce the players' share of hockey-related revenue. He noted the league generated $3.3 billion this past year and been a growth industry since the last NHL lockout, when the 2004-2005 season was canceled.
"It's hard to put a finger on what they're really after," Staal said of the NHL owners this week. "Since the last lockout, we've made over a billion dollars more and the league has grown every year. And now they want take a cut right off the top?
"When you're growing like that as a league and then in a new deal you want to take a 20-percent cut, that's not going to go over well with anybody. So it's about trying to get a fair deal and figuring out what's going to work best for both."
With no NHL/NHLPA talks scheduled today, the mood was almost somber in the RCI locker room after today's skate. The banter was light as the players packed away their pads and skates and bundled their hockey sticks.
Anthony Stewart and Jay Harrison both were at the NHLPA meetings Wednesday and Thursday in New York, where they were updated by executive director Don Fehr. The group of 283 players also included the Canes' Tim Brent, the team union player rep, and Brian Boucher.
"It was good to go and get a sense of where the union is at and what we may do going forward," Stewart said. "Some may go overseas and others wait it out.
"We've been saying we're united and we have faith in Don, but to go in there and hear it first-hand ... we want to get a deal that's fair and we want to get it done. You've got to fight for what you believe in. It (stings) for the fans, too, but there is a business side to it. We want to play, but there is a business side to it and we have to take care of that, too."
Stewart was asked if he got any sense of how long a lockout might last.
"We don't know," Stewart said. "We could come to the table tonight. But right now we're not on the same page. It's eventually going to get done and we just want to get the right deal done, whether it takes a week, a month."
Stewart and Harrison both said there was a Q-and-A between Fehr and the players, that it wasn't just Fehr dominating the conversation and telling them what needed to be done. The players have other issues of concern other that the division of HRR or economics, including such line-item type requests as standard weight-training areas being provided in visiting locker rooms in NHL arenas.
"The education of the membership is so great, and how well-versed everybody is with the details only makes us stronger," Harrison said. "Everyone has bought into what we believe, and we believe we have proposed a really viable solution to the league's problems as they have presented them.
"Certainly we don't believe their proposal addresses the league-wide needs, treating Toronto the same as treating Phoenix, or Carolina for that matter. It doesn't address the problems we're facing as a league. We're more than willing to make concessions, but we'd like to see some on the other side, as well."