Players speaking out against lockout doesn’t mean ‘cracks’ are forming in NHLPA

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Welcome to Day 69 of the NHL lockout.

Can you believe it's been this long and we still don't have a clue if there will be a season this year? But, as we've found out over the past few days, there are a few players who would really like to see a deal done as soon as possible.

Roman Hamrlik's interview with a Czech publication made waves on Wednesday. "I am disgusted," he said. "We have to push Fehr to the wall to get the deal. Time is against us. We lost 1/4 season, it is $425 million. Who will give it back to us? Mr. Fehr?"

[Related: NHL cancels games through Dec. 14, All-Star game]

This led to some backlash from his NHLPA bretheren, like Erik Cole of the Montreal Canadiens, who expressed his dissatisfaction to Dave Stubbs of the Montreal Gazette.

Hamrlik's Capitals teammate, Michal Neuvirth, agreed with his comments in an interview with TV NOVA, translated by Roman Jedlicka. And like Cole, Troy Brouwer was not a happy camper when he learned of what the pair said.

Speaking with Katie Carrera the Washington Post, Brouwer called the comments by Hamrlik and Neuvirth "selfish" and questioned his ability to trust them as teammates going forward.

"Those are two guys that have never been on a conference call, never been to a meeting, never paid attention," Brouwer told The Post in a telephone interview Thursday. "People are going to have their own opinions but when you're fighting for something with 700 other guys, all you're doing is just making it harder to make a deal and making it harder to accomplish the things we're fighting for."

Karl Alzner took the more diplomatic approach and told the Star Phoenix if he had anything negative to say to them, he wouldn't do it through the media.

These recent player comments, of course, have led to the inevitable speculation that the NHLPA is "cracking", which is an incredibly silly idea. With a union filled with 700-plus players, it's impossible for there to be 100 per cent pull in the same direction. There are players of various ages, salaries and personal interests and beliefs; just as there are 30 owners with interests of their own. One hundred per cent support on both sides does not exist.

[Related: Frustrated fan confronts Gary Bettman in media scrum]

Neither side will be totally happy whenever a deal is struck -- that's what happens in negotiation -- but the sooner the better to contain the damage that's already been done.

In an email to the Globe and Mail, Ryan Miller backed the idea of union decertification after seeing how quickly lockouts in the NFL and NBA ended after the method was executed last year. He also perfectly summed up the lockout as we close in on December without a single game having been played:

"I am tired of the disregard and the ego," Miller said. "Our fans and sponsors are alienated, and this is hurting the game. This process has more of the appearance of brand suicide than a negotiation."

One of the more interesting aspects of the lockout will be how both sides repair their relationships with fans. Anger is slowly turning into apathy for many, and that's dangerous. With anger, there's still passion. When apathy takes over, that's when a fan who doesn't want to continue engaging themselves in a sport that has a rocky labor marriage will say goodbye forever.

Two times in eight years. It's going to take much more than painting "THANK YOU FANS" on both blue lines this time around.

Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy

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