Penguins' Cooke: 'Players have prepared themselves this time'- 09-18-12

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

During the 2004-05 lockout, Matt Cooke was a 26-year-old with only six years of experience in the NHL. As a member of the Canucks, he relied on veteran teammate Trevor Linden for advice on how do deal with a work stoppage. Linden had experienced the players' strike in 1992 and the league's lockout in 1994.

Eight years later, Cooke, now 34, is the one being sought for advice. As one of the few players on the Penguins' roster who dealt with the previous lockout, Cooke is sort of a "big brother" to younger teammates such as captain Sidney Crosby during this work stoppage.

Yesterday, Cooke compared the two work stoppages, the addition of Donald Fehr as head of the NHLPA and his role in offering advice to younger teammates.

What's different this time compared to the 2004-05 lockout?

"I think that players have prepared themselves this time. I think last time, we got caught off guard and we weren’t prepared for the feeling when those things start to happen. But there’s enough players in continuity moving forward that we understand and respect the process. We believe in a certain stance and we’re unified in that and that’s the most important thing."

What's different with Donald Fehr as head of the NHLPA? Is there better communication, organization, etc.?

"All of the above. Obviously, the players made a huge decision to bring in Donald Fehr. His track record speaks for itself. He brought instant credibility to our union that we lacked not only since the last negotiation but since then. I think his level of organization throughout the whole union and communication has been top-notch and that has helped the players be on the same page at all times."

In the years following the lockout, the NHLPA went through quite a few leadership changes and turmoil. Does having Fehr in charge restore confidence to the players association?

"Brining in Don and his staff, the organization skills he’s attached to the union, the communication and his track record, his history brings a calming effect to the players. We know we did the right thing by going out and getting him."

You're one of a handful of veterans on the Penguins' roster who experienced the 2004-05 lockout firsthand. Do you notice a different perspective with younger players who didn't go through it?

"I think there was a level of curiosity as to what to expect leading up to it. That’s why older guys are here. It’s important for that continuity for the young guys to understand what happened during the last lockout, what happened during the lockout in 1994 and the strike in 1992. We have divisional player (representatives) that have gone over the last three or four or five years to make sure players understand and get the history of what’s gone on and what people have sacrificed previously."

Obviously the NHL and NHLPA each feels its respective offers is better for the game. Why is the NHLPA's offer better?

"I feel that our offer is better for the simple fact that is helps the smaller market teams. The numbers that they’ve thrown at us doesn’t do anything for smaller market teams. In fact, it allows the richer teams to make more money. They’re not interested in talking a better revenue sharing program through… they’re not calling it a (salary) rollback but they’ll crunch a 19 percent escrow on us next year and do it that way and do it that way and call it escrow as opposed to a rollback which is essentially us giving the money back. We don’t feel that’s our responsibility. We feel we share in that and we’re willing to allow them to grow, to take the growth over the next couple of the years to help the smaller market teams. But to do that, they need to change the revenue sharing and at this point, they’re not willing to do that."

(Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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