The Post-Journal

Lever Weighs In On NHL Lockout

A lockout in the National Hockey League is nothing new for Don Lever who was a guest speaker at the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame induction dinner Monday evening.

Lever was an assistant coach with the Buffalo Sabres when there was a NHL lockout during the 1994-95 season. But that lockout ended, unlike the current one that led to the cancelation of the season.

When asked if he thought this lockout would take so long to be finalized, Lever, now an assistant with the St. Louis Blues, said, “I didn’t think it would. I never thought it would go past December. I thought by Christmas they would get it done, almost the same as the last time (1994-95). Probably get 40 to 50 games in, but I was astonished and really disappointed it hasn’t happened.

The lockout had been talked about during the previous NHL season, but it appeared no one was trying to avoid it.

“I think they (the players’ union and the owners) talked, but both of them were dug in on what their plans were,” Lever said. “The league set a (salary) cap and the players set no cap. A line was drawn in the sand and neither side was going to give.”

That led to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announcing on Wednesday the season would be canceled. But on Saturday it sounded like something was going to give when a last-ditch meeting was held.

“I was like everyone else,” Lever said. “I was pretty happy. I thought it would get done for sure. Once the players decided on a cap and the owners took away the linkage to revenues, I thought for sure something would get done, so it was very disappointing (when it didn’t get done.)”

He added, “The way I look at it is you’ve got billionaires (the owners) dealing with millionaires (the players) and I think the billionaires can wait a little longer than the millionaires. Unfortunately, the people who are going to get hurt are the fans and the business people around hockey.”

So what has Lever been doing during the lockout?

“I’m actually not doing anything,” he said referring to hockey. “I’m at home (in Amherst) just waiting. Now that this has happened (the cancelation of the season), I believe we’re going to have a meeting in the next couple of weeks to find out what the situation’s going to be.”

But his time hasn’t been wasted in suburban Buffalo.

“An awful lot of painting is what I’ve been doing,” he said with a smile. “I have a 23-year-old handicapped son who I’ve been spending a lot of time with. All the bathrooms are redone and most of the house is painted.”

He added, “Actually, I enjoyed the first two or three months. It was nice to be home, but now it’s wearing off, definitely.

But now with the NHL season canceled, it appears instead of spending time behind the Blues’ bench coaching, Lever will be back on the ladder painting.

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