NHL players meet, hear no new hope hockey to start soon
- By Andrew Gross
Bobby Holik was among the 74 NHL players who met with Players Association
executive director Bob Goodenow Tuesday in Toronto and the New York Rangers'
veteran left what he termed an "informative" meeting with no new hope hockey
will be played any time soon.
In fact, when pressed, Holik said he thought NHL commissioner Gary Bettman
was trying to bust the union with the lockout.
"Oh definitely," Holik said. "I can't hide the truth. I'm not speaking for
the association. I'm speaking for my own opinion. But that's definitely
the case. If he wasn't, we would be negotiating. Both sides would be in
negotiations right now."
Bettman has said no negotiations can take place unless the union agrees to
talk about linking salaries to revenues — essentially a salary cap.
Speaking to reporters after the four-hour meeting at the Sheraton Gateway
Hotel at the Toronto airport, Goodenow said he wanted the players in attendance
to spread the union's message to their teammates. In the past week, several
younger players, most notably Montreal's Pierre Dagenais, who attended the
meeting, and Calgary's Mike Commodore said they would play under a salary cap.
"There are absolutely no cracks or divisiveness in our membership," Goodenow
said. "The player reps totally understand the proposal that we've made and
will share that information with other players. I'm hopeful there will be a
season. But, I have to tell you, there's a good chance there won't be."
Bettman, in an interview with TSN in Canada Monday night, said the season
was "likely to slip away."
Holik said Rangers' teammates Tom Poti and Mike Dunham also attended the
meeting, though Rangers' player representative Dale Purinton was not there.
Holik also called Darius Kasparaitis with an update.
"He told me there's no progress and nothing's going on," Kasparaitis said.
"Everything is the same. That's what I felt was going to happen. As long as
the NHL wants a salary cap, nothing is going to happen. The players just
have to stay united."
With little hope of playing NHL hockey this season, Kasparaitis said Tuesday
he would leave Friday for Russia to train with Kazan and hoped to soon have
a contract to play for the Russian Elite League team.
As of Saturday, 237 — or 32% — of the NHL's 750 players had signed
contracts to play in Europe.
Still, Kasparaitis said "98 percent" of the players were on the "same page."
Holik also said comments such as the ones made by Dagenais and Commodore
did not reflect the union's feelings.
"They don't really know, they're so young," Holik said. "It's two guys out
of 750. What they need to do is come to the meetings to get educated. It's
not like they're going against the party line. If reporters are bugging
them, which they did, they're going to say something, which they did."
Holik added even though no agenda was set at Tuesday's meetings and no new
negotiations were likely to happen as a result, it was still a worthwhile trip
from his off-season home in Jackson Hole, Wy. The NHLPA has set up a secure
Web site with lockout information for its membership.
"Computers and cell phones are good to say, 'hi,' but not to resolve
issues," Holik said. "It's good to talk to everybody about the issues."
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