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Veterans have to stop this madness

Published October 31, 2004

It seems obvious by now that the NHL lockout is not going to end as long as it's in the hands of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and union boss Bob Goodenow.

Bettman, along with right-hand man Bill Daly, and Goodenow, with sidekick Ted Saskin, can't even agree when to talk let alone figure out what to talk about. The sides have not held meaningful negotiations since Sept. 9.

Bettman and Goodenow are too busy drawing lines in the sand and criticizing the other side to even consider when they should talk.

On John McEnroe's television show last week, Bettman again said this should be a time for the union to cool off and reflect on what is happening. Listening to the union talk, it should cool off some time around Halloween of 2012.

Neither side wants to propose new talks because it fears the other side will see that as a sign of softening and dig in its heels even deeper. The days slip away and before you know it, two months have gone by without any talks.

That's ridiculous, but as long as Bettman and Goodenow are calling the shots, it will continue.

That's why others have to step up. If Bettman/Daly and Goodenow/Saskin aren't going to save the season, others have to.

Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux need to take a lead role for the owners. Gretzky is as respected in hockey as any person alive. When he speaks, players and owners listen. Lemieux, in the unique position of owner/player, can bring honest opinions that the owners and players both respect.

Meantime, where are the veteran NHL players? Where's Joe Sakic? Where's Brett Hull? Where's Chris Chelios?

These longtime stars of the league seem like reasonable and intelligent men and carry a lot of clout. Put the name of the Lightning's Dave Andreychuk on that list.

The union representatives from each team are scheduled to meet this week. Hull and Andreychuk and the like should be a part of the meeting. They need to stand up and order Goodenow to resume negotiations.

Meantime, Gretzky and Lemieux should be on the telephone with Bettman right now ordering him into a room with the union.

Gretzky, Lemieux, Sakic, Andreychuk, Hull. It is their responsibility to save the season because the ones running the show right now don't appear to be acting responsibly at all.

OTHER VOICES: Unfortunately, the guys speaking out and making sense are ones who don't carry a whole lot of weight.

For example, Calgary's Mike Commodore is best known for having wild hair. Last week, he said, "There needs to be a system that works, whatever it is. If it's a salary cap that works ... the bottom line is that there needs to be NHL hockey. If everybody's telling the truth and there needs to be salary cap, as long as it's a reasonable salary cap and players are making money and the owners aren't losing money and making some money, then I don't see what's wrong with it."

Makes sense, right? Of course, he likely will be roundly criticized by fellow players. New Jersey's John Madden and Florida's Juraj Kolnik made similar statements and quickly backtracked after being seen as speaking out of turn.

BAD BREAK: Calgary's Ville Nieminen, the guy who rammed Vinny Lecavalier's head into the boards and was suspended for a game in last season's final, planned to play in Europe until the lockout was over. Now, he might not play in Europe or the NHL. While playing for Tappara in Finland, Nieminen broke his wrist and is out at least three months and possibly the season. His contract with the Flames expires at the end of the 2004-05 season.

NORTH TO ALASKA: New Jersey Devils center Scott Gomez signed a $500-a-week contract with the Alaska Aces, a minor-league team in his home state. Gomez went to East High School in Anchorage. "It was a no-brainer," Gomez told KTUU-TV in Alaska. "Money's not everything."

Money might not be everything, but a big name means a lot in Alaska. "It's a shot in the arm," Aces spokesman Jack Michaels said. "In the last couple of hours, we've sold 250 tickets for (Gomez's first game) and 25 season tickets."

Gomez scored a goal and added an assist in his debut Friday.

THE REPLACEMENTS: What if the NHL decided to use replacement players during the lockout? Would anyone play? "I wouldn't do it," said Wyatt Smith, a center with the Milwaukee Admirals. "I know it's an opportunity a lot of players don't get, and to turn something like that down might be odd."

Nashville prospect Darren Haydar, another Milwaukee players, said he would have to at least consider it.

"I'd talk to my agent about it at first," Haydar told the Tennessean. "But if you love the game, you always want to play at the highest level that's available to you."

Information from other news organizations was used in the report.

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