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December 1, 2004 - Handful of Flyers still working out

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Handful of Flyers still working out
By WAYNE FISH
phillyBurbs.com

MEDFORD, N.J. - And the band played on.

Here we are in December and a handful of stubborn Flyers continue to work out at a tiny rink nestled between farms and a rural airport.

Sami Kapanen has left to return to Finland but Tony Amonte has shown up to get in shape for a charity tournament in Europe.

Keith Primeau has been here since day one and he's beginning to wonder if the chances for an NHL season will quietly disappear some cold wintry night.

"My fear is (commissioner Gary Bettman) is going to play this out in a dangerous way,'' Primeau said after Tuesday's informal workout.

"It's headed in the wrong direction. I don't know how we can get it through to him - without not playing for a year and a half, two years - to show him the solidarity and the strength of our union.''

If the 700-plus hockey players haven't earned the owners' respect, they at least have from some other professional athletes.

"I have (NFL) players come up to me and say they respect how strong our union is,'' Primeau said. "They say they wish they were part of a union that had that fortitude."

Only a handful of Flyers, including Primeau, Marcus Ragnarsson and Eric Desjardins, have chosen not to play in some form of organized hockey.

"The players will find employment,'' Primeau said, and that might not bode well for those looking for the two sides to be "forced'' together.

Amonte said he's trying to maintain an upbeat approach. He remembers the 1994 lockout when there was also a lot of gloom and doom. But a season was salvaged then.

"There were deadlines and they were going to call it off,'' he said. "I think you just have to take it day by day and see what happens. You can't believe everything you read or hear. There may be some talks. ... You just have to keep an even keel."

Primeau also sat through the '94 lockout and worries that the two sides might not do what's best for the sport.

"The deeper we go into this,'' Primeau said, "what concerns me is if it becomes 'who wins, who loses, who has the fortitude to stay with their position the longest?'

"We don't know what (Bettman's) long-term agenda is. Whether he's adamant about $31 million (salary cap)? The game is in serious, serious danger."