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December 3, 2004 - NHL players mixed

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AP file
NHL players mixed
about new labor talks
Union, owners to resume
negotiations next week
The Stars' Bill Guerin is excited about the resumption in labor talks.
Updated: 9:44 p.m. ET Dec. 3, 2004

After three months of dormancy, the NHL and the Players Association finally decided to resume talks to work out a new collective bargaining agreement.

But while some players view the upcoming meeting as a chance to salvage the 2004-05 season, others are not as optimistic.

The union on Thursday extended the olive branch to the league, sending an invitation to commissioner Gary Bettman for a meeting in Toronto on Thursday — the first in exactly three months.

Bettman happily accepted, and he and NHLPA executive Bob Goodenow got together for lunch in New York on Friday to prepare for next week’s crucial gathering.

A new proposal from the union is expected to be introduced in Toronto.  While no one would reveal any specifics, a number of players believed the plan would lead the way to a new CBA and rescue the season.

“We believe this new (proposal) will be fair to everyone involved and will benefit everyone involved,” Colorado Avalanche defenseman and NHLPA executive committee member Bob Boughner told the Denver Post.  “We feel it’s a great proposal that solves everyone’s concerns.”

“I can’t get into specifics, but I believe we are going to be fair to the NHL, fair to the union and offer a system that will work,” Stars forward Bill Guerin said in an interview with the Dallas Morning News.  “Just getting back to the table would be exciting.  There’s time, if we can just start talking.”

A union vice president, Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson shared Boughner and Guerin’s optimism.

“It’s definitely something (the owners) can work with, that’s going to work,” he told the Ottawa Citizen.  “It’s not just a quick fix just to try and save the season.”

Other players were cautious in their assessment of what would take place at next week’s meeting.

“I think that’s a step in the right direction, as they’re going to sit down and meet,” Red Wings three-time Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom told the Detroit Free Press.  “Guys aren’t encouraged yet, but at least they’re going to talk face to face.”

“We’re not expecting them to jump at it, but maybe it can be the groundwork for something,” 2004 Selke Trophy winner Kris Draper added.

Flyers captain Keith Primeau summed up most hockey fans’ feelings when speaking to the Philadelphia Daily News.

“I don’t know what’s in the proposal, but I’m excited because any talk is better than no talk,” he said.  “Even without knowing what’s in our proposal or not knowing what the reaction with the league will be, I’m excited.  I optimistically await.”

Even some of the league’s general managers, who met with Bettman at a dinner function in New York on Thursday, were pleased to hear talks would resume.

“If they are talking, I guess anything is encouraging,” Flyers GM Bob Clarke said.

“Anytime there’s an offer, of course it’s exciting,” Columbus’ Doug MacLean added.  “Let’s hope it’s enough to get people to the table.”

Considering a salary cap is sure not to be a part of the union’s proposal, not every player shares the optimism of others.

“I’d hate to say this is our final offer, but we’re trying our best,” Nashville Predators forward Scott Walker told The Tennessean.  “I assume we’ll make the offer and they’ll reject it outright without even really looking at it.  That seems to be their history.”

With the season dangerously close to being canceled, NHL fans are hoping Walker’s prediction does not come to fruition.