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December 16, 2004 - NHL out to `divide union,' players say

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Dec. 16, 2004. 01:00 AM
NHL out to `divide union,' players say
Rollback proposal wouldn't apply to smaller contracts

League doesn't `understand our resolve': Primeau

MARK ZWOLINSKI
SPORTS REPORTER

Keith Primeau would lose $1.35 million of his $4.5 million salary if the NHL was back on the ice today and the league's proposed tiered salary rollbacks were in place.

Karel Pilar would be back on the ice, too, but he wouldn't lose a cent of his $525,000 income (all figures U.S.).

But Pilar, like Primeau, says he's not impressed with the NHL's offer.

The Maple Leafs defenceman says the NHL proposal doesn't "for one second" change his support for the players' association's uniform 24 per cent salary reduction.

Amen to that, says Primeau.

"Recognizing with their rollbacks that they can divide the union ... shows they don't understand the union at all, they don't understand our resolve," Primeau said yesterday, the day after the NHLPA rejected the NHL's counter-offer for a new labour contract.

Some 349 of the 796 players under contract for this season are with Pilar in the group who would not have their salaries rolled back at all. They earn $800,000 or less.

The higher the salary the greater the pinch, with the 41 players earning $5 million or more taking pay cuts of 35 per cent.

"The players are really insulted, especially the star players like (Sergei) Fedorov, (Martin) Brodeur and Mats (Sundin)," Tie Domi said from Bern, Switzerland, where he's on the IMG Worldstars tour featuring NHLers playing European teams.

"These are the guys who are supposed to sell the game. It's a real slap in the face for these guys especially. They're really upset about it. They may not say that on camera, but they're really insulted, just like everyone else."

Also unimpressed is Cory Sarich of the Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning.

Sarich would have his $1.6 million salary rolled back by 20 per cent.

"You're drawing too many lines in the sand that way," he said. "It's better to have everyone in one situation. We're all playing the same game, but if you go the other way (the NHL's proposal), you're creating a situation where it's unfair for everyone."

That's how Pilar feels.

"The 24 per cent is for everyone, but on my salary, it doesn't really take that much from me," Pilar said.

"It's not about me. Guys like Mats, they deserve what they're being paid. They are giving back a lot (at 24 per cent), so this (NHL rollback) is only going to make things worse for the players."