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January 21, 2005 - Primeau remains 'indifferent'

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Primeau remains 'indifferent'
By WAYNE FISH
phillyBurbs.com

Keith Primeau won't get fooled again.

The Flyers captain says he's encouraged by developments of the past two days involving the NHL talks, but he isn't getting "too excited,'' because the last time that happened (Dec. 9-14), it ended in a big letdown.

"I'm still indifferent,'' Primeau said in a telephone conversation Thursday night. "The last time, it fell apart in rather quick fashion. This time I'm reserving my emotions until they finalize something.

"I'm cautiously optimistic that they're speaking again. But we've been forewarned that although they're talking, because of the philosophical differences, they might not resolve it. That's why I just continue to wait to hear that they've found a way to salvage something.''

After talks broke down the week of Dec. 9-14, Primeau predicted the NHL Players' Association would make one more stab at restarting the talks.

What has him perplexed is the public's perception that because the players are making the first move here, it should be construed as a sign of weakness. In other words, the players are beginning to crack.

Primeau says that's not the case at all.

"I can't understand how people can continue to believe that the players are greedy when we recognize there are problems with the game, and we're trying to help fix it ... we're trying to not only salvage the season but salvage the league" he said.

"Now we're accused of being weak. It's the contrary. We want to be playing. If we continue to wait for the owners, who have locked us out, to bring something to the table, we'll lose the season and possibly more.

"So it was imperative that someone take another step. It didn't matter who it was, and in this case it was the players.''

The fact that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and union chief Bob Goodenow have been left out of the discussions didn't surprise Primeau at all.

"No, I just felt that they were going to continue to butt heads if they were approaching it the way they've been,'' Primeau said. "Smaller groups can sometimes be more productive. If two days of discussion are any indication, they may be on to something.''

In Primeau's mind, something productive has to come out of this last-ditch effort.

That's fairly obvious, given the presumption that there's only time left for about a 36-game schedule as it stands.

"I was under the impression that for an even shorter season [than the 48-game schedule in 1994-95], something had to be done by today in order to start by the end of January,'' he said. "Now you're starting to hear 34, 36 games, so that basically buys you one week of time.

"If at this time next week there isn't some form of agreement, at least on the basics, then I definitely fear what the future holds.''