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February 15, 2005 - Primeau: Cancellation inevitable

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Primeau: Cancellation inevitable

Almost all those connected with hockey knew this day was coming, but that doesn't make it any less shocking now that it's here.

At 1 p.m. Wednesday, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is expected to call a halt to the proceedings.

The lockout will become a knockout.

No hockey for the 2004-05 season and perhaps beyond.

Shortly after Bettman's announcement, the Flyers are scheduled to hold a news conference of their own at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia to discuss the future from their perspective.

It's going to be a sad day, the day the first North American major professional sports league did not compete from start to finish. No Stanley Cup for the first time since a flu epidemic wiped out the 1919 tournament.

Attempts to find resolution toward a new collective bargaining agreement will continue after today, but, barring some sort of court action and possible use of replacement players in the fall, the players won't be feeling any pressure to further compromise until about this time next year.

"I think we were resigned to the fact that the owners never had any intention of playing this year,'' Flyers captain Keith Primeau said Monday. "As much as we wanted to play, and as much as we were on an emotional rollercoaster, the [future] announcement was really the result of the inevitable.''

Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk was quoted to say he would like to see the players vote for themselves on the issue of a salary cap.

Primeau claims that notion wouldn't fly with the Flyers.

"For different reasons, some players might have different perspectives,'' he said. "But, ultimately, everybody is still on page with a no-cap scenario.''

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Public opinion might continue to swing away from the players but, according to Primeau, no one wants the game to go on more than his brethren.

"I'm a player and I want to play,'' he said. "I'll look at any proposal the owners make and I won't comment either way. What's been proposed so far isn't worth considering. That's an indication to me that we're still miles and miles apart.''

In Primeau's mind, not much progress was made in five months, so why would anyone be optimistic about this getting done anytime soon?

"It would be one thing if dialogue meant they were closing ground or discussions were having positive impact on the negotiations,'' he said. "They're speaking different languages so there's no need to have discussions because they can't find any common ground.

"For me, the realization is beginning to settle in that there isn't going to be a next season either. Because what says at this point next year that anybody's position will be different than what it is today?''

After the war is over, there will be no winners.

"Horrific is a great word, along with irreparable and catastrophic,'' Primeau said, "to describe how this game is going to look on the other end when we come out of this.

"This was their [the owners'] decision to lock us out and not have a season. I'll never understand how they could make such a huge misjudgment how the fans would respond to having an entire season cancelled.

"To think that even your core fan base will return is foolish.''