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August 2, 2005 - Players eager to leave the greens, hit the ice

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Tuesday, August 2, 2005

“As players, we’re the biggest fans of the game of hockey. We just want to have a great start to the season for the fans. I think we have a great game to sell and people will respond to that.” – Brad May

It might not have been ideal "hockey weather," but that didn't dampen the enthusiasm of NHLPA members when talk turned to the upcoming hockey season.

Under a scorching sun and off-the-chart humidity levels, hardly the type of conditions one associates with hockey, the players taking part in a recent charity golf tournament just north of Toronto, didn't mind taking a quick timeout to talk about the 2005-06 NHL campaign.

In fact, if they had their druthers, the puck would drop on the new season tomorrow.

"I got some calls from the media leading up to the ratification vote, implying that the players were disconcerted and the deal had a possibility of getting voted down. I said there's absolutely no chance," said Keith Primeau, who hosted the second annual Fury Celebrity Golf Classic, at Eagles Nest Golf Club in Maple, Ontario, on July 18.

"We're all thrilled that we can get back on the ice and get to playing the game we love again," Primeau said, as he prepares to enter a season with a Flyers team that recently made a splash with the signings of Mike Rathje and Derian Hatcher.

A start to the season will also give the Flyers' captain the opportunity to join his wife, Lisa, to once again work closely with various charitable programs in the Philadelphia area.

"For us, getting involved in the community in the Philadelphia area is important - that's where we call home, we reside there, our kids go to school there. Toronto is my home and that's my community, but there's enough of us to go around to offer a little bit of our time and our efforts."

The centreman, who has played 900 regular season NHL games, certainly wasn't surprised to see several players make an appearance at his golf tournament.

Par for the course, he'd tell you.

"Any time you have a charity function, you can always count on your fellow players. That's just the way hockey players are. As athletes, we all want to give back. That's always been important to us. If you can show face and lend your support, that's important."

Primeau's younger brother, Wayne, also on-hand at the golf tournament, is already on the fast track to getting back into game-shape.

"It's definitely been a long time, but it's great that we've come together on an agreement," said the centreman, whose next game will be the 500th of his career. "It might take a little time to bring the fans back, but we want them to come back. Over time, I think we'll see fans getting the itch to come out and watch hockey."

The 17th overall selection in 1994 is looking forward to lacing up the skates once again.

"I'm sure it will get back to where it was," continued Primeau, who has played with Buffalo, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh and San Jose. "We're all eager to get back at it again."

For Brad May, a popular figure on and off the ice, putting on a top-notch show right from the start of 2005-06, is the ideal way to show fans the players are thrilled to be back.

"You have to think people will be happy," said May, a left-winger with 804 games of NHL experience. "As players, we're the biggest fans of the game of hockey. We just want to have a great start to the season for the fans. I think we have a great game to sell and people will respond to that."

From speaking with his fellow NHLPA members, the 14th overall in the 1990 Entry Draft gets the impression he's not alone in his assessment of the upcoming campaign.

"Optimistic would be a good word," said May, who made his NHL debut on October 4, 1991, and scored a goal on his first shot. "From speaking with the guys, they seem excited at getting things rolling."

The same can also be said for those who work closely with the players, including Barry Munro, President of the Canadian Spinal Research Organization.

"I think everybody realizes that they are the entertainment and they are the stars," said Munro, who, through programs such as Shoot For A Cure, has teamed up with the players to raise funds at various functions over the past five years. "I still believe the players are the best athletes in the world."