Eagle chimes in

GEORGE GROSS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 5:28 PM ET

Since King Solomon, to the best of my knowledge, is nowhere to be found, disgruntled hockey fans in Canada and the United States are hoping that a mediator can be located to bring together the warring factions of the National Hockey League and National Hockey League Players Association. It doesn't have to be a saint, merely a person who's intelligent, knows the problems that are facing the two groups and who's convincing without being overly aggressive.

Strange as it may sound, I thought of R.Alan Eagleson. Now, don't get excited. I wasn't thinking of him as the mediator. He burned all his hockey bridges some time ago.

However, I mused that, as the founding executive director of the NHLPA, Eagleson might have some thoughts on how the lockout situation that is causing heartaches to hockey fans and financial losses to owners, players, as well as league and club employees, could be solved. If at all.

Reaching Eagleson isn't an easy task. He could be found at his Toronto apartment, or on his farm in Collingwood. Or he might just be at his place in London, England, where he and his wife Nancy spend about three months a year.

I reached him in London, shortly after he returned from visiting a cathedral, claiming he had said a prayer for me.

"I think both sides are crazy," said The Eagle for openers. "Neither side would talk for fear of legal ramifications. That's not the way to solve the problem. (Gary) Bettman and (Bob) Goodenow won't solve it.

"One way it could possibly be solved is by getting together a group of the most important governors and a group of the most important players. Lock the doors and let them settle it."

Eagleson, who was never short of ideas -- good or bad -- figured out another solution that might work.

"There is an obvious lack of trust on both sides," said Eagleson. "Perhaps they should bring in an arbitrator or mediator. Paul Beeston (former president of the Blue Jays and Major League Baseball) would be an ideal person. He is knowledgeable, has dealt with unions and is respected.

"The way it is right now, everybody is losing, including the players. I don't think their skills are improving by playing in Europe. Speaking of European teams, the near 300 NHL players who are now over there playing, are taking jobs away from players who have been making a living in Europe."

Eagleson is pessimistic about a possible early solution to the lockout. In his view, if the two sides have been unable to sit down and negotiate for the past six weeks, it is unlikely that they'll find common ground to strike a deal by January 5, the much bandied about last day to salvage this NHL season.

What is really puzzling is the fact that neither Wayne Gretzky nor Mario Lemieux has taken a public stance on the issue.

GROSSLY ABBREVIATED

A very interesting sports book hit the stores in time for the Christmas market. It's called The Dominators and has nothing to do with either Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dominik Hasek or Tie Domi. Authors Frank Orr and Dr. George Tracz deal with remarkable athletes who changed their respective sports forever. Featured in the book are such stars as Muhammad Ali, Lance Armstrong, Bjorn Borg, Babe Didrickson Zaharias, Bobby Orr, Michael Jordan, Joe Namath, Sandy Koufax and many others. The 240-page book sells for $ 29.95 ... Viiu Kreem, one of the original members of the Kalev Estienne rhythmic gymnastics group, passed away suddenly in Victoria, B.C. She was 56. A memorial service will be held tomorrow at 11 a.m. at St.Peter's Estonian Church (Mt.Pleasant and Eglinton.)


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