Just ask Bohonos about lockout

STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:44 AM ET

You can excuse Lonny Bohonos if he doesn't have a whole lot of sympathy for his old friends in the National Hockey League Players' Association.

He has every reason to be upset with the duplicity of his locked-out brethren. In fact, the lockout probably cost him one of the best hockey jobs he ever had.

Bohonos, who stuck around the Maple Leafs just long enough to always be remembered, lost his place after four successful scoring seasons in the Swiss National League. One year he's the leading scorer. Suddenly, he's out.

Having been pushed aside by one of the 205 members of the NHLPA -- where he once paid dues -- the players are now in the business of stealing work they would normally have no interest in doing.

All in the name of commerce -- predictably theirs.

"I don't blame the players, they're just doing what they do," said Bohonos on a long-distance line. "I think the union should have addressed this, though. They should have shown some direction. It's not right what they're doing.

"If it wasn't (for the lockout) I'd still be there playing. I know that. A lot of guys have lost jobs, a lot of guys are sitting out watching NHL guys play in their place. I'd be a lot more sour if I was there and not playing. The fact I'm removed from it and over here makes it easier to take."

It seems the same players who are fighting for their rights and unaccepting of controls over here are acting like hockey bandits in Europe. Every time a Dany Heatley or a Daniel Briere or a Patrice Brisebois sign to play -- they were the three latest to agree to terms yesterday -- they are ostensibly taking advantage of the free-market system they themselves oppose.

There was no guaranteed contract for Lonny Bohonos. There was no protection, no one to fight for him. One minute he was scoring goals, the next minute he was in training camp with the Fort Worth Brahmas of the Central Hockey League. Playing at the lowest level, he has found himself in an 11-year professional career where all he has ever done is accumulate points and be disregarded.

"Lonny was making good money over there," said Al Sims, the Fort Worth coach. "It's a great life playing in Europe, I know, I played there. It isn't just the hockey. It's a terrific continent to live in.

"But when the NHL guys became available, it put him out of the market. Simple as that."

Bohonos had one magical playoff run in 1999 with the Maple Leafs -- nine points in nine games -- but all that seems so very long ago. "The best time of my career," he calls it. "I had hoped it would last a long time."

Now, he tries to preserve what it is he has left at age 31, hoping the $1,500 US he earns a week in the CHL will lead to another job somewhere in Europe, another opportunity, another look.

But let it be understood that if the NHL ever attempts to reconvene with replacement players -- which is seeming more likely with each passing day -- that not an angry word be taken seriously from any NHLPA member who challenges a replacement player. They aren't acting like scabs; it just seems that way.

"That's what they're doing, isn't it?" asked Bohonos. "Isn't it? I understand what they're fighting for. I used to be one of them. I never cared much for the business side of hockey but I've got a family to feed. I've got to get the best deal I can get."

Perhaps a year from now, when the NHL may open its training camp doors to anyone who will enter, Lonny Bohonos will gladly compete for a job.

"One hundred percent," he said. "I can tell you that right now. If they want me to be a replacement player, I'll play."

Maybe, just maybe, he'll take a job from someone who took his.


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