Apathy sinking hockey protest

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 9:12 AM ET

Jeff Powell was hoping they'd turn out by the thousands, disillusioned hockey fans eager to voice their displeasure with the NHL and its players in a nation-wide, two-minute boo-off.

The Great Canadian Hockey Call to Arms was to take place outside arenas across the country tomorrow night, when the season's first scheduled Hockey Night in Canada broadcast would be airing on the CBC.

Well, some three weeks after he began promoting it, Powell, a 23-year-old former Winnipegger living in Vancouver, is finding out fans are even more disillusioned than he thought.

It seems only one city, Edmonton, has really picked up his idea and run with it, as radio station The Team 1260 is organizing a downtown rally.

And much of the feedback Powell has received from fans can be boiled down to one word: apathy.

"It's kind of the sign of the times that people have lost their sense of empowerment," Powell said yesterday. "I feel bad for the people of Canada ... the NHL and NHLPA have made them feel like they have no say."

A former Jets fan who's rediscovered his love for the game in Vancouver, Powell is fed up with the direction the NHL has taken the last decade, the current lockout being the last straw.

Through e-mail, he began planning tomorrow's protest, gaining national media attention and doing some 15 interviews promoting it.

He'll find out tomorrow how many people listening actually think they can make a difference.

An extensive survey by an on-line pollster suggests most fans don't think they can: three in five expect there won't be a season at all this year, according to TNS Canadian Facts.

By the way: The Oilers have blocked an attempt to stage the Edmonton rally at their arena, forcing it to city hall, instead.

"I guess when they have stakes in it -- they're part of the group being booed -- they don't want that in their back yard," Powell said.

As for Winnipeg, Powell isn't surprised most fans just don't care enough.

"Admittedly, if I was still in Winnipeg, I don't know if I'd be paying much attention, either."

Try us again in the spring -- we might miss the game by then.

ON HOLD: Yesterday, we told you what three locked-out Manitobans -- Shane Hnidy of Neepawa, Lyleton's Marty Murray and J. P. Vigier of Notre Dame des Lourdes -- were doing with their time.

Brandon's Bryce Salvador, a four-year member of the St. Louis Blues, has checked in from his home in St. Louis, where he trains and continues to hold out hope he'll play at some point this season.

"Your life's kind of on hold a bit," Salvador, 28, said. "If we miss half a season, then three or four months would be great for my body, just to not have that wear and tear on it."

If the whole season is cancelled, as many suspect it will be, Salvador says he'll look for someplace to play after Christmas, not ruling out Europe or even the East Coast League.

By the way, Vigier, just one full year with Atlanta under his belt, found himself in an interesting position when the Thrashers suggested he join their AHL team in Chicago.

It's not often you hear about an employer locking out the employee, then handing him an assignment.

"I did have a choice. And on the other hand, I didn't," Vigier said. "I don't know if anybody else would take me. It was either that, or possibly go overseas ... the other choice was sitting at home. This fits better. I've played here before, and it just suited better.

"It's going to be a great league this year."

Vigier might get to play in Winnipeg when the Wolves visit the Moose New Year's Eve.

"I haven't played (there), so that should be cool," he said.

Hey, they hand you a lemon, you make lemonade.


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