SUN Hockey Pool

Brats fight over $100M 'toy' childish

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 9:14 AM ET

We always knew it would come to this. Leave the NHL and its players association in a stare-down for too long, and eventually it leads to blows.

Like two kindergarten kids fighting over the same toy, NHL commish Gary Bettman and union big-wig Ted Saskin have started hurling insults back and forth.

At this point, they don't even care about the toy anymore, they're too busy trying to deliver the best shot.

Saskin says Bettman isn't the right man for the commissioner's chair, that he's lost the players' respect. Bettman says it's obvious the union is getting desperate.

While you two brats have it out, remember what our mothers always said: it's fun until someone loses an eye. Or $100 million, whichever comes first.

CHANGING ON THE FLY: Ever wonder what some of our old friends in Phoenix are doing, with no hockey to sell in the desert?

Coyotes vice-president of communications Richard Nairn is busy getting ready for the Arizona Sting's second season in the National Lacrosse League.

Nairn, son of longtime Winnipeg broadcaster and current Assiniboia Downs publicist Ernie Nairn, is one of a handful of locals still with the old Jets franchise.

Others, like equipment manager Stan Wilson, athletic therapist Gord Hart and massage therapist Jukka Nieminen are helping out in the team's new arena, setting up for lacrosse games, etc.

The Coyotes haven't laid off any staff since the fall, but Nairn says he's not sure what will happen to everybody's jobs if the season is scrapped entirely.

"We're still optimistic," he said. "In the last lockout (1994), they didn't start talking until after Christmas."

BOUND FOR GOLD? Hockey Canada director of high performance Denis Hainault is the latest to weigh in on how star-studded this year's edition of our world junior team promises to be.

"I've been in this program for 13 years," Hainault was telling me the other day. "I don't remember any year where we had the depth that we have this year."

That includes the '95 team, which was stacked with future NHLers and rolled to a gold medal in Red Deer, Alta.

Not so coincidentally, that was also the last year an NHL lockout made every blue-chip junior available.

Some top players, including a few Manitobans, no doubt, will be bitterly disappointed when the roster for the final selection camp in Winnipeg is released Monday.

"And they may doubt a little bit their potential, and it has nothing to do with their talent or their abilities," Hainault said. "It's just the numbers."

JUMPING THE GUN: Couldn't help but notice Hockey Canada announce that ticket packages to the 2006 World Junior Hockey Championship in Vancouver go on sale to the general public next Wednesday.

Maybe I'm nitpicking, but is that such a good idea, given organizers down in Grand Forks, N.D., are still trying to fill the rink for the '05 event, which begins Dec. 25?

Believe it or not, there are still tickets available for every game, including the gold-medal final.

"Nothing is sold out," Chris Semrau of the Ralph Engelstad Arena said yesterday. "But the percentage of Canadian buys is increasing dramatically."

With many Canadian games in the afternoon, you don't even need a hotel room, although those are still available, too.

You can get your tickets at Ticketmaster, or at www.worldjuniors2005.com or by calling 701-772-5151.

CFL COUPLE? I see Major League Baseball has dumped the husband-and-wife team that's made up its schedule the last 24 years, in favour of a small company near Pittsburgh.

That leaves Henry and Holly Stephenson on the free-agent market, and I say the CFL should move in, pronto. Nine teams, two divisions -- should be a piece of cake.


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