SUN Hockey Pool

Draper puts blame on Bettman

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:22 AM ET

Gary Bettman might as well get a flu shot while he's in town.

What's another shot, given the number he has been absorbing of late?

In a week in which the NHL commissioner and officials of the players association finally will meet to discuss a new collective bargaining agreement, Bettman was the target of biting criticism from two more players disgruntled with his tactics.

First came a stinging salvo from forward Shane Doan, who told the Vancouver Province Monday it "boggles his mind" how Bettman has kept his job, referring to the commissioner's insistence on cost certainty.

Bettman, speaking on Leafs TV last night, responded by calling the attack "words of desperation" from the union membership.

Kris Draper was not around to see Bettman's interview. The Toronto native was winging his way to Europe at the time for the coming IMG WorldStars tour, which kicks off tomorrow in Latvia.

But earlier in the day, just minutes after Draper, Martin Brodeur and co. had finished a practice at the Ricoh Coliseum, the speedy Detroit Red Wings forward insisted the players should not be on the hook to repair the damage done by Bettman and the owners.

Draper pointed to a number of the struggling franchises in the southern U.S. Why, he wondered, should the players be held responsible for what ails those teams when it was Bettman who eagerly accepted expansion fees from them in the first place?

"Bettman's plan was expansion," Draper said. "He brought in the Floridas and Nashvilles of the world and now he wants the players to fix it. I don't know what exact role the (union) played in (expansion), but I don't think it's right he wants us to fix it."

Draper insisted Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch is an example to other owners of how to construct a successful franchise under the existing system.

"He did it by making pizzas and building up his company," Draper said. "I mean, people forget in the early 1980s that Detroit wasn't doing much. Crowds of 8,500 weren't uncommon there. Mike came in, built up the team and turned it into one of the greatest products in the game.

"He spend $60-70 million US for salaries and so forth, and now the franchise is worth about $300 million. He did that, so what's stopping other owners from doing it?"

Having said that, Draper and many other WorldStars feel the players' have made huge concessions in their latest proposal to the league, one that is believed to include an across-the-board salary reduction in the neighbourhood of 10%.

"Maybe there is some groundwork there," he said. "I think there still is a month left before they would have to shut down the season. Until I hear the official announcement of that happening, I remain optimistic."


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