SUN Hockey Pool

Senior teams eye NHLers

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 12:14 PM ET

And now, starting in goal for your Grunthal Red Wings ... Trevor Kidd! There's a good chance those words will boom from the loud speakers at Grunthal Arena in late February or early March. That's when the Red Wings will meet the Ile des Chenes North Stars in the Manitoba final of the Allan Cup senior AAA hockey tournament.

Hockey Canada and its provincial branches will conduct a conference call on Monday to determine exactly how many NHLers will be allowed to play on each Allan Cup team later this winter.

That is, of course, if the NHL lockout lasts that long.

"It's a big issue right now," Ile des Chenes general manager Roger St. Laurent said yesterday.

Kidd, who is currently an unrestricted NHL free agent after spending the past two seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs, has already signed a Hockey Manitoba card to suit up for the Red Wings. The Dugald native has also been practising with Grunthal.

Hockey Canada initially declared that each senior team could use a maximum of two NHL players. A final decision, along with its terms, will be determined on Monday, and Hockey Manitoba executive director Peter Woods hopes the number remains at two.

"If you just open it up and let anyone play, then you're bumping a bunch of guys out that would regularly play senior hockey," Woods said.

"This is a one-year thing where next year they're all going to be gone back to the National Hockey League, and then the senior guys, maybe they won't come back and play.

"So it'll be a one-year thing. Although you elevate the game for that one season, it could have long-term repercussions if you just open it up and let anyone play."

St. Laurent is not a big fan of the idea.

"It's amateur (hockey)," St. Laurent said. "If it was for long-term, that's one thing. But to bring in two or three guys and all of a sudden release two or three of your players who should be playing, I don't think it's a good idea, personally."

St. Laurent pointed out that the senior team in Lloydminster, Alta., which will host the Allan Cup in the spring, is rumoured to have Ottawa Senators defenceman Wade Redden on its blue-line this winter.

"Wade Redden's probably one of the top six defenceman in the world," St. Laurent said. "It's pretty hard to compete with that.

"... A defenceman or a goaltender could hurt you, but if you sign a player who scores 30 or 40 goals in the National Hockey League, he's going to light up this level."

Grunthal general manager Marv Kornelsen is in favour of the proposal. Then again, he has Kidd showing up at his practices and has also affiliated his team with the Oakville Seals of the Tiger Hills Hockey League. Portage native Arron Asham, who's regular job is with the New York Islanders, is playing for the Seals this winter, which means the Red Wings have dibs on him.

"I'm sure some teams (across Canada) would have way more guys available than what we have, and I think that's why it's a good thing they put a limit on it, so everybody at least has the same crack at it," Kornelsen said.

"I'm fine with one or two or three or whatever. Who knows? You might get none."

St. Laurent said he hasn't made contact with any Manitoba NHLers -- Marty Murray, Tyler Arnason and Mike Keane are a few possibilities -- but Kornelsen isn't buying that.

"They've talked to Marty Murray -- but so have we," Kornelsen said.

In case you hadn't noticed, Grunthal and Ile des Chenes have a perfectly good rivalry going, even without the potential addition of NHLers.

And that, St. Laurent admits, could create a serious windfall for both the North Stars and the Red Wings.

"If there are Trevor Kidds and Marty Murrays who could potentially be playing senior hockey, it's going to make for a heck of a Manitoba series," St. Laurent said. "There would be packed rinks, there's no question about that. The financial part of it would be a definite bonus."


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