Ferguson holds out hope

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 11:37 AM ET

He has little to go on right now, but John Ferguson remains optimistic the NHL and NHL Players' Association can negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement to salvage a portion of the 2004-05 season. "Eleventh-hour deals occur regularly," the Maple Leafs general manager said yesterday at the world junior championship here in Grand Forks, N.D. "As long as there is time left, it's realistic that a deal can get done."

There have been whispers that the NHL is preparing a new proposal to present to the NHLPA but other s have said it's not true.

The NHL's board of governors meet in New York on Jan. 14 and Ferguson will be present. Many believe that if the season is not wiped out that day, there will be a decision made on a drop-dead date to begin the season. Ferguson said there was no agenda yet in place for the meeting, which he will attend.

Because of the lockout, Ferguson was able to enjoy more quality time with his family for Christmas last weekend. He and his wife Stephanie loaded children Emily, John Jr. and Grace into the car and headed to his in-laws' in Rhode Island last week after celebrating an early Christmas with members of the Ferguson family in Toronto.

NO REASON FOR ALARM

"The kids said we shouldn't put our alarm on back home because Santa would have set it off," Ferguson said with a hearty laugh. "If there is an opportunity to spend more time with your family, you take advantage of it."

If the season is cancelled, thereby delaying the 2005 NHL entry draft, the Leafs likely won't cut back on scouting.

Ferguson, who was scheduled to leave Grand Forks today, was joined here by assistant general manager Mike Penny, director of amateur scouting Barry Trapp and pro scout Craig Button.

Ferguson doesn't know what the NHL will look like on the other side of the new collective bargaining agreement but wants to be prepared for whatever comes out of the negotiating.

"It's important that we do all we can to be ready to compete under whatever new rules are in place," Ferguson said.

"Whatever those rules are, we know we are going to have to compete differently, and to remain successful under a different set of rules we have to maximize what we can control."


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