Cap the only way: Hartsburg

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:30 AM ET

The road to NHL success in the future has to be partially paved with a salary cap.

That's coming from former NHL defenceman Craig Hartsburg, who enjoyed a solid 10-year career with the Minnesota North Stars before moving into the coaching ranks with the Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Mighty Ducks.

"I do (feel a salary cap is needed) because I don't think some of the owners can cap themselves," said Hartsburg, who left his role as an assistant behind the Philadelphia Flyers bench earlier this season to take over as head coach of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.

"They make it worse for everybody else. The financial part has to change before (the game) can change anywhere else. If they all work together, players and owners, and come up with the right numbers, I think it can work."

In 1988-89, his final season in the NHL, Hartsburg said he made $270,000 US. He has nothing against today's players -- "as a player, you should get as much as you can" -- but figured there has to be a better way to keep the game's economics in check.

"At the end of (the lockout), whenever it ends, I think it's going to be the best thing that happened to our game," Hartsburg said prior to last night's Ontario Hockey League game between the 'Hounds and the Brampton Battalion at the Brampton Centre.

"Our sport was completely out of whack the way it was going, with money spending, and the way players were changing the way they looked at the game. I hear players saying we have to fix the game as much as the salaries and I think that is important."

The difference in attitude among some players today and those when he played in the 1980s is evident, Hartsburg said.

"We knew they couldn't pay us millions of dollars when we were playing," Hartsburg said. "Eventually, it grew to (players being paid millions), and it has gotten to the point now where it has to change, again. I feel sorry for the players now who are going to have to go backwards. That will be the hardest part.

"I don't know how it is all going to end, but I still think when it's over, it's going to be better for everybody."

One player who has been affected directly by the lockout is right under Hartsburg's nose. Greyhounds centre and world junior all-star Jeff Carter, in all likelihood, would have signed with and been playing for the Flyers had the lockout been avoided. Instead, Carter, a first-round choice in 2003, is in limbo, wondering when he will sign that first contract.

"I don't want to say anything because I have not paid that much attention to it," Carter said when asked if he could one day picture himself playing under a salary cap. "I want to be a hockey player and play in the NHL. Any money you make is an added bonus."


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