SUN Hockey Pool

Linden looks to kick-start talks

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:32 AM ET

Trevor Linden was not about to let the NHL season fade quietly into the wintery night.

Faced with the imminent prospect of seeing the 2004-05 campaign flushed away without a last-gasp effort to save the season, the NHLPA president has spearheaded a small get-together with league officials, scheduled for tomorrow.

In an attempt to gain a fresh perspective regarding the four-month lockout, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and union head Bob Goodenow will be absent from the meeting.

"(Goodenow) was fine with it," Linden said last night. "I don't think this is uncommon. I think we've seen this type of thing before in collective bargaining situations. This is a bit of a change of dynamics."

Linden believes that a scaled-down meeting could be more productive.

"Instead of having 10 guys sitting down facing 10 other guys, we're going to have three guys facing three guys. I just see this as an opportunity to try to open up the dialogue and see what happens from there. We haven't held any discussions and I just felt we needed to have a face-to-face meeting to look at the situation to see if there's anything we can do."

Linden, Saskin and outside counsel John McCambridge will represent the players. Calgary Flames part-owner Harley Hotchkiss, the chairman of the NHL's board of governors; Bill Daly, the NHL's chief legal officer; and outside counsel Bob Batterman will be on hand to represent the owners.

MEETING

Neither side is expected to forward any new proposal at the meeting, which could be held in a non-NHL city in the U.S. in an attempt to escape the media spotlight, although Chicago is said to be in consideration.

"In the past, the meetings have been very public and we've both rejected each other's offers with big presentations afterward," Linden said. "This time we're not going to the table with an offer, we're going to hold discussions.

"This isn't an attempt to try to make a public relations move. There's not going to be any public presentations. We're not bringing everybody in for a big discussion. I didn't want to make a big show out of this."

While insisting the union will not waver from its anti salary- cap stance, Linden refuses to give up hope that a new collective bargaining agreement can be reached in time to save a portion of this season.

"My position remains optimistic until Gary (Bettman) informs me the season is cancelled," Linden said.

Hockey-starved NHL fans should not bank on a resolution coming out of the meeting. Many agents already are looking to Europe as a potential location for their clients not only for this season, but next as well.

Then again, at least the two sides will talk -- something they haven't formally done in more than a month.

"We are hopeful that progress can be made toward a resolution," Daly wrote in an e-mail to Sun Media last night.

As is Linden.


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