Here we go again

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:08 AM ET

One final kick at the can?

Or one final swing and a miss?

With time ticking away on the 2004-05 season, NHL players and owners are set to resume talks today in New York.

Reports indicate the meeting will include only NHL executive vice-president and chief legal officer Bill Daly, league outside counsel Bob Batterman, NHLPA senior director Ted Saskin and the union's outside counsel, John McCambridge.

Note the absence once again of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and player union head Bob Goodenow, who have sat out the past few discussions.

There is speculation that the owners might offer one last proposal this week. Stop if you've heard that one before.

Even if they do, many players remain skeptical that the owners will back off their stance of cost certainty, a stumbling block since Day 1 of the lockout. As a result they continue to migrate to other leagues in both North America and Europe, collectively united against a salary cap.

Among that contingent is former Maple Leafs goaltender Trevor Kidd, who will leave next week to join Orebro in Sweden.

"The solidarity among the guys is strong," Kidd said last night. "Every time you log on to the NHLPA website and go to the chat room, it's amazing to see how much everyone is sticking together."

Kidd's aspirations of playing senior hockey in Manitoba were dampened upon learning that anyone with an NHL contract last season is not eligible to compete in the Allan Cup playoffs, the showdown for Canadian senior hockey supremacy.

"This was the next best thing," he said. "Being a free agent, I want to play competitive hockey during the lockout so I have a feather in my cap whenever the NHL returns."

Another former Leaf, Mike Johnson, is making the leap to Farjestad of the Swedish Elite League while Anaheim Mighty Ducks goalie J-S Giguere is off to Hamburg of the German league. Add them all up, and more than 350 NHLers have signed deals in Europe since the lockout began last September.

Back in North America, the United Hockey League's Motor City Mechanics, as expected, announced the signings of Chris Chelios, Derian Hatcher and Kris Draper. Another Detroit Red Wing, Kirk Maltby, is considering joining his teammates.

In typical Chelios fashion, the veteran defenceman again criticized Bettman, adding that Original Six teams like the Red Wings and Leafs should not be financially handcuffed by the league in order to support the Nashvilles of the world.

New York Rangers goalie Dan Blackburn, meanwhile, is joining Victoria of the East Coast Hockey League, a circuit that already features Scott Gomez and Curtis Brown.

The bitter taste of the 18-week lockout did not escape International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge.

"Olympic athletes do not go on strike for a minimum salary of six-million dollars," Rogge, mistaking the lockout for a strike, said at a luncheon in Vancouver.


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