It's as good as over

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:39 AM ET

It looks like the Pierson Bruins of the Southwestern Manitoba Hockey League will keep their star forward for the rest of the winter.

Because Marty Murray and every other locked-out player can forget about salvaging anything in the way of an NHL season.

Despite what the two sides are saying about continuing contract talks today, it's as good as over.

And Murray, a product of Lyleton who was with the Carolina Hurricanes last year, seems to realize it, too.

"I've been optimistic all along," Murray told The Sun yesterday. "But right now I don't know how anything could get done. It's been kind of the same thing the last few sessions. They talk, you get your hopes up, but nothing really comes out of it."

There's no reason to get your hopes up today.

Sure, the two sides will meet again, in New York, and this time NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and players union boss Bob Goodenow will be there.

But you get the impression that might just be a case of calling in the head physician to declare the patient dead.

The moment the thing flatlines, you can forget about seeing NHL hockey for another 10-12 months, because there won't be any incentive to negotiate a new deal before players would start getting paid next season.

So Bettman and Goodenow's last words today may as well be, "same time next year."

"I can't imagine training camp opening up Sept. 15, so our intentions are to go over to Europe then," Murray said. "But there's going to be a lot of guys wanting to go over there."

Bryce Salvador of Brandon won't be one of them.

The St. Louis Blues defenceman says he'll likely try to land a contract in the AHL, instead.

Reached in St. Louis yesterday, Salvador was no more optimistic than Murray about the outcome of today's talks.

"I don't think anything's going to happen," he said. "Right from the start they wanted their cost certainty and they haven't wavered from that. We started on A, they started on Z, we moved to M and they stayed on Z.

"It's hard to believe we're this far."

Salvador hasn't been playing at all, choosing instead to heal up from last year's wrist surgery and a hernia operation in the summer.

Meanwhile, Murray has been suiting up with old buddies back home.

Expecting a child in two months, he and his wife recently bought a house near her home, in Minot, N.D.

For games, Murray makes the one-hour drive across the border to Pierson.

It's not exactly the pros, and someone actually goaded him into a fight the other day, but it's a way to stay in shape.

"We probably play four times a week right now," Murray said. "Minus the practices, it's kind of like an NHL schedule."

Minus the paycheque, too, of course.

Chances are he won't get any sympathy from his teammates, though.

"Guys tease me about wanting to come farm with them, or something like that," Murray said. "I'm not much of a farmer. That won't be the career choice."

Hey, at least they'll be working this year.


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