SUN Hockey Pool

Ex-players lament no deal

JIM CRESSMAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:27 AM ET

Dale Hunter and Jim Sandlak lived through the NHL's 105-day work stoppage in 1994.

The two retired players never thought they would see an entire season wiped out.

"We got an agreement in 1994, the season started late and this time I think the fans always had hope there would be a season. Now that hope is gone," Hunter said yesterday.

The London Knights head coach said he thought right up until commissioner Gary Bettman's announcement that the two sides would settle.

Hunter watched on TV.

"My stomach sank. This is not good for hockey," said Hunter, who played 19 seasons in the NHL. "Up until today there was always that hope. Now the hope is that they start training camp on Sept. 11."

Sandlak, a former Knight, spent 11 years in the NHL. When he retired in 1996, he settled in London.

"I don't care about the NHL," Sandlak said. "I went through this 10 years ago and nothing was resolved for me and my family. I lost a pile of money, like $250,000, and I never got it back."

Sandlak then amended his statement.

"I do care. Saying I don't care is just the frustration speaking. I didn't think it would ever get to this extreme. Honestly, it is a sad, sad day. It's terrible.

"This just turned into a power struggle between two guys -- Bettman and Goodenow -- and it's a zero-win situation for everybody. I'm bitter. It's just a mess."

London Knights forward Corey Perry said as a fan "now we can only sit back and watch, or wait, I guess."

Knights forward Dan Fritsche lives in Parma, Ohio, a Cleveland suburb. He's a Columbus Blue Jackets draft pick and played 19 games in the NHL last season.

"I know this is going to be hard on the fans up here in Canada, but coming from the States, there's not been much of a deal made about it," Fritsche said.

"It's not going to be hard for fans in the States to forget about the game and I'm really worried about some of the teams back home."

"It's not going to be hard for fans in the States to forget about the game and I'm really worried about some of the teams back home."

Knights forward Rob Schremp, also an American, is an Edmonton Oilers' first-round draft pick.

"I'm disappointed. I don't just like playing, I love to watch it on TV," he said.

"I guess we've just got to trust those guys know what they're doing and it's right for the game. But this sucks."

Knights captain Danny Syvret wondered if the American owners understand what hockey means in Canada.

"Hockey is a big part of being Canadian," said Syvret, who with Perry played on Canada's gold-medal junior squad.

The Memorial Cup tournament is in London in late May and the Knights are in as host team. Junior Knights president Joe O'Neill is a member of the organizing committee.

"This is really a sad day for Canadian fans, but now the Memorial Cup will be the centre of the hockey universe in May because all the NHL general managers and scouts will be here. I'm kind of selfish in that regard. I was concerned about a bogus NHL season taking something away from a legitimate event like the Memorial Cup."

Knights forward Dylan Hunter, son of coach Dale Hunter, grew up in NHL dressing rooms.

"I hold the NHL so high, they can do nothing wrong," Dylan Hunter said. "I never thought it would come down to this. I hope this doesn't hurt the game.

"Everyone was holding on to the hope that there would be a season. I guess there's no use holding on to it, for this year anyways."


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