Traditionalists determined to fix hockey

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 1:18 PM ET

Apparently, there are a few people who aren't ready to pull the plug on the NHL just yet -- and Wayne Fleming is one of them. The Winnipeg product, an assistant coach with the Philadelphia Flyers, says long-time hockey people are still fighting to save a shortened season.

"There's definitely some determined people on both sides of the fence who are trying to get it done for the right reasons," Fleming told The Sun from his home in Calgary. "The economic one may still be important, but maybe it's a bit secondary to actually getting this thing going and playing again.

"Maybe that's the light at the end of the tunnel."

And maybe the next thing we'll hear is the blare of the whistle as the lockout locomotive flattens all hope like a copper penny on the rails.

A former player and coach at the University of Manitoba, Fleming says it's the traditionalists who refuse to let the season die without a fight.

So he's getting ready for one more loop-de-loop in what's been quite a ride since he helped Team Canada win the World Cup as an assistant coach last fall.

"The highs and lows of this thing the last six months have been pretty dramatic," Fleming said. "It's been a bit of an emotional roller-coaster for everybody."

ANOTHER GOLD? If the NHL season is, indeed, dead, we can start looking to the World Hockey Championship in Austria, April 30 to May 10.

Most NHL players would be available -- and a few Manitoba-born coaches, too.

Fleming was not only on the World Cup staff, but also served as an assistant on Canada's 2002 Olympic champion.

So it would be no surprise if he were part of the drive for a third straight world title this spring.

"It would definitely be exciting, especially with the caliber of talent they're going to have," Fleming said. "It's going to be the most elite world championships they've had, ever."

Others with international experience include Los Angeles Kings head coach Andy Murray of Souris, the only coach to lead Canada to two world titles (1997 and '03), and Nashville bench boss Barry Trotz, who's been an assistant at two worlds.

"I definitely would be interested," Trotz said. "But there's a lot of good coaches around."

Hockey Canada has already named Marc Habscheid the head coach.

LAST RITES: While he wasn't trying to be melodramatic, Trotz says it felt a bit like a funeral when the season appeared to be cancelled the other day.

"It's almost like a death in the family," he said. "It stuns you."

Trotz is optimistic, though, this might be just what the NHL needed -- and what small markets like Calgary, Edmonton and, yes, Nashville, need to survive, long-term.

"Sometimes you need something to shock you into realization that this has got to get done," he said. "Rather than patch it up short-term or in a hurry, they've got a great opportunity to get it done correctly."

Bring in a reasonable salary cap and share revenues, like the NFL, and small markets can have a legitimate shot at winning, Trotz says, adding there might even be a chance for a place like Winnipeg again.

"A lot of times we say when there's a death in the family, this person's going to a better place," Trotz said. "Maybe we are going into a better place."

AND FINALLY ... Chicago Blackhawks forward Tyler Arnason of Winnipeg checked in yesterday to give his two cents worth.

And you might find his comments interesting.

"A $45-million salary cap would be fine," Arnason told The Sun.

He's just one voice, and only has two years under his belt.

But if Arnason's views are typical of most players, we just might have a deal by the end of the weekend.


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