Pronger escapes unscathed

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:03 AM ET

TORONTO -- Chris Pronger didn't walk out of yesterday's NHLPA's meeting riddled with bullet holes.

But that didn't stop the St. Louis defenceman from firing a few pointed shots at the media.

Asked by the Sun if he had to clarify what his role was in a move to get the union to accept a salary cap, Pronger got a little snarly with the questioner.

"I did not need to ... No, Bruce, you did that for me in your wonderful article," said Pronger.

Well, at least he's reading.

The word is Pronger kept a low profile during yesterday's three-hour session with NHLPA boss Bob Goodenow and the executive committee as 150 players were given an update on stalled CBA negotiations.

ROENICK SAYS SORRY

Though Pronger, who raised the ire of his union mates by calling NHL VP Bill Daly last month, didn't say much yesterday, Philadelphia centre Jeremy Roenick made a heartfelt apology for his part in the group that also included Calgary's Jarome Iginla and Flyers goalie Robert Esche.

"I came out of the meeting with a different outlook and very strong feelings on where everybody stands," said Roenick, who attended an NHLPA session for the first time in 10 years.

If anybody thought the meeting might lead to fisticuffs, they were way off base. In fact, by the time the two-day session ended union members could have walked out hand-in-hand because they stand united.

Instead of coming apart at the seams after the union switched its position on a salary cap at the 11th hour and some players worked behind the scenes to try to get a deal done, the players appear to remain ready for the long haul in their battle with the NHL.

"What we've got from this meeting is solidarity," said Senators defenceman Wade Redden. "Sometimes it's good to meet in a setting like this and clear the air."

That doesn't mean the meetings didn't get heated at times, as Goodenow and executive committee president Trevor Linden faced some tough questions.

"Hockey is our livelihood. We've all grown up playing since we were kids," said Leafs defenceman Ken Klee. "To say that there's no emotion and have no heated (discussions) is not who we are.

"Hockey is an emotional game and we're emotional people. If there was no emotion, I'd be shocked. We're not robots. We care about the game. We made tremendous strides to get a deal done. We just hope we get back to the table soon and try to get a deal done."

The players did inform the union they want more say in the collective bargaining talks and they want to be kept better informed with more regular meetings. This was the first formal session since the lockout started.

"We need to have more hockey people involved in these talks," said Klee.

Not that any talks are planned.

Goodenow said before any new discussions can take place, both the NHL and NHLPA have to sit back and take care of "internal issues." In the NHLPA's case, that's a meeting to be held with European players in mid-May.

"I don't think anybody is going to be picking up the phone to call someone tomorrow," Los Angeles forward Trent Klatt, a VP on the executive committee, said.

BACK AT SQUARE ONE

"What we're looking at now is a chance for both sides to sit back and reflect on what's happened in the last few months," said Linden. "I'm sure that there will be more negotiations, but when that will happen, I don't know.

"When we go back to the bargaining table, we'll be back at square one and both sides will have a chance to have a fresh start. Hopefully, that can lead to a deal. We're hockey players and we want to be playing hockey."


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