'Out' clauses will be out

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:15 AM ET

European teams will keep a tighter rein on North Americans next year if the National Hockey League lockout triggers another overseas emigration.

"A lot of European teams are calling now," player agent Patrick Brisson said after a meeting with the NHL Players Association executive on Wednesday. "They want full commitments for next year and no 'out' clauses."

More than 300 NHLers played in Europe this season, but almost all could have returned immediately if a collective bargaining agreement had been reached. But the club teams will want more kick for their kronors, rubles and euros in 2005-06.

"There are more sponsors now and more excitement," Brisson said. "They're looking at expanding."

NO SALE

NHL teams gave an ear, but not much else after a big-wheel American financial firm offered to buy the whole league for more than $3 billion US.

Bain Capital Partners LLC of Boston, backed by Game Plan LLC, a company that helps broker sales of sports franchises, made a brief presentation at the board of governors meeting on Tuesday.

Richard Peddie, president and chief executive officer of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, said the NHL was right to hear the pitch, but MLSELwas rejecting it.

"I don't think it's realistic, and I don't think there's much interest, and I know there's no interest on the part of the Bruins," team owner Jeremy Jacobs said. "And I think it takes 30 (owners) to do it."

Cash-strapped Pittsburgh, which has no arena or other secondary business, would be the logical supporter of such a sale, but Mario Lemieux's group hopes a new arena will be built soon with a cut of slot machine license profits.

TOUR DE FORCE

A big-name barnstorming tour of NHLers also is a possibility next season. International Management Group co-sponsored the Worldstars junket around Europe in December.

"If we can do what IMG did and extend the trip, to some part of North America as well as Europe, then we have to look at that," IMG's J.P. Barry said. "If we go down the path of losing another year, players are going to have to play hockey."

IMG was seriously considering staging an eight-game Canada-Russia series for this spring, along the lines of the 1972 summit. It would have stopped at non-NHL cities such as Halifax, Quebec City, London, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Hamilton and Victoria. But it was shelved by the NHL's dithering over cancelling the season and there are no plans yet to run it during a 2005-06 lockout.

NOT-SO-FINE PRINT

Several players said this week that they would not have voted for the owners' $42.5 million US salary cap proposal because the meat of the figure was too unappetizing.

It's known that signing and team bonuses were to be included, but the New York Post reports that a 50% tax was to kick in at $36 million and that salaries of players on injured reserve were to count under the cap.


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