Disaster for NHL?

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:49 AM ET

One of the NHL's most powerful agents warns that bringing in replacement players "could be disastrous to the league."

Calgary-based agent J.P. Barry, co-managing director of IMG Hockey and the representative for Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson, said yesterday he believes using replacement players would be a major mistake for the NHL.

"If you want to watch replacement players, go down to the UHL and watch those guys," said Barry. "Then, imagine them in Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators uniforms. That's exactly what you're going to get.

"I'm sure people would want to watch that for about a week and then they wouldn't want to watch it anymore. If the NHL makes a move like that it could force the players to start their own league in smaller centres."

A small group of agents met privately late Wednesday to discuss a players league and cross-Canada exhibition tour next year if there's no new collective bargaining agreement in place by September.

Players are also being urged to sign in Europe next year.

Indications are NHLPA boss Bob Goodenow expects a call from the NHL in the next two weeks to see if the two sides can sit down again.

Negotiations will likely resume with the 24% rollback offered by the players pulled off the table.

If negotiations fail in the next few weeks, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman could begin steps to declaring an impasse with the National Labour Relations Board.

"If you've got replacement players playing in Toronto and a players league down the road in Hamilton with guys like Mats Sundin, Joe Thornton and Jaromir Jagr on the ice, which would you rather pay to watch?" asked Barry.

The NHL entry draft, scheduled for June 25 in Ottawa, also hangs in the balance. But one observer indicated he doesn't believe there's much hope for the draft since the two sides aren't close on a deal. That means Ottawa fans will have to wait until 2008.

"There's not going to be a draft. No way," said a league source. "They should just cancel it now and get it over with because they're not going to have an agreement in place and if they do they're going to have a huge fight over who gets the No. 1 pick."


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