It's a bloomin' pity

STEVE MacFARLANE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:27 AM ET

Nobody knows what the future holds for the National Hockey League -- not the owners and not the players' union.

But Hall of Famer Guy Lafleur says some serious talks need to blossom between players or there may be consequences more serious than just a one- or two-year lockout.

"I know one thing, the owners won't move," said The Flower before greeting a lineup of fans during an autograph session at Schanks' southern location last night. He's in town to play in tonight's Oldtimers' Hockey Challenge charity game at the Saddledome (7 p.m.).

"Owners want a salary cap and, if there's no salary cap, I don't think we'll see hockey next year. The players have to realize that if they don't settle, some teams are going to fold and a lot of guys are going to end up without a job."

Lafleur, one of the league's most popular legends -- with fans and fellow NHLers alike -- surely wouldn't have been as beloved by his hockey brethren if he were a modern member of the Montreal Canadiens. The superstar is quiet by nature despite the thrilling on-ice style that propelled him through 17 years in the NHL.

But the first overall draft pick in the 1971 NHL Entry Draft said he wouldn't have remained silent had he been a player during this labour battle.

"I would be very upset about the Players' Association," said Lafleur, who sympathizes with owners currently struggling to balance their franchises' chequebooks.

"I would have said something before and try to get the guys to realize that they had 10 years to make their millions of dollars.

"As a business, you can't operate when you give 60 percent of your revenue in salary.

"No business could survive."

Tonight's game between the NHL oldtimers and the Calgary Police Services All-Stars may be the closest Calgarians get to NHL action for a long time unless Lafleur's ideas take root.

"Everybody's hoping that they will solve the problem but they have to sit down and be serious about having a season next year."


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