SUN Hockey Pool

Oldtimers speak up

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:32 AM ET

For some burghs, they are the only NHL show in town these days.

And these Legendary Hockey Heroes are a throwback to purer hockey times, when fights were fists that Jimmy Mann threw on the ice, not paper wars in a boardroom.

The Oldtimers Hockey Challenge Classic returned to the MTS Centre last night, where about 12,000 watched the likes of former Winnipeg Jets Dale Hawerchuk and Thomas Steen, as well as Guy Lafleur, show off their still somewhat-surprising, if deteriorating, skills.

'HOCKEY FIX'

"This year, the crowds have been really big," Hawerchuk said before taking to the ice for his seventh outing in seven nights. "I guess everyone needs their hockey fix."

Well, their NHL fix anyway. And it is time for NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHL Players Association executive director Bob Goodenow to get this whole thing fixed.

"They do need to make a deal and fast," said Hawerchuk, who scored four goals against the Winnipeg Police Patrol Men. "They can't miss another year. The best thing that could happen is that they do a deal, say, before even July and then do a p.r. job and really promote the game. But they have to do it now.

"Both sides have their points, there's no question about it, and everyone realizes that. But there's two guys who are being paid a lot of money to lead each group. They're the guys who are supposed to figure out a way to get it done. That's why they get paid the big bucks. No different than hockey players. You get paid to perform, and it's time for these guys to perform."

But it's up to the players to make concessions now, Lafleur suggested.

"They're going to have to sit together and be serious, especially the players," he said. "The owners won't change. They want a salary cap. They're going to have to agree on that. The $42.5 million -- the last offer from the NHL -- was a good offer. I don't understand why they refused that. I wouldn't be surprised if they don't start until January 2006. It doesn't look like they're ready to solve the problems.

"They're going to have to improve the quality of the game, too. Make it more spectacular. People are complaining about the number of games, clutching and grabbing, playing the trap. They're pushing the fans out of the building playing that style. A lot of people are saying they won't go back."

Mark Napier agreed that it is up to the players.

"They know they have to give something back," he said. "My only real issue is they had a $2.1-billion piece of pie and they couldn't figure how to split it up. It leaves a real black eye for hockey without being able to present the Stanley Cup this year."

And while those players remain locked out, these ex-NHLers are barnstorming the country, raising funds for such charities as the Rainbow Society.

"It's a lot of fun," said Hawerchuk. "It's a good show, and it's always fun to see old teammates."

Gilbert Perreault, Glenn Anderson, Steve Shutt, Scott Arniel and Napier scored two each, with Dave (Tiger) Williams and Steen adding singles as the Legends laughed to a 16-9 victory.


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