King denies deking union

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:16 AM ET

On the surface, it would seem an NHL-style end around.

The lockout league's owners, as per a memo from commissioner Gary Bettman, are allowed -- if not encouraged -- to talk with players as the deadline to save the 2004-05 season came and apparently went.

Many see it as an opportunity for owners and team staff to plea their case without having to deal with NHLPA executive director Bob Goodenow.

Not so, says Flames president Ken King.

"He's their guy, their go-to guy, and he and his people are who they should go to to ensure they've got all the facts and all the information," King said.

"Ask Bob, don't ask me."

The season appears doomed after talks between the two sides and U.S. federal mediators ended yesterday in Washington with no progress reported.

Bettman said a new collective bargaining agreement would need to be drawn up this past weekend to have enough time to schedule a shortened season. He is now expected to officially cancel the season early this week.

King wouldn't divulge who spoke to the Flames players, which players were contacted or what message was delivered.

"Those types of matters are internal," King said. "That's something we would keep close counsel on, I would think.

"We've had contact with the players all along. Nobody ever said we couldn't have contact with the players. It's only appropriate when you have gifted young athletes to have contact with them.

"Healthy dialogue is good but to what extent and with whom is our business."

Several Flames players did not return phone calls yesterday.

The party line from the league is conversations at this stage of the game are to ensure players are fully aware of what's been discussed and what has been offered.

"We haven't been successful in having them understand the gravity of situation and the necessity for change," King said.

"If I were to wish for anything, it would be the players were fully informed on their part. If they are, great, and if they're not, I hope they become so.

"It's not all just about a new collective bargaining agreement. It's about the safety of the sport and its perpetuity.

"There's only one way for this to work and it's on a partnership basis and with everyone cognizant of the facts. I would hope all six years of the process, every document, are at their disposal."


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