Wings swing into UHL

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:39 AM ET

Chris Chelios and Derian Hatcher are on the verge of lacing up the blades in Hockeytown again.

Only they won't be decked out in the classic jerseys of the Detroit Red Wings.

And they won't be playing at Joe Louis Arena.

Not unless a new agreement between NHLplayers and owners can be hammered out in the near future.

And since there appears to be little optimism that such a deal will be reached imminently, Chelios and Hatcher have turned their sights to the United Hockey League.

During a news conference scheduled for this morning in a community northeast of Detroit, the UHL'S Motor City Mechanics are expected to announce the signings of the two veteran defencemen.

Red Wings forward Kris Draper also is mulling over an offer from the Mechanics and plans to be in attendance at today's announcement.

"I'm considering it," Draper said during a phone interview last night. "The basic thing for me is an insurance issue. If I can resolve that and everything goes well, I'll play."

The Mechanics are last in the UHL's Central Conference with an 11-29-6 record.

Other prominent NHLers such as Blues defenceman Barret Jackman also are considering a stint in the little-known UHL, a telling sign that players hold little hope that the 2004-05 NHL season can be salvaged.

Jackman and a number of other Blues have taken part in exploratory discussions with the Missouri River Otters, an organization that features former Blues public-relations official Frank Buonomo.

Whatever the outcome, Draper echoed the sentiments aired yesterday by the Maple Leafs' Tie Domi, who called on Bob Goodenow and Gary Bettman to meet immediately.

"To me, these guys have got to go into a room, lock the doors and hammer it out. In my opinion, if something is to get done it must get done this week," Draper said.

There has been speculation that the players might vote on the owners final proposal before the season is officially cancelled. But NHLPA senior director Ted Saskin said no ballot will be held unless union president Trevor Linden and the executive committee endorse such a move.

"The executive committee has been empowered by the membership to negotiate on their behalf and the only vote that will take place will relate to an agreement that is recommended to the membership by the executive committee," he said.

And what about the owners?

"There is nothing that the owners are in a position to vote on," NHL vice-president Bill Daly said via e-mail.

In other words, start enjoying the UHL.


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