Shanahan keeps options open

JIM KERNAGHAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:06 AM ET

His longest hockey layoff since he was a tot could be a blessing, Detroit Red Wing Brendan Shanahan said yesterday between workouts at the John Labatt Centre.

"A year off at this stage of my career could be a good thing," the former Knight said over lunch. "But it also could be a very bad thing."

Shanahan looks superbly fit as he continues workouts in the Knights training room and the JLC ice.

But having just turned 36, he understands the realities.

"If the lockout went two years -- and it could -- I might have played my last game in the NHL," he said.

The multi-dimensional power forward has been preparing for all eventualities, though, including one that doesn't involve hockey.

He worked out with the Toronto Rock of the National Lacrosse League on Wednesday.

That's a bit of a long shot. The former lacrosse star hasn't played a competitive game in that sport since he was 16, but he doesn't discount the possibility altogether. It all came back in a hurry, and once he gets his timing down, he feels he could make a contribution.

"One of the Rock players asked when I'd last played and when I told him, he said, 'I was a year old then,' " Shanahan chuckled. "That hurt. But I could be in game shape before the end of the season.

"Hey, (teammate Chris) Chelios is trying to be an Olympic bobsledder."

Still, what the 18-year veteran wants to do is play hockey for the Detroit Red Wings.

Failing that, Europe calls.

He played overseas the last time there was a stoppage in 1995 -- in Dusseldorf, Germany. This time, he'd return to Europe, but not until the fall. And the country or city that interests him most is whichever place best fits his family.

Switzerland first came to mind for the father of Maggie, Jack and infant Cate, but he didn't rule out any of the hockey nations.

None of the North American minor leagues is of great interest to him, although teammates Kris Draper, Chelios and Derian Hatcher have signed to play with Detroit's Motor City Mechanics of the United Hockey League.

Speaking of them, he was not pleased with some criticism they took from a UHL player who accused them of taking away jobs from regular minor leaguers.

"At least he said in one interview I heard that he didn't have all the facts. Well, he doesn't. I spoke with Draper and Chelios and they agreed to play only if nobody was knocked from the roster. What the guy should have welcomed was the sold-out crowds and media attention (the Red Wingers' presence) will be bringing to the league."

Shanahan wouldn't be displacing another North American player in Europe. He would be eligible as a European Union player since he can acquire an Irish passport because his parents were born there.

The veteran of Olympic and world championship tournaments is aware there was a run of opinion that went against the players in the dispute at the beginning, a fan stance that seemed to change once the players' 24-per-cent wage rollback offer was rejected by the owners.

"It would be hypocritical of me to try to win the fans over; they're the biggest casualty in this," Shanahan said. "Through all of this, the fans haven't been considered."

Like others, Shanahan feels that if the stoppage continues beyond the point of redemption -- he still thinks the season could be salvaged and followed by a shortened playoff sets -- it could be equally grim come fall.

There are owners of American teams who would rather bypass the football-crazy fall and begin play in January.

Shanahan contends the players have offered the owners every incentive but remain adamantly opposed to a hard salary cap for fear future implications to players.

"The older players aren't doing this for ourselves. It doesn't affect us much at all," he said. "We're doing it for the Sidney Crosbys and Corey Perrys and all the younger players, just as the older guys did for us. It would be pretty irresponsible and selfish of any of us older players to sign a deal."

He feels the NHL dropped the ball on the players' association offer to cut salaries.

"We reset the economics a half-billion dollars in their favour and they didn't budge from the salary cap."

Shanahan sees a hard salary cap as removing incentive from teams and drew a comparison to the Knights. Through drafting, trading and use of personal, the Knights have become the Canadian junior powerhouse.

NHL teams could continue doing the same thing as they have been, with a luxury tax providing equitability.

"If a team is one or two players shy of a chance to win the Stanley Cup, it can go for it and pay the tax to the smaller teams," he said.

"Those teams can use it wisely in the development of their teams and one day be paying the luxury tax themselves."

One thing is certain, and former javelin champion Shanahan got the point in solidly. Once this stoppage is over, things will never be the same.


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