Mlakar defends lockout

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:51 AM ET

Roy Mlakar called it a "sad day" for hockey.

The Senators president should have been getting ready for the club's season opener last night against the Montreal Canadiens.

Instead, he was being interviewed in an empty Corel Centre with no end in sight to the NHL labour dispute that threatens the entire season.

"It's difficult because we know there was so much excitement surrounding this team in this city," said Mlakar. "We all felt excitement with the changes made to this team and (last night) was going to be exciting for everybody.

"We had more players work out in the gym at the Corel Centre through the summer than we've ever had before and I don't think any of them ever thought we would reach this point. It's sad for everyone involved that it has come to this."

NECESSARY STEP

But Mlakar said the lockout is a necessary step if the league is going to get its financial house in order.

"We know that we have to do this because we want to have a system that is going to work for everybody," he said. "But I worry for (NHL commissioner) Gary (Bettman) and (NHL vice-president) Bill (Daly) because they're trying to negotiate with a union that's not willing to negotiate."

Mlakar acknowledges the absence of NHL hockey is particularly tough for Canadians.

"I always tell this story about the difference between being a president of the Los Angeles Kings and president of the Senators. Well, there's a big difference: People in Canada really live the game," said Mlakar.

"When we used to live in L.A., we'd go to the Forum Club after the game and we'd talk about the loss for about five minutes and then we'd move on to talking about (Kareem) Abdul-Jabaar or (Magic) Johnson or Orel Hershiser and Kirk Gibson. There were other sports to focus on.

"Here, when we lose a game, it's the talk until we play again. We're the big game in town and people are passionate about the sport. We live for hockey in Canada. That's why this is tough for everybody here."


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