Alfie drops the gloves

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:04 AM ET

Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson fired the latest salvo in the NHL's labour dispute yesterday, accusing commissioner Gary Bettman of preparing to destroy the league.

Alfredsson told Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet yesterday that he believes Bettman is in for a rude awakening if he tries to use replacement players.

"I am afraid Bettman might try to bring down the whole league and restart it on his own terms (next) September," Alfredsson told the newspaper following a practice with V Frolunda.

"But then he doesn't realize the danger in doing that because the players are very united and he wouldn't be able to find NHL players for the new league. That would mean you'd have two AHL teams playing in arenas like the Air Canada Centre. What would people pay to see that?"

TO MEET JAN. 14

So with the season hanging in the balance, the NHL announced yesterday that the board of governors will meet with Bettman on Jan. 14 in New York for an "update." The league refuses to admit that will be the day Bettman cancels the season.

"I really don't think you're going to see (an offer) coming from us," NHLPA VP Bill Guerin told the Sun from Dallas. "We really thought that we put our best foot forward with our last offer and I'm not really sure there's much more we can do now.

"We really thought we offered them a solution. I'm not going to sit here and try to figure out what (the league) is going to try to do next. You don't know what's going to happen and you could drive yourself crazy thinking about it ... it's kind of like paralysis by analysis."

Guerin said if the NHL cancels the campaign on Jan. 14, the players are prepared.

"This doesn't come as a surprise to anybody that we could be forced to sit out the whole season," said Guerin. "We have been ready for this happening for a long time. We have anticipated this.

'PREPARED'

"(Union boss) Bob Goodenow has been getting us ready for this for three years. We knew when we came into this that it was going to be a battle. We're prepared for it."

Guerin said he thinks the league's counter-proposal last week was an attempt to break the union by offering a tiered system which forced higher salary cuts upon higher-paid players.

'DIVIDE UNION'

"It's apparent with (the NHL's) last offer what they're after: They're trying to divide the union by making the highest-paid guys take cuts. We'll see what happens," said Guerin. "I really think we were strong as a union before they turned down our last offer and we may be even stronger now."


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