Legends to rescue?

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:54 AM ET

The rumour mill was grinding last night.

The Hockey News was reporting yesterday on its website that hockey legends Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux are urging players to get the union back to the bargaining table, while sources indicated former Bruins great Bobby Orr may also be involved.

Though Gretzky denied any involvement during an interview with a Toronto radio station, there's talk a group of players is urging union boss Bob Goodenow to try to go back to commissioner Gary Bettman with a new offer -- believed to be a $45- or $46-million (all figures US) salary cap. The NHL's last offer was $42.5 million.

'NOT TRUE'

"I did talk to Mario (yesterday)," Gretzky told the Fan 590 in Toronto. "I had a brief conversation about pretty much what everyone else is talking about, can we believe we're in the situation we're in. Nobody understands why we're in this situation. Nobody has the answer to how we got here or how we're going to get out of here.

"To say Mario and I had a conversation to try to stir up the conversations and talks again, that's just not true."

Gretzky, the Coyotes managing partner, said the only player he's talked with at length is Phoenix winger Shane Doan, the Coyotes' NHLPA rep, over the last 24 hours.

Orr is now an agent and Lemieux is the owner and captain of the Penguins.

So it's safe to say all three have vested interests in a season being played.

During an interview on a Detroit radio station, Bettman said the door is still open to save the season if the players want to go back to the negotiation table.

Meanwhile, there was also word Wings winger Brendan Shanahan turned down an interview with a Detroit radio station because "something may be happening." His agent, Rick Curran, denied it, however.

There was also talk the union offices were deluged with calls from angry players, while agents were wondering why a deal wasn't completed after the NHLPA agreed to take a salary cap during a meeting Monday.

"I guess it's a hot topic, but I don't know if there's any substance behind it," said free-agent defenceman Curtis Leschyshyn. "I'm sure there are guys who want to play and are wondering why we didn't get a deal done.

"But there were also a lot of guys who didn't feel that we should have offered the league a $52-million salary cap in the first place. We made a lot of concessions to try to get a deal done and I don't know if these guys who want to play are speaking for the majority."


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