Nolan, Belfour on the mend

MIKE ULMER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:23 AM ET

They could skate as long as they liked yesterday at Lakeshore Lions Arena and it was quite a gig.

Over here, Owen Nolan skating on his still troublesome right knee for $270,000 a week.

That's US money, of course.

Over there, Ed Belfour testing out his surgically repaired back with a leisurely amble around the ice in his goalie skates.

Belfour will be paid $250,000 US a week to get better, plus a share of his $2-million bonus money.

Stay as long as you like, boys. There is no game to go to and at this money, why get better anyway?

The NHL would have opened today, of course, and in its wake there is talk of a fight no one claims to want but no one seems interested in avoiding.

"Right now, it's like two bulls butting heads," Nolan said of the gulch of silence between NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA head Bob Goodenow.

"It's just a matter of getting together to get things done."

Not going to happen. Not this year, it seems. Maybe not next year, either.

There is some consolation. Now is a great time to be injured.

Nolan is rehabbing from surgery to repair a torn meniscus. If the season were to start today, he wouldn't be ready.

"My knee is good but we've had a lot of fluid there," Nolan said.

The knee could be drained, but why bother? The game is washed out indefinitely.

"We could drain it as a last resort," said Nolan, who will take some consolation from a $6.5 million salary he will continue to receive while he convalesces.

The Leafs are obliged to keep him on the payroll as he recovers from injuries incurred on their dime.

Likewise for Belfour, who skated for the first time since undergoing back surgery Aug. 26.

Both men said they weren't quite sure how long they would continue to be paid but odds are their agents or wives have placed a call.

"As far as I know," Nolan said when asked if he was still being paid.

"If I'm fortunate enough to be apart of that group, I'm lucky there's a rule like that,"Belfour said. "The main thing is to try and get it better and get ready to play. Whenever that is."

A salary cap, the deal-breaking demand from the game's owners, "is not acceptable," Belfour said.

"It's not a normal thing in today's society," Belfour said, "and it was the case, I don't think too many people would take those kind of jobs."

You might have a hard time convincing the kid at the Wendy's take-out window of that.

Belfour is a couple of weeks away from donning the pads and he figures to have plenty of time.

Until the team dropped out, Belfour co-owned the Dallas Americans in the new World Hockey Association. He doesn't see the proposed league coming back from its current hiatus.

"I don't think it's going to come back to life," Belfour said. "I think they're too far behind and too disorganized at the top levels."

Belfour has no interest in being pelted in the four-on-four, Original Stars of Hockey League. Best to save that kind of workout for all-star games.

"Mats and Tie and I were talking about playing in Sweden," Belfour said. "Maybe we'll do that."

Nolan won't be along.

"I play in the NHL," he said.

Maybe not for a long, long time.

There is still, far, far too much money to be lost before labour and management resume their negotiations.

The big-league game will be missed, but far less than most people think. Canadians are about to get their winter back, while nuclear winter besets the NHL.

Game off.


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