WHA-t is event's status?

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:38 AM ET

Next month's Bobby Hull Invitational tournament, touted as a trial run for the re-launch of the World Hockey Association, appears to be in trouble.

WHA president Ricky Smith has not returned calls, and Hall of Famer Phil Esposito, who helped hatch the idea of the six-team event with Smith, says he pulled out of the venture weeks ago because he has not been paid his promotional fees.

An Eastern pool with three teams was scheduled to take place in Toronto and Hamilton beginning May 20, with the survivor meeting the winner of a Western playoff from Vancouver for $2 million in prize money.

"I have no idea if it's still on," Esposito said yesterday. "I'm very, very disappointed I couldn't do it, because I think it would've worked. I'm not owed a lot of money (he won't be going to court), but it's the (principle).

"If they can't pay me, how are they going to pay for the leases of the arenas they want to play in?"

Calls to officials at the Ricoh Coliseum, which was in negotiations to host Toronto games, were not returned. Hamilton's Copps Coliseum is the other proposed site.

The plan is to have six captains chose their teams, schoolyard style, from about 60 National Hockey League players.

The tourney information is still posted on the WHA website.

"The last three or four e-mails I've sent to Ricky Smith asking what's going on were not answered," a prominent player agent told The Toronto Sun yesterday. "I don't have any clients entered at this point."

Smith said earlier this year that he'd hoped the tournament would serve as a testing ground for a new WHA, complete with fan-friendly rules, the second such concept tried since the NHL lockout began.

AGENTS COLLECT

Allan Walsh and David Schatia, the former agents for Minnesota Wild star Marian Gaborik, are entitled to negotiating fees for the $9.45 million US contract he signed two days after he fired them in October 2003.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that arbitrator James A. Gross awarded the men an undisclosed amount. Neither side can comment on the private litigation brought by the two men, but it's estimated they could receive between $255,000 and $425,000 US.


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