Wed, Nov 03, 2004 - Page 19 News List

NHL lockout meeting shows unity among reps

AP , TORONTO

There would have been plenty to talk about when player representatives met with union leadership yesterday as the National Hockey League lockout reaches its 48th day.

The gathering at an airport hotel has been planned for nearly a month and was billed as a routine update on the labor dispute so player reps could brief their teammates.

But following opposing comments from Mike Commodore, Pierre Dagenais, Brian Pothier and Rob Ray, the meeting was doubling as a show of unity seven weeks into the lockout.

"I think it's great timing, a great chance for everyone to get together and confirm that we are on the same page. I believe that we are,'' Todd Marchant, the player representative for the Columbus Blue Jackets, told The Canadian Press.

Ray said he would be willing to be a replacement player if the NHL starts up again without negotiating a new deal.

A group of 70 to 80 is expected to attend the meeting, including the 30 team representatives and other players who want to join in.

The players' executive committee will also be there: President Trevor Linden, and vice presidents Bob Boughner, Vincent Damphousse, Daniel Alfredsson, Bill Guerin, Trent Klatt and Arturs Irbe.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is staying out of the fray and declined to send a message to the players.

"For me to suggest the message would be both presumptuous and potentially inflammatory, so I won't do that," Bettman told The Canadian Press. "I'm assuming they're going to have a good meeting, hopefully it will be a candid exchange of opinions and that possibly they'll come out of this meeting ready to move forward with many more meaningful negotiations."

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