NHL agents meet with Goodenow
TORONTO (CP) - The subject of replacement players wasn't discussed but 67 agents attending a meeting with NHL Players' Association boss Bob Goodenow still had to address the contentious issue Wednesday.
As they left a Toronto hotel boardroom following the four-hour meeting, agents were inundated by reporters with questions about whether their clients would become replacement players. On Tuesday in New York, NHL owners suggested they might try to open shop next fall with replacement players if the league and NHLPA can't reach a new collective bargaining agreement.
J.P. Barry emphatically stated he would never represent a replacement player. A bold statement, indeed, considering he and Pat Brisson are co-managing directors of IMG's hockey group that represents about 65 NHL players, including Jaromir Jagr, Joe Thornton and Mats Sundin along with junior superstar Sidney Crosby.
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''I won't represent a replacement player,'' Barry said. ''I said this before, I said it about four months ago and it hasn't changed.''
Barry said he wouldn't change his mind even if his most profitable client wanted to become a replacement player.
''He won't be my client any longer,'' Barry said.
Brisson, though, was less emphatic when asked what he'd do if Crosby wanted to become a replacement player.
''I can't answer that,'' Brisson said when asked repeatedly if he'd drop the Rimouski Oceanic star if that scenario arose.
But with no NHL draft this season - the result of commissioner Gary Bettman cancelling the 2004-'05 season last month - Brisson said Europe could be a viable alternative for Crosby next season.
''It could be,'' Brisson said. ''If there is no season it is an option, there is no doubt.
''We have to look out for what's right for him.''
Goodenow said the NHLPA has not formulated a policy regarding what action would be taken against agents whose clients become replacement players next fall. There was talk following an NHLPA meeting with more than 60 agents in Chicago in November that agents could face decertification if their NHL clients became replacement players.
''There has been no formal policy,'' Goodenow said. ''I think there's a lot of sentiment among the agents and players on the issue but no formal policy.
''We know that could be a possibility down the road if they (NHL owners) choose to go that route. It's in the future and not being dealt with at the present time.''
And that's just fine with veteran agent Don Meehan of Newport Sports.
''I don't even want to go there in September,'' he said. ''I don't even want to think where we'll all be at that point and time if we don't have hockey.''
Edmonton-based agent Ritch Winter had some harsh words for NHL owners, eight of whom also own franchises in the NBA - a league that has operated under a salary cap for years but is also facing a CBA renegotiation this summer.
''We're not going to lay down and kill the game just because a bunch of basketball people want their way,'' he said. ''Why are we taking directions from a bunch of basketball executives who only know how to lose millions of dollars, minimize talent and (screw up) TV deals?''
As for the draft, Goodenow said: ''The draft is an issue that's an inconvenience right now for those players who would be slotted to be potential draftees. There are a lot of issues that go around with that . . . I think eventually that will sort itself out in the course of everything else that has to be dealt with.''
Meehan said he could see agents and their clients differing on the issue of replacement players.
''What became clear today is that there are players who are going to have opposing views throughout this process,'' he said. ''I think there are agents within the room who are going to have their own views and I think the organizing committee for the PA will have differing views.
''That's positive. I can't think everybody is going to think the same way in relation to this whole process. To think that anybody would would be naive, and I think that extends to the other people on the other side of the fence as well.''
Goodenow said much of the meeting was providing agents an update on the current state of the NHL labour stoppage. The gathering came a day after Goodenow met with NHL players and he said much of the same information presented Tuesday was repeated Wednesday.
''What the agents bring into the room is different but the essence of the meeting was very similar . . . to go through the issues and provide the information and updates,'' Goodenow said.
''All we did was review what was done and ask questions if there was stuff we needed to know or didn't understand,'' added agent Bob Sauve.
Sauve said agents emerged from the meeting fully behind Goodenow, a sentiment echoed by many of his colleagues.
''They (NHL and players) both want the right thing, to get hockey back,'' Meehan said. ''I can't think that anybody wouldn't be on the same page in that respect.
''It's a matter of allowing both sides to do the best they can to do that.''
Bettman said Tuesday the owners are eager for talks to resume, but Goodenow said he hasn't yet received a call from the league. Goodenow suggested a cooling-off period might be in order.
''We know negotiations will resume at the right time,'' he said. ''We've got some meetings to take place and some work to do and it's just natural that people step back and at the appropriate time negotiations will reconvene.
''There isn't a set date. It's not seven days, it's not 10 days it's whenever it happens. I can't tell you that there's a schedule to be set or followed.''
But Sauve said he'd like to see talks resume as quickly as possible.
''The sooner we get a deal the better it is for the game and we've got to think about the game,'' he said. ''If we can get back at it tonight or tomorrow, we should.''
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