League, Union to Meet Again

The fate of the 2004-2005 NHL season could be decided today as the representatives of the league and the NHL Players’ Association meet at an undisclosed location in New York. It is speculated that a deal between the two sides of the ongoing labor struggle would have to be reached this week to save the season.

The meeting will include the smallest group of negotiators yet, with two “Original Six” members absent. NHLPA president Trevor Linden and Calgary Flames part-owner Harley Hotchkiss will not be present, nor – as was the case in other recent meetings – will NHLPA executive director Bob Goodenow or NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. Only NHL executive vice-president Bill Daly, outside counsel Bob Batterman, Players’ Association senior director Ted Saskin and outside counsel John McCambridge will meet.

The league is rumored to be preparing a final offer. Reportedly, it will include a team salary floor of $32 million, a salary cap of $45 million, and a 24 percent salary rollback. The salary rollback was originally proposed by the NHLPA in an effort to avoid a salary cap.

The Players’ Association has adamently refused to accept any deal with a salary cap, while the league contends that any offer without what they call “cost certainty” is unacceptable.

Three Wings Join UHL Team

The United Hockey League’s Motor City Mechanics announced on Tuesday that Detroit Red Wings defensemen Derian Hatcher and Chris Chelios and forward Kris Draper would be joining the team.

All three, along with many other locked-out NHL players, were looking for a place to play that was close to their metro Detroit homes. With the NHL season on the brink of cancellation, more and more players look for places to play to stay in game shape. Over 350 NHL players have signed with European teams. Others, such as Red Wings defenseman Jason Woolley, have been working out with college teams. Still more, including New Jersey Devils forward Scott Gomez and now Hatcher, Chelios and Draper, have signed with minor-league teams.

Chelios had talked of signing with the American Hockey League’s Chicago Wolves early on in the lockout. An unrestricted free agent, Chelios hopes to return to the NHL when the lockout ends.

Hatcher spent most of the 2003-04 NHL season recovering from a torn ACL and is looking to continue his rehabilitation on a more regular schedule.

Draper joins the Mechanics with the hope of earning a spot on Canada’s World Championship team this spring.

Red Wings forward Kirk Maltby was also rumored to be signing with Motor City but he denied those reports.

The Mechanics, a first-year team, are currently in last place in the UHL standings. They also announced that Detroit native Steve Shannon would take over as head coach from former Red Wing Garry Unger.