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NHL, NHLPA set ‘No Bettman, no Fehr’ showdown between players, owners

Greg Wyshynski
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After taking a few days to consider the offer, the National Hockey League Players Association agreed to a meeting between some of its members and six NHL owners that will be held without NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman or union chief Donald Fehr.

Here is Fehr's statement announcing the meeting:

"The NHLPA has agreed to a meeting on Tuesday in New York that should facilitate dialogue between Players and Owners.  Neither the Commissioner nor I will be present, although each side will have a limited number of staff or counsel present.

"There will be Owners attending this meeting who have not previously done so, which is encouraging and which we welcome.  We hope that this meeting will be constructive and lead to a dialogue that will help us find a way to reach an agreement."

Because, you know, a bunch of players with NHLPA handlers and owners with NHL handlers should be able to crack this thing in a way that a third-party federal mediator couldn't.

(By the way, TSN's Aaron Ward reports that the NHLPA "attempted to have same mediators involved in the Players/Owners meeting Tuesday" but that the NHL rejected that offer.)

The owners the NHL announced will attend the meeting in New York are:

• Ron Burkle of the Pittsburgh Penguins, a team that Gary Bettman personally helped handle its financial hardship and attain a new arena.

• Jeff Vinik of the Tampa Bay Lightning, who owns a team because of Gary Bettman.

• Mark Chipman of the Winnipeg Jets, who owns a team thanks to Bettman in perhaps the only city the commissioner receives positive ovations. (Well, at least before the lockout.

• Murray Edwards of the Calgary Flames, an "idea man" the players don't necessarily dislike but who is firmly seated at the right hand of the Bettman.

• Jeremy Jacobs of the Boston Bruins, the devil incarnate for labor talks and an owner who accused NHLPA members of "drinking the Kool-Aid" back in 2005.

• Larry Tanenbaum of the Toronto Maple Leafs, who will fill the James Dolan role of Original Six Team That Makes a Crap-Ton of Money, Wants The Lockout Over But Can't Get Enough Support To Force Past Bettman's Vote Firewall.

The list of players hasn't been formally confirmed yet, though Josh Rimer hears that both Sidney Crosby and Adrian Aucoin will be in the room.

In a perfect world, the NHLPA should go player-for-owner with their choices. Which Boston Bruins player would step to that plate besides Shawn Thornton?

As for others players we'd like to see … three words: Backes or bust.

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