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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Like he is on ice, Crosby could be key

Might be voice of reason at meeting

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SIDNEY Crosby is ready for another kick at the can.

With the NHL and NHL Players' Association scheduled to hold a unique collective bargaining session this afternoon, the league's most recognizable player travelled to New York to make himself available for the exclusive meeting.

Crosby has been involved throughout the negotiations and could play an important role with the leaders of both sides scheduled to sit out today. The Penguins captain has emerged as a voice of reason during the lockout and would find himself sitting across from Pittsburgh owner Ron Burkle, among others, if the NHLPA decides to send him into the bargaining room.

It promises to be a unique setting, particularly with commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr on the sidelines. There was hope Monday that a new dynamic might produce some different results in negotiations.

"Ultimately, we are just trying to find some meeting format that can gain some traction," deputy commissioner Bill Daly said.

There should be plenty of urgency from both sides. Players have missed four paycheques because of the lockout and the NHLPA's executive board voted over the weekend to distribute a $10,000 stipend to each member.

Meantime, league owners will head into Wednesday's board of governors meeting facing a potential discussion about when the latest possible date should be to reach an agreement that would save a shortened season. There is also the strong possibility of more game cancellations by the end of the week.

The NHL and NHLPA took part in two unsuccessful days of meetings with U.S. federal mediators last week before Bettman floated the idea of removing himself and Fehr from talks. The merits of the idea were heavily debated by players and the NHLPA insisted on the need for a handful of staff and lawyers to be present before agreeing to it.

Despite that, it was far from universally accepted.

"I don't entirely agree with leaving the heads of negotiation out of this because they are paid to make a deal," Sabres goalie Ryan Miller told the Buffalo News on Monday. "But if it gets more owners involved then so be it."

Daly and Steve Fehr, the NHLPA's special counsel, are expected to be the highest-ranking officials in the room. The NHL will also be represented by six owners: Burkle, Mark Chipman (Winnipeg), Murray Edwards (Calgary), Larry Tanenbaum (Toronto), Jeff Vinik (Tampa Bay) and Jeremy Jacobs (Boston).

The NHLPA won't reveal its roster until today.

Crosby, Miller, Jonathan Toews, Marty St. Louis and Kevin Westgarth were among the players expected to be in New York.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 4, 2012 $sourceSection0

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