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Players jolted by Bettman's suggestion

Two-week break from talks 'ridiculous'

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They've taken some financial hits and delivered a few shots of their own across the bow of NHL ownership.

And so, yes, many players -- like the game's fans -- have become somewhat immune to any news or developments, or lack of, that pop up daily.

But the suggestion by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman that the two sides take a two-week break from negotiations was met with "you've-got-to-be-kidding" reactions by members of the Winnipeg Jets Friday at MTS Iceplex.

"I don't really understand it, I don't know why there is not more urgency to get something done," said Jet defenceman Mark Stuart. "A break right now sounds ridiculous to me. I wish more talks were going on and there was a little bit more urgency to get something done.

"There are probably tactics to everything. I don't really know their schedule. I'm sure it's part of some kind of strategy. I just think this isn't the time for a break. We had some momentum going last week and we've kind of lost that momentum and now this break will pretty much shut all that down. I don't get it and I don't understand it."

Added Jim Slater: "It's not good. Obviously, if you want to get something done, you have to talk about it. I mean, for them to come out and say we're going to take a two-week break at one of the most crucial time of negotiations ... just shows you what or who we're negotiating with.

"It's not easy."

And so it went on another day on the NHL lockout front. More frustration. More anger. Cue Steinbach's Ian White, a member of the Detroit Red Wings, speaking of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman in an interview with MLive.com.

"I got to be honest, I personally think he's an idiot," said White. "Since he's come in I think he's done nothing but damage the game. If you think of all the moves he's made, the teams that are all struggling seem to be the teams he put in places where there's (less support for hockey)."

Many in the NHLPA insist there is a deal to be made here and insist the NHL is operating on a timeline, similar to what the NBA did last year before opening up on Christmas Day and squeezing in a 66-game season.

"That's not what we should be doing at this point," said Jets captain Andrew Ladd of the proposed moratorium. "It doesn't surprise me with them, I guess. Like we've said the whole time, it seems like they're on a timeline. It doesn't seem like they've really been willing to negotiate.

"They've really given no reason at all as to why they need these contractual issues, beside the fact they just want to control us a lot more."

Now, all of this means that the competitive juices should be flowing for today's Goals for Dreams Hockey Challenge at the University of Manitoba's Max Bell Centre. The game will pit Team Stuart vs. Team Ladd after a "draft" was held Thursday night (Stuart took former teammate and goaltender Chris Mason first overall, FYI).

"I got some grief because I didn't draft Shane Hnidy," said Stuart. "I kinda feel bad, but what are you going to do? He's my old partner back in Boston. I feel a little bit guilty, but I like my squad.

"I'm sure there's a lot of built-up energy and aggression in a lot of these guys. But you've got to remember what it's for: It's for charity and a couple of good causes. It's going to be fun. We've got a good group of guys and hopefully we can put on a good show for the fans."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

THE GOALS FOR DREAMS HOCKEY CHALLENGE

When: Today

Where: Max Bell Centre, University of Manitoba

Puck drop: 3:30 p.m.

Tickets: Sold out

Radio: TSN 1290 will carry the play-by-play

Autograph signings: Approximately 2-2:30 p.m.

Featuring: Winnipeg Police Service Patrolmen and NHL players Jonathan Toews, Mark Stuart, Andrew Ladd, Chris Mason, Shea Weber, Duncan Keith, Mike Richards, Bryan Little, Olli Jokinen (pictured), Jim Slater, Zach Bogosian (coach), Tanner Glass, Shane Hnidy, Ryan Reaves, Troy Brouwer, Colin Wilson, Gregory Campbell, Andrew Reimer, Chris Mason, Ryan Garbutt, Ron Hoggarth (retired NHL referee)

Proceeds: Go to the Dream Factory and the Children's Hospital Foundation. The Dream Factory is a Manitoba-based charity that grants wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses.

FYI: After the game there will be an autograph session and fans in attendance will have an opportunity to win the NHLPA player jerseys.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 17, 2012 C5

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