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To play or not to play
Sharks brass upbeat about season that may not happen
7/29/04 - By Paul Krill

Anybody who sat through the first 100 minutes of Tuesday night's season ticketholder meeting with Sharks brass expecting to hear great revelations about NHL collective bargaining agreement negotiations went home empty-handed.

While most of the evening boasted of optimism about how the Sharks will fare in the upcoming 2004-05 season, Sharks President Greg Jamison acknowledged that the campaign itself may be in jeopardy. Negotiations on the CBA happened last week and will resume next week, he said. But the season may not go ahead as scheduled if there is no agreement by September 15.

"At that point in time, it's a good chance that we would not go forward if there is not another CBA in place," Jamison said.

While owners have griped of losing hundreds of millions and vowed for a salary cap or a like arrangement, players in turn have vowed to stay out for years to prevent a salary cap. Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson on Tuesday night expressed hopes that negotiators will get beyond the rhetoric and forge a deal. Addressing a question pertaining to the possibility of winger Jonathan Cheechoo signing with another league because of the CBA issue, Wilson said all Sharks players will be playing with the team when hockey starts up.

More than an hour later, an audience member expressed pessimism about the CBA.

"I'm actually kind of pissed about the fact that every day [that] goes by, it's doom and gloom," the audience member said.

"We want a season very much," Jamison said. However, he added, "There are some things that need to be fixed." The league wants a partnership with the players association to boost the game, he said.

In between these brief discussions of the CBA, the session carried on as if it was business as usual in the NHL, with talks about players coming and going and about issues ranging from improved ice conditions to broadcasting Sharks games overseas for military personnel.

But none of it will mean anything if there is no season.

Following are some tidbits from the session:

= Wilson expressed the organization's loyalty to Mike Ricci, who was allowed to leave via free agency. "Mike Ricci is probably symbolic of this organization as much as anybody," Wilson said.

= Wilson said he would make the Brad Boyes-for-Curtis Brown trade again, even though Brown left the Sharks via free agency after a short stay. With Marco Sturm and Milan Michalek both injured, the Sharks needed a player like Brown for the team's playoff run and Boyes's departure allowed Marcel Goc to step up his play, Wilson said. He also said skating speed was not Boyes's strength.

= Wilson said the team is evaluating when Michalek can return from his injuries but gave no timeframe.

= Coach Ron Wilson, responding to a question about the team's lack of success in overtime games, said the Sharks play to win in OT. "You just roll the dice when you get to OT," coach Wilson said. "Sometimes, you open yourself up and you lose, but you get a point."

= Coach Wilson said he initially had had doubts about Alex Korolyuk's ability but was satisfied after Doug Wilson expressed faith in the player.

= Addressing the Sharks' failure to win any home games against Calgary in the Western Conference finals, coach Wilson said the team gave its best in Game 1, but Game 2 unraveled in a hurry and the fans booed, negating the home ice advantage. By Game, 5, the team had to play on back-to-back nights and had spent a lot of energy just climbing back into the Series in winning games 3 and 4 in Calgary.

= Doug Wilson said all players would be under contract within two weeks.

= Doug Wilson said Wayne Gretzky told him Sharks defensemen Kyle McLaren, Mike Rathje, Brad Stuart and Scott Hannan were all considered for membership on Canada's national team in the upcoming World Cup tournament.

= Coach Wilson defended Mike Rathje against a complaint that he did not hit in the playoffs. "Mike Rathje was basically our best defenseman in the playoffs whether he hit anybody or not," the coach said. The Sharks prefer puck possession, which of course limits opportunities to for on-ice hits of opposing players, coach Wilson said. * Patrick Marleau attended the first hour of the session, fresh from his honeymoon, but said little.

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