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Hockey fan Harper says NHL lockout would shine spotlight on other leagues

TORONTO - Like most hockey fans, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is hoping there won't be a work stoppage in the National Hockey League this fall.

But Harper says a lockout could have one bright spot.

"The one positive thing that a strike does is draw attention to other high-calibre hockey that is played in this country and around the world," Harper said Monday. "That all said, I don't think I have to tell you as a hockey fan, I certainly hope along with everybody else there will not be a strike or a lockout.''

Harper mentioned university, junior and women's hockey as alternatives to the NHL.

The NHL and the NHL Players' Association are currently trying to negotiate a new collective agreement.

The league has said if one can't be worked out by Sept. 15—the date the current deal expires—it will lock out its players.

The NHL lost the entire 2004-05 season to a lockout.

Harper, known for being a passionate hockey fan, made the comments Monday at the opening of Ryerson University's new athletics centre in the former Maple Leaf Gardens.

The event prompted hockey-related questions from the media, including one about where Harper was when Paul Henderson scored his famous goal in the 1972 Summit Series.

"Well I don't think anyone who was alive at that particular time is really going to forget where they were," said Harper. "I was in the gymnasium at John Althouse Middle School in Etobicoke along with several hundred other grade 7 and 8s watching the great moment, not just the Henderson goal but the come-from-behind victory."

Harper went on to say one of the perks of being prime minister is that he's had the opportunity to meet Henderson and other members of that famous team.

The 40th anniversary of the Summit Series is next month.

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