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Campbell's Cuts: NHLPA needs star power

Prior to their three days of meetings in Toronto, the NHL Players' Association talked at length about engaging the members and a refreshing and newfound interest among the players in the union's affairs.

Then exactly 61 players showed up for one of the most important meetings in the NHLPA's history. That's fewer than 10 per cent of the membership and by anyone's standards, it's pretty pathetic given that complacency is what put the NHLPA in the situation in which it currently finds itself.

Those who made the time and took the effort to show up went to great lengths to make excuses for those who didn't show up. It's a bad time of year, they said. It was the first week of school in the United States. Last year at the meeting in Whistler, only 36 players showed up so this is an improvement.

But it still boils down to a matter of priorities and too many players didn't see attending this meeting as a priority. Clearly the NHLPA has a long way to go in getting this message through to its members.

And until the stars of this league begin to get engaged in the process, the NHLPA will continue to struggle with this kind of apathy. If this was such an important meeting, where were the likes of Sidney Crosby, Joe Thornton, Vincent Lecavalier, Martin Brodeur, Chris Pronger, Daniel Briere, Jarome Iginla, Joe Sakic and Mike Modano?

These are players who have become wealthy beyond their imaginations in part because of the NHLPA and now that their union needs them, it's time for them to step up and do their part. Among the 30 current player representatives, the only real star is Zdeno Chara. Many of them are young players who were saddled with the job after the veterans got tired of it. In fact, Dan Hamhuis said at the meetings that he first thought his main job as player rep was to hand out the NHLPA hats at the beginning of the season.

The NHLPA took some very positive steps in the past three days toward revitalizing itself, but if the players want to take their union back as they've said they want to, they'll need more help to carry it.

HE'S NO RINGER Eric Lindros continues to drop huge hints that he'll retire soon. When asked what kind of position he would like with the NHLPA, he said, "Either center or right wing with (Nick) Kypreos on my line. The guys from the PA play every Wednesday, so I'd better get myself into shape."

Steve Larmer, who left the NHLPA last year over Ted Saskin's hiring, among other things, could be finding his way back into the fold. He was on hand for the union's meetings and, while he won't have an official capacity, has said he would like to help out if he can.

"It would be great if ‘Larms' was around and he said he'll help out in any way possible," Lindros said. "You know ‘Larms,' he'll sit there and say that he's going to be all quiet about things, but you never know. We'll keep our fingers crossed."

Ken Campbell's Cuts appears regularly only on The Hockey News.com. Want to get the inside edge from Ken himself? You can reach him at kcampbell@thehockeynews.com.

One of THN's senior writers, Ken Campbell gives you insight and opinion on the world of hockey like no one else. Subscribe to The Hockey News to get Ken's expertise delivered to you every issue.

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