Veteran: 'Crossing the line' comments cost me

Updated: December 28, 2004, 8:01 PM ET
Associated Press

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Veteran tough guy Rob Ray sued the NHL Players' Association on Tuesday, seeking to be included in the union's lockout compensation fund.

Ray believes the NHLPA might have shut him out as punishment after he said in October that he would cross the line and return to playing if the NHL used replacement players.

"I was promised something that they're not coming through with, so I've taken the steps that I needed to take," Ray told The Associated Press.

NHLPA spokesman Jonathan Weatherdon declined comment.

In the lawsuit filed in New York Supreme Court in Buffalo, Ray is seeking to receive full compensation after the NHLPA began paying its players up to $10,000 a month last month.

Ray is a 15-year NHL veteran who is an unrestricted free agent after finishing last season with Ottawa. He said he was notified early last month that an NHLPA committee ruled that he wasn't eligible for compensation.

The notification, Ray said, came shortly after he was quoted by The Ottawa Sun as saying, "I'd cross the line in a second. Why wouldn't I? I know about 10 guys who would be ahead of me and these guys are 10 current NHL players. Everybody just wants to get back to playing."

Ray said Tuesday he made those comments out of frustration because of the stalled negotiations.

"I said, 'Yeah, I would cross,' just to let them know that guys want to play, and all of this political stuff that's going on is bothering a lot of people," Ray said.

Asked whether he would still consider crossing the line, Ray said: "You know what, I love the game and there's a million other guys that love the game. And I believe that there's a lot of guys that would do what they have to do to play the game."

The lockout entered its 104th day on Tuesday, and there are fears the dispute could wipe out the entire season.

The two sides last talked on Dec. 14 when the NHL rejected a union proposal and had its own counteroffer turned down. No new talks are scheduled, but the NHL board of governors planned to meet on Jan. 14.

Ray spent most of last season working as a TV broadcaster with his former team, the Buffalo Sabres, before signing with Ottawa in February. He played six games with the Senators and was on the team's roster when it was eliminated by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round of last year's playoffs.

The Sabres' all-time penalty minutes leader, Ray has appeared in 900 games, scoring 41 goals and 50 assists, with 3,207 penalty minutes.

Ray said NHLPA executive director Bob Goodenow told him last spring that he would be included among the players compensated.

"He looked right at me and said, 'Razor, even a guy like you that might not ever play the game again, you're being carried through this whole thing,'" Ray said. "I'm like, 'Hey, that's cool.' And now this is happening."

In a press release issued by Ray's lawyer David H. Elibol, Ray also urged players to "ask NHLPA leadership questions about the stalled labor talks with the NHL, stating ... Goodenow works for them."

Ray said he's urging both sides to get a deal done.

"I think the players made a step and the owners made a step, but tiny steps aren't going to get us anywhere," Ray said. "I just think the game is way too fragile in a lot of places right now. And the chances of really causing some serious damage is huge.

"It's crazy to see," Ray added. "You don't want to see ... a game that you love more than just about anything be hurt like that."


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press