AMHERST, N.Y.- About a dozen players flew in and out of drills on the Northtown Center ice in Amherst, as a slightly smaller group of fans looked on, taking ni any bit of NHL action they can muster.
Among the players skating Wednesday was Thomas Vanek, who just returned to Western New York after a 5 week contract to play for his hometown team in Austria.
The talk around the rink though was about something going on hundreds of miles away. For the third time in the past five days, NHL and Players Association representatives were discussing the 53-day-old NHL lockout, and how to end it. Wednesday afternoon they were slated to talk over what many view as a major stumbling block. It is called the "make-whole" provision. It involves the payment of player contracts taut are already in effect.
Fans watching the action, were hopeful that this latest round of talks reflects some thawing of the chilly relationship between the league and its players. Players, however, were not as hopeful. Both Vanek and Jochen Hecht said they were not optimistic at this point.