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Players not necessarily siding with Bettman

Not every NHL player attending Thursday's annual awards ceremony necessarily agreed with commissioner Gary Bettman's position on the Phoenix Coyotes. The Tampa Bay Lightning's Martin St. Louis, who has played most of his career in a non-traditional market that has seen wild swings in support for the team, pointed out that a team that perennially bleeds red ink isn't good for anyone.

"In terms of hockey-related revenues, we're partners," said St. Louis.

"It doesn't mean that Phoenix has to be out. Maybe you have to consider expansion to markets that can support hockey and bring some more revenue.

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"It's a tough question because you don't want to see a city lose its franchise, but at the same time, we're partners. We want to be in markets that we're going to make the most money."

The Detroit Red Wings' Nicklas Lidstrom echoed St. Louis's comments, noting: "If they can keep a team in Phoenix and it's working, then they should keep it there.

"But if it's not working, I don't think it's going to work for anyone - whether it's the owner or the players. That's just the reality of it.

You have to find a way to make it work, financially, and with the crowds, the people that go to the games." Generally, when the Red Wings pay a visit to Phoenix, more people cheer for them than they do for the home team, good if you play for Detroit, not so good if you play for the Coyotes.

"Especially in warm-ups, that half side of the arena in our end is packed with Red Wings' fans," said Lidstrom. "We do have a big following with fans around the league, but that's one of the biggest ones - in Phoenix. I think a lot of Michigan people have moved down there.

"We like it."

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About the Author

Eric was the winner of the Hockey Hall Of Fame's Elmer Ferguson award for "distinguished contributions to hockey writing" in 2001. A graduate of the University of Western Ontario's grad school of journalism, he began covering hockey in 1978 and after spending 20 years covering the NHL and the Calgary Flames, joined The Globe in 2000. More

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