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Published: 2/12/2005

UHL Mechanics sign Smolinski

ASSOCIATED PRESS
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FRASER, Mich. - Genoa native Bryan Smolinski has signed with the United Hockey League's Motor City Mechanics, the minor league team that recently signed three Detroit Red Wings.

On the 147th day of the NHL lockout, centers Smolinski of the Ottawa Senators and Sean Avery of the Los Angeles Kings joined the Mechanics.

Last week, the team signed Red Wings defensemen Chris Chelios and Derian Hatcher and center Kris Draper.

Draper, a Canadian citizen, has not played so far because he has had problems getting a work visa. Motor City president John Tull said Draper has been skating with the team and that the Mechanics are "doing everything possible to clear up his visa situation."

Smolinksi, 33, is a Cardinal Stritch graduate who played at Michigan State. He also has played in the NHL with the Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Islanders and Los Angeles Kings.

"Just a chance to play hockey again and bring some respect to the league and especially this team," said Smolinski, who owns a house in the Detroit suburb of Birmingham, when asked why he wanted to play for the Mechanics.

Avery, who also has played with Detroit, said Draper first called him about playing with the Mechanics.

Avery said he would play in all of the team's games, while Smolinski said he would only play in home games and games in Port Huron and Flint.

He said he's all but lost hope on there being an NHL season.

"I'm just waiting for Gary [NHL commissioner Bettman] to do it [officially cancel the season]," Avery said. "I don't know what he's waiting for."

He said the NHL Players Association is firm in its position.

"I think, when you look at it, the lockout is about guys like me," Avery said. "If I'm 24 and willing to sit out for two years, that's an indication of where the union stands."

Some UHL players aren't happy with NHL players taking playing time from them.

"In all businesses, there's always changes. I'm here to earn a spot," Avery said. "I haven't heard anything. If someone wants to talk to me about it, I'm sure they will. They know where to find me."

The Mechanics said that no players will be cut from the roster to make room for NHL players.

Great Lakes Sports City, located in the Detroit suburb of Fraser, has a capacity of a little more than 3,000. Tull said attendance has risen about 800 fans per game since Chelios and Hatcher began playing for the team.

Joe Louis Arena, where the Red Wings play, has a capacity of more than 20,000.



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