SUN Hockey Pool

NHL lockout set to begin

The clock struck 0:00 last night on hockey as the World Cup ended and the official start of an NHL...

The clock struck 0:00 last night on hockey as the World Cup ended and the official start of an NHL labour stalemate is set to begin. (Greg Henkenhaf, Toronto Sun)

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:23 AM ET

TORONTO -- It's D-Day for the NHL. After four years of meetings, threats and no progress in collective bargaining agreement talks, the NHL board of governors will meet in New York to cancel the start of training camp and make the lockout of the league's players official.

As the World Cup wrapped up last night at the Air Canada Centre with Canada's 3-2 win over Finland in the final, there were no last-minute discussions to try to save the season. And no talks were planned for today, either.

Instead, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has called a 2:30 p.m. press conference to deliver the bad news to hockey fans worldwide.

The existing collective bargaining agreement expires at midnight.

"We know that we'll have to be prepared to (be out) all year," said Ottawa Senators centre Todd White yesterday.

After making a presentation to the Ontario Hockey League coaches yesterday in Kitchener, Sens president Roy Mlakar planned to meet with owner Eugene Melnyk late yesterday and fly to the Big Apple.

They and the rest of the NHL board will rubber stamp Bettman's recommendation and the first lockout since 1994 will begin.

One NHL star didn't mince words:

"To be personally honest with you, I'd say they're (players and owners) all a bunch of greedy bastards. You can call us players greedy, the owners greedy," said Philadelphia Flyers forward Jeremy Roenick, who watched last night's final from the press box. "The players are going to make their money, but a salary cap isn't needed and it's not going to be accepted."

Others tried to be more diplomatic.

"It's tough, because you don't know what's going to happen, but there's not much we can do about it," said Montreal Canadiens goalie Jose Theodore. "I'm sure that everybody would love to be going to training camp and playing hockey, but we've been trying not to think about it.

NOWHERE CLOSE

"I know this is tough for fans to accept, but they have to realize that this is a lockout ... this is not a strike. As players, we all have contracts and we'd love to be going to play today. We're ready for the season to start and we want to be playing. This isn't going to be much fun."

The two sides are nowhere close to an agreement and have no common ground. The owners want a salary cap and the NHL Players Association is adamant it will not accept one.

The union countered with a revenue-sharing program, but the owners reject that idea.

"I push it off," said Canadian coach Pat Quinn when asked about the looming lockout. "Obviously, you don't brush these things away because it's very serious and it's our lives."

For injured Senators/Team Canada defenceman Wade Redden, the perspective was a bit different.

"This is something that we've been trying not to think about in this room for the last month," Redden said. "We kind of talked at the start of training camp and we all agreed the focus was going to be on trying to win the World Cup.

"You just hope that they can find some middle ground at some point and that we're able to get back to playing hockey ... I guess we're just in a situation where we're going to have to wait and see."

bruce.garrioch@ott.sunpub.com


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