Guerin challenges NHL

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:49 AM ET

If Gary Bettman wants to save the NHL season, the next move is up to him, says Dallas Stars winger Bill Guerin.

Guerin, a vice-president on the NHL Players' Association executive committee, told the Sun yesterday that the union is willing to give up the whole season if it means not accepting a salary cap.

And while there's been speculation the NHLPA is getting ready to table a new offer on a collective bargaining agreement, Guerin maintained that won't happen and urged Bettman to negotiate meaningfully.

"I do (believe the players are willing sit out the entire season)," Guerin said from his Dallas home. "That's because the system the owners want us to accept crushes everything that we've been working for.

"I've heard some of the owners say that they're going to lose less money by not playing this year. I guess, in the long run, the same could be said for us by not accepting what they're offering at this point."

Guerin said the players are willing to negotiate a new deal, but added Bettman and the owners haven't given an honest effort to try to get anything done. The two sides haven't met since Sept. 9.

"Everything, up to this point, has been one-sided," said Guerin. "We've made proposals and we've been willing to talk about doing some things because we know that there are some franchises that need help financially.

"All we've heard from Gary is this stance: 'Salary cap, salary cap, salary cap.' We've given them well-thought-out proposals and he's not willing to negotiate. What we've gotten back is just ridiculous. We presented a proposal with hundreds of pages of fine details. What we got back is six concepts and the longest one may have been 230 words and some were 30 words. You know what that is? That's no effort. (Bettman) is not being serious."

DAMAGE CONTROL

Guerin said if hockey does resume this season, the NHL is going to have to do a lot of damage control on and off the ice to ease the pain of the lockout -- especially in the U.S.

"This is not the direction we want this game to be going in," said Guerin. "We should be on the ice right now and players want to be on the ice. We should be working right now to help grow the game.

"When there is a new CBA and the schedule resumes, we're going to have some repairs to do. We're going to have to do things to make the game more exciting for the fans and we're going to have to make sure people want to come back. I'm speaking as an American here. I don't think we'll have a problem in Canada because people there love the game."

UNION TO MEET

Guerin also confirmed there will be a full union meeting next month. It's believed that won't happen until Bettman officially cancels the season.

"The date on that hasn't been settled. The last time all we really had was the player reps and a few other guys. This will be a chance to meet with a lot of the guys. We're expecting there will be more than 300 players," said Guerin.


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