SUN Hockey Pool

Bettman says one thing, Saskin another

KATE DUBINSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:35 AM ET

He wouldn't give a drop-dead date for cancelling the season, but NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said yesterday hockey won't be back until "the right economic system" is put in place.

Nothing new there, but Bettman did get a standing ovation from 600 people at the Chamber of Commerce breakfast after telling the crowd that there is no NHL without Canada.

He also repeated that owners can't accept the luxury-tax solution proposed by the NHL Players' Association because that would be too unpredictable.

"You know that spiraling salaries have to stop," Bettman told the business crowd.

"I know that spiralling salaries have to stop. Even some of the players have admitted it publicly ... . Why is it that union leadership is steadfastly committed to the status quo -- a status quo that ensures more loses (and) more teams in trouble?"

Responding to Bettman's comments, NHLPA senior director Ted Saskin said the NHL should "be prepared to back up any claims of financial concern for teams by letting people see their actual numbers.

"What Gary Bettman failed to tell his audience in Edmonton was that the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames were among the most profitable teams in the NHL last year when the dollar averaged 74 cents and they operated under our recently expired (collective bargaining agreement)," Saskin remarked.

"With the dollar consistently over 80 cents this year and the significant concessions we have already offered in our proposals, they would have been even more profitable."

The league wants a system that would link player costs to overall league revenues, limiting the players to no more than 53 per cent of revenues.

The union calls that a salary cap, a total non-starter.


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