SUN Hockey Pool

League won't catch a break

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:23 AM ET

TORONTO -- Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson has a message for NHL commissioner Gary Bettman: The Players' Association won't break. "If they think that they can wait us out, I think they are in for a surprise," said a defiant Alfredsson last night.

"This is a philosophical issue between the two sides. We believe in a marketplace. We always have and we always will. That's not going to change. We think our system works and we think it can be good for everybody.

"The unanimity in our union is so strong and goes way back. We know what we feel that we're worth. The salary cap seems to be something that (Bettman) dreams about every day. We know with our proposal he wouldn't get it, but we feel that it could help him."

Just when it looked like there might be a chance NHL hockey could be played this winter, the dream quickly vanished when Bettman and NHL vice-president Bill Daly placed a salary cap on the table as part of their counter-offer yesterday.

It would appear Bettman is so focused on getting a cap, he can't see anything else.

Union president Trevor Linden admitted the players feel like they're talking to themselves at the moment.

"It was the same proposal they gave us in July and the same proposal we received before that," said Linden.

"It's frustrating. It just seems like a lot of the issues they're bringing to the table are not CBA related.

"Gary is committed to getting a salary cap and he wants to hit a home run in these negotiations. He hasn't shown any willingness to compromise. To him, a home run in these negotiations is getting a salary cap."

24% ROLLBACK

The players were convinced they'd made an offer the league couldn't refuse when they put a 24% rollback on the table during a meeting last Thursday in Toronto. The league did, however, reject the offer and brought a few of its own ideas to the table.

"We've proposed a salary range. Is there a cap proponent to what we've proposed? Yes, but what we want is an economic partnership with the players. One element of it will have an economic distinction," said Bettman.

"The fact is if what they proposed is real, they are at 56.6% of (hockey-related) revenues and we've proposed 54%. We're not that far apart if what they gave us is real and they don't expect us to spend money. We think with their proposal the inflation will kick right back in and we'll be right back where we were two years ago."

Sources say NHLPA boss Bob Goodenow, in a message to the union's 700 members, informed them they should expect the lockout to continue with the likelihood of Bettman cancelling the season.

What the NHL offered yesterday was a team-by-team salary cap, which, for example, would have dropped the Senators' salaries this season by about $10 million (all terms US). The players' proposal would have saved Ottawa roughly the same amount.

"In our proposal, we had teams like Calgary and Nashville making money," said NHLPA vice-president Bill Guerin. "With what they gave us (yesterday), those teams would still be losing money. That's why what we gave was a strong offer.

"As a union, we're unified and we all want the right deal. Everybody is in this together and that goes from the guy who is making $11 million to the guy who is making $400,000.

"Nobody is going to break."

bruce.garrioch@ott.sunpub.com


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