SUN Hockey Pool

NHL season on the brink?

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:36 AM ET

Now that the NHL has cancelled its board of governors meeting, will the 2004-05 season be next?

Certainly gloom and doom is the prevailing theme that hangs over both the players and owners as the clock precariously ticks down on any hopes to save the campaign.

In announcing yesterday that plans had been scuttled for the Jan. 14 gathering in New York of representatives from all 30 teams, NHL vice-president Bill Daly left little fodder for optimism.

"We have been in contact with every club over the last couple of days and the unanimous view of the clubs is that, since everyone is completely up-to-date on the status of negotiations, and in the absence of any meaningful offer from the players' association, there is no reason for the board to meet at this point in time," Daly said.

He has shot down reports that the league is preparing a new proposal for the players. Union members, meanwhile, insist the NHLPA will not submit another offer.

Just call it a Shinny Standoff, one with no reasonable end in sight.

"It's hard to be optimistic," New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur said last night from his New Jersey home. "Obviously there is little to no time left to salvage a decent season."

Brodeur pointed out that Jan. 11 was the drop-dead date during the labour dispute of 1994-95. A last-minute deal was pieced together at that time, allowing the NHL to play a 48-game season.

"This time around Jan. 11 is just a few days away and the two sides aren't even talking," Brodeur said.

"At least there has been no official announcement yet that the season is cancelled."

Speculation leading up to the scheduled board of governors meeting suggested such a proclamation would be made next week in New York. As it stands no drop-dead date to officially flush away the season has been forwarded by the league.

Asked for the union's take on the cancellation of the meeting, senior director Ted Saskin said the NHLPA would not comment on such a "league matter."

"I can't comprehend what's going on with (the league)," Maple Leafs forward Darcy Tucker said. "We've been beating our heads over this for a while now.

"It's frustrating, but there are 700 other players in the same boat."

As for the suits at Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment Ltd., they continue to support embattled commissioner Gary Bettman, who this week was named one of the five worst corporate managers by Business Week magazine.

"The Maple Leaf organization believes Gary is doing a solid job leading us through this tough time," MLSEL president Richard Peddie said. "We're in a lockout, we have an economic model that is not working, and we all have to take responsibility -- players, management and owners.

"I'm a subscriber to (Business Week) and I can tell you it is impossible for a magazine that does snapshot stories like this to know the entire situation. It did not take the time."


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