SUN Hockey Pool

Karmanos: year is toast

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 10:32 AM ET

The NHL season is over. That's the word according to Carolina Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos Jr.

Speaking to Pierre Lebrun of The Canadian Press yesterday from his Detroit office, Karmanos said he doesn't believe there's going to be any hockey played this season.

"My gut feeling is that this season is gone," said Karmanos, who added that if the NHL doesn't get "cost certainty" there's a good chance nobody will be playing hockey next year either.

"I know personally that I'd be willing to risk another season. I'm enough of a hockey fan to realize that once we got it straightened out, the fans would come back. But there's the risk they wouldn't. Even with that in mind, I feel very, very strongly that if we don't get it straightened out, we don't have to worry about the NHL existing anyways."

LEAGUE DIRECTIVE?

A source said last night he believed that Karmanos may have been instructed by the NHL to make the league's position clear. There's talk an unhappy group of owners is trying to put together a deal to save the season, but NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has no interest in striking a deal that doesn't have a salary cap.

Since Karmanos is a member of the league's executive committee -- which has been working on collective bargaining agreement negotiations with Bettman -- he likely won't be fined for his remarks.

"I don't even view it as a gamble, it's something we have to do," said Karmanos, who says the Hurricanes lost $10 million US last season. "We really don't have a choice. It is absolutely the right thing to do. And unfortunately, the proof will be in the pudding, when we get our deal, I think you'll see every other major sport fall in line.

"We're past the 11th hour," added Karmanos.

It's interesting to note the statements made by Karmanos come with reports out of Montreal indicating NHL teams are going to be given the green light to book buildings for the rest of the season. However, sources said the 45-day window under which teams are cancelling game days hasn't changed the way dates are filled.

The players didn't sound fazed by the remarks, nor did they believe them.

"Hasn't Karmanos always been a vocal owner? He says stuff like that all the time," said defenceman Curtis Leschyshyn, who played for the Senators last season. "We know there's still time to make a deal. The season could still start on Feb. 1. I just don't think we're done."

Toronto defenceman Ken Klee, who has been skating with Leschyshyn in Denver, wasn't shocked by Karmanos' statements, either.

'NEGATIVE COMMENTS'

"He is the guy who has thrown the most negative comments out there to date, saying he is losing less money not playing than if the season was going on," said Klee. "Well, if he can't hack it, maybe he should sell the team.

"We turned back the clock, put the salaries back a few years with our offer (of a 24% rollback) and gave them the money to work with. It's up to them to balance their chequebooks, just like parents do every day.

"To say they can't control themselves is ludicrous. It just boggles the mind that they are going to flush the season down the toilet."

Flyers captain Keith Primeau said Karmanos is stating "the inevitable."

"Even with the time left, they don't seem to feel further negotiations are in order," said Primeau. "Losing the season would not be surprising. They've been preparing for this for a long time."


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