The NHL Players Association isn't ready to put this season on ice just yet.
While Carolina Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos Jr. sounded rather convincing on Monday when he suggested it's too late to save the year, the players feel Karmanos' remarks were meant to send shock waves through the union. They also believe reports that the comments were part of a scheme devised by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.
The players remain hopeful that behind the scenes, there are owners who are pushing Bettman to get a new collective bargaining agreement in place to put hockey back on the ice -- and on the map.
Sources told the Sun yesterday there are owners who might be putting together a proposal they'll present to the union that doesn't include a hard salary cap. Karmanos' comments may have been meant to restate the league's official position.
"I would be surprised if there weren't some owners who didn't want to get a deal done right now and get back to playing hockey," Blue Jackets defenceman Luke Richardson, an Ottawa native, said yesterday from Columbus.
"What I would like to see is a group of owners take what we've offered (with the 24% rollback), work with it a little bit and then get something done. If that happens, Bettman could end up gone, but we'd have hockey back."
Richardson said he spoke with NHLPA executive director Bob Goodenow last week and asked if the union should propose that the league try the recent NHLPA proposal on a short-term basis to see if it works.
"I just talked to Bob Goodenow and I wondered if we could maybe suggest to the league that we work with that proposal for the next couple of years and then we could work on something longer term," said Richardson.
'CRUSH THE UNION'
"(Goodenow) told me that the owners don't want our proposal and they're not interested in looking at it. They want a cap and they want to crush the union.
"That's the frustrating thing. We're trying to do everything we can to try to save the season."
Richardson said the union still has the support of the players.
"People have to realize that Bob Goodenow works for the players and he's acting on what we want him to do," said Richardson. "He gives us a lot of advice, but we take votes and everything he does is supported by the players.
"Right now, the league has given Bettman a lot of power. Guys like Karmanos and (Boston owner Jeremy) Jacobs are on that executive committee and they're the guys who are pushing for the cap. I just think there's still time to get a deal done if there are owners who want to make it happen."