It's now or never.
NHL Players' Association president Trevor Linden didn't want to see the NHL season disappear without making a last stand, but sources say he could get a frosty reception in a meeting today with Calgary part-owner Harley Hotchkiss.
"The message will probably be this: Thanks for inviting us, but unless you're willing to accept a salary cap with a link between revenues and expenses, then we have nothing to talk about," a league official said yesterday.
"I don't know if the NHLPA has underestimated the resolve of the owners or the players are putting pressure on the executive to get a deal done, but I don't think this meeting is going to solve anything. It could make it worse, but I hope I'm completely wrong."
Trying to save the season, Linden will be back at the bargaining table in Chicago with union senior director Ted Saskin and lawyer Bob McCambridge, while Hotchkiss will have NHL VP Bill Daly and legal counsel Bob Batterman at his side during the informal session.
"We're getting down to the nitty gritty. The clock is ticking here ... we're running out of time," Bill Guerin, a VP on the union's executive committee, told the Sun from Dallas. "Trevor felt like he had to do something.
"I'm going to make it clear: We're not going to be bringing any proposal to the table. What we're trying to do is open the lines of communication. We're happy to get discussions going and we want to see if we can find common ground. We're willing to negotiate, but it takes two (to make a deal happen)."
NEW OFFER FROM DALY?
What will transpire? Without commissioner Gary Bettman and union executive director Bob Goodenow in the session, the tone of the meeting could change, but the players won't bend on the issue of a salary cap.
But the players want to make it clear they want a season. There's talk Daly could either be armed with a new offer for the players or ask the union for a full meeting in the next week where a proposal would be presented.
"Our union is trying to spearhead some discussions, get back to the negotiating table and salvage the season," said Flyers goalie Robert Esche, an NHLPA rep. "We're doing this without (Goodenow) and without (Bettman) to maybe spearhead things.
"Look, we want to make sure that if the owners cancel the season, that at least our union tried to save the season. We're trying to get something accomplished."
Guerin said the union will negotiate off the 24% across-the-board pay cut it offered the NHL during a meeting Dec. 9 in Toronto.
"We've always been willing to show compromise in order to get a deal done and that's why we wanted to reset the mark. We haven't changed our stance on that issue," said Guerin. "We're pretty much getting to the point where we're down to days to save the season. We're not talking about weeks or months anymore. Something happens now or it doesn't happen."