SUN Hockey Pool

Whole lotta nothing goin' on

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:42 AM ET

A second consecutive day of meetings failed to resolve the major philosophical difference between the NHL and NHL Players' Association, and in turn, any hope for a 2004-05 season is perched on the edge of oblivion.

"There are certainly enough areas of disagreement between us that (are) certainly not allowing us to make much progress," NHLPA senior director Ted Saskin said after a 4 1/2 -hour meeting concluded at a Toronto airport hotel. "We continue to look for ways to bridge the gap. We have not been successful in doing so."

The philosophical difference between the two sides, of course, is cost certainty. The NHL remains firm in its stance that a salary cap be part of the next collective bargaining agreement, and the players are as firm that no cap exist. While both Saskin and NHL chief legal officer Bill Daly indicated yesterday the two days of meetings -- there was a five-hour get-together in Chicago on Wednesday -- included good discussion, it was not enough to give the sides a reason to set a date for another meeting. There are no future talks planned. Some NHL players, unwilling to say as much on the record, think there is no chance a season will be played. The NHL may make another proposal next week, but if it includes a salary cap, the NHLPA will reject it.

Saskin said there were no proposals exchanged in the past two days.

"We continue to have some pretty strong philosophical differences, and the lines of communication are open," Daly said. "We are going to continue to work on it, but we don't have anything scheduled. Hopefully, we will have some further discussion. The window of time we have in terms of playing hockey this season is very short."

Neither NHL commissioner Gary Bettman nor NHLPA boss Bob Goodenow attended the meeting. Minus one participant, Calgary Flames co-owner Harley Hotchkiss, the meeting's lineup was the same as it was a day earlier in Chicago. Saskin, NHLPA president Trevor Linden and outside counsel John McCambridge were there for the players; Daly and outside counsel Bob Batterman represented the league. Hotchkiss attended the funeral of Flames co-owner Bud McCaig in Calgary.

It was Linden's idea for the sides to meet this week. Through the NHLPA, he late yesterday issued a two-sentence statement underlining the divide between the two sides. Other members of the NHLPA executive, including Bill Guerin, Vincent Damphousse and Bob Boughner, were in Toronto to meet with Linden last night but did not attend the meeting. Two other executive members -- Daniel Alfredsson and Arturs Irbe -- did not travel to Toronto.

"This is a small step in the right direction, but it doesn't mean anything good is going to come of this," Alfredsson said of the meetings. "Time is running out."

As the meeting progressed yesterday, rumours began to fly among the large contingent of media. Among them, and denied later by the subjects, were that the Phoenix Coyotes told its players to be ready for training camp next week and that some clubs were beginning to order equipment.

"I give Trevor Linden enormous credit for getting us together again," Daly said. "The dynamic of the last two days has been the best dynamic we have had to date."


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