Lockout: No end in sight

Darcy Tucker of the Toronto Maple Leafs echoes team rep Bryan McCabe's feelings that players are as...

Darcy Tucker of the Toronto Maple Leafs echoes team rep Bryan McCabe's feelings that players are as strong-willed as the owners in this lockout. (SUN/Tony Caldwell)

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 12:27 PM ET

An NHL season has been all but declared officially dead and, for now, it appears it would be unwise to expect anything next fall either. And after that? Don't hedge your bets.

"A lot of people thought this might be over in six months or a year, but we have prepared for two years," Maple Leafs forward Darcy Tucker said. "And if it goes on for three years, it goes on for three years. We're not going to get something rammed down our throats."

Several Leafs players were whistling the same tune yesterday and it may as well have been a soundtrack for a horror movie for NHL fans. If there are cracks in the NHL Players' Association, they are not evident among Toronto's players. Leafs player rep Bryan McCabe indicated there is no chance for a season now, given the wide divide between the NHL and the NHLPA and the small window of time to get a deal done.

"I think so," McCabe said when asked if the season is dead. "It does not look like there is any light. I don't know where we go from here. I did not have any serious optimism going into the meetings (in Chicago and Toronto this week). We have made some serious concessions, but (the NHL owners) are out to break the union. I don't know where we go from here."

What happens if the owners don't come down off their demand for a salary cap in the range of $34.6 million US to $38.6 million? Have any of the players asked NHLPA boss Bob Goodenow if there is a Plan B? It does not appear that has been raised.

"Then it goes on forever," Tucker said without a trace of hesitation. "Guys have been playing in Europe and will continue to do it. More will go over. We're not taking a cap."

Leafs defenceman Ken Klee said the failure in the talks this week "appears to be the final nail in the coffin."

"I think Trevor (Linden, the NHLPA president and force behind initiating the latest meetings) did a fantastic job to try to get negotiations going," Klee said. "But there have not been negotiations. Mostly it has been just us giving up more."

There is the idea that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman will table another proposal next week but if it includes a salary cap then players would rather he not put forth a new proposal at all.

"It's crystal clear what they want," Linden said yesterday. "It's all or nothing, and that's unfortunate. Gary will decide when to cancel the season. This is a critical point. If it goes past this, it could go on for a year from now. It's Gary's lockout and we can only do so much."

Not everyone is painting a doom-and-gloom picture. Leafs general manager John Ferguson does not yet buy into the idea the season is toast.

"I don't share that," Ferguson said. "I retain the belief that the right deal can get done."

And NHL chief legal officer Bill Daly did call the week's meetings "the most dynamic" between the two sides.

"I believe we're a lot closer to the same philosophies than they are portraying now," Daly told the Canadian Press.


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