Season ready to cap-size?

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:18 AM ET

The NHL season may not be officially over yet ... but it sure seems to be suffering a slow, miserable death.

The NHL and NHL Players Association broke off talks last night in New York with no further meetings planned.

The union flatly rejected a new league concept, which was speculated to include a $45-million hard salary cap, with a soft cap element.

While reports had circulated that the NHL might spark discussion by offering a new proposal which included a luxury tax, the optimism quickly turned to pessimism.

"We continue to have significant philosophical differences," said NHLPA senior director Ted Saskin in a statement last night.

SOFT CAP FOR SOME?

Sportsnet reported the league moved closer to the players by discussing the concept of a soft cap for some teams. It was hoped that would lead to further discussions.

The word is this concept was discussed to try to "entice the players" into giving up their position on a hard cap.

There is no optimism among the players because they believe the concept is a move by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to set the table to declare an impasse and bring in replacement players.

"Somebody called and said we should get ready to go because we could have something in the next 10 days or so when they were meeting last week," Chicago winger Matthew Barnaby told the Sun yesterday. "I told him that's not what I'd heard. I said as far as I was concerned the season is d-e-a-d ... dead. I didn't think any more of it because it's not happening.

"Let's put it this way: It would be a shock to me if we played hockey this year."

A meeting in Toronto on Wednesday left the players with the impression the owners won't compromise. Instead of getting ready to play in the NHL this season, more players are getting ready to go to Europe.

SWEDISH OFFER

Barnaby is considering an offer from a team in Sweden. With the NHL season all but cancelled, the players have no reason to believe they'll be back playing next year.

"I hope we play, but I would say we're not going to see the NHL back on the ice until December or January, 2006 at the earliest," said Barnaby.

"I don't blame anybody for what's happening right now. Both guys (Bettman and NHLPA boss Bob Goodenow) have their positions, I just think Gary Bettman could be the one fired out of all this because he made promises to some owners he was going to get a salary cap."

Barnaby, who makes his home in Buffalo, said he's concerned about the hit hockey is going to take in the United States.

"I'm really worried about the future of the game," said Barnaby. "I believe that people in Canada are going to be excited when they open the doors and they're going to go back to watch the game because they love it.

"That's not the case in the United States. It's just a different set of circumstances down here. People don't feel the same way about hockey."

The clock continues to tick on salvaging a season. Through yesterday, 721 of the season's 1,230 regular-season games had gone by the wayside.


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