The New York marathon

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:59 AM ET

Negotiations to save the NHL season have gone into double overtime.

Amid reports the season will be cancelled in the next 48 hours, the NHL and NHLPA gathered for more than nine hours at a New York hotel and agreed to meet again today to see if a last-ditch effort can get a new collective bargaining agreement in place.

Even with the NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and the NHLPA executive director Bob Goodenow back at the bargaining table, there wasn't much hope the season can be saved.

ESPN's E.J. Hradek quoted an unnamed NHL owner as saying the league was preparing to make a cancellation announcement as early as today.

A LEAGUE PLANT?

A source indicated the statement may have been a plant by the NHL to try and force the players back to the bargaining table.

"In deference to the process, there will be no comment and no further update is expected tonight," the NHL said in a statement issued last night. A source said the two sides didn't spend the entire time together as both parties took time for several caucus sessions.

But one player who spoke to union officials told the Philadelphia Inquirer there was a small light at the end of the tunnel.

"I talked to the PA a little while ago and it was neither progressive nor regressive," the player said. "But the feeling was it can't be anything but positive if they are still involved, still talking in the same room together."

One NHL GM agreed.

"I don't know why you wouldn't look at it as anything but positive," the GM told The Canadian Press. "A deal is only going to get done by the two bodies working at it. It doesn't take a genius to figure out the alternative if they're not in the room talking."

Agent Larry Kelly, who has been optimistic a deal will get done, has all but given up hope now.

"It's difficult for me to speculate because of what's happening, but I would say it's going to be difficult to get a deal done after the proposal the NHL put on the table (Wednesday)," said Kelly, an agent with Octagon Hockey.

'OPTIMIST' NO MORE

"There were things in that offer that were just not necessary. I'm really disappointed with what happened. I really believe that there's a deal there to be done and I've been the eternal optimist through all of this. That offer left me disappointed and I really don't think there's much in the way of hope."

The union requested yesterday's meeting after it quickly rejected the league's offer on Wednesday that included a tiered salary-cap system between $32-$42 million US.

Goodenow went into yesterday's session with a plan to revisit the union's offer -- which included a 24% rollback on salaries -- made on Dec. 9 in Toronto and sources also indicated he planned to bring some new ideas to the table.


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