SUN Hockey Pool

Last-ditch NHL talks go into OT

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:27 AM ET

The final horn has yet to sound on the NHL season.

Despite reports circulating out of New York that the league was poised to pull the plug on the 2004-05 campaign, a last-ditch get-together involving representatives of the players and owners evolved into a nine-hour marathon meeting yesterday.

And there is more to come.

"The parties plan to meet again (today)," NHLPA senior director Ted Saskin said in a statement released at 11 p.m. last night.

News that the two sides continued to hold discussions was greeted with cautious optimism by Whitby native Keith Primeau.

"My reaction is that obviously there's something going on if they are still talking," Primeau, the captain of the Philadelphia Flyers, said last night. "I take it as a sign that at least things haven't regressed.

"I'm going to reserve my emotions until I hear a final outcome. In the meantime, I'll go to bed a little anxious to hear what happened."

FACE-TO-FACE

On a day that started amid an atmosphere of gloom and doom, a sliver of hope soon emerged as NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and union head Bob Goodenow led their respective sides into a bargaining session that kicked off at 1:30 in the afternoon and lasted deep into the Manhattan night.

It was the first face-to-face meeting held between Bettman and Goodenow since Dec. 14.

Earlier in the day ESPN, quoting an unnamed NHL owner, said the league would announce a shutdown of the season in the next 48 hours.

The stumbling block to date has been the league's insistence on a salary cap, a concept the union once again rejected Wednesday as part of the NHL's latest proposal.

The NHL offered a six-year deal that contained a cap that would force teams to spend at least $32 million US on player costs but no more than $42 million -- including benefits. The union needed only a few hours to turn it down.

There had been speculation that Goodenow was going to use his audience with Bettman to go over the virtues of the union's Dec. 9 offer, one which would see a 24% across-the-board rollback of player salaries.

The 4 1/2-month lockout reached its 141st day yesterday, and it has forced the cancellation of 772 of the 1,230 regular-season games, plus the All-Star Game.


Videos

Photos