Call me when the insanity ends

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 11:46 AM ET

Stop the insanity. We've all had way too much of this. The NHL and the NHL Players' Association went through another exercise in negotiating futility yesterday in New York. For those hoping this season would finally be put out of its misery ... no such luck.

Instead, union executive director Bob Goodenow emerged from the four-hour session talking about the fact the two sides tried to find some "traction" during two days of meeting before the NHL season skids off the rails completely.

The reality is, anybody still thinking there's going to be a season is relying on false hope. It's over. There's no chance. All you have to do is check the calendar to understand the chances of a legitimate season are now zero.

"I can't see it happening," said Senators centre Mike Fisher last night from Zug, Switzerland. "I hope there's going to be hockey, but I don't really think we're going to play this year. It's disappointing. We want to be playing there."

The players have tried to deal with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, but he has a one-track mind that involves a salary cap. He's not willing to bend and the players won't break, which means there's no good news coming anytime soon.

The word is the two sides talked for a couple of hours Thursday about possibly doing a short-term deal, then trying to find a way to agree on the amount of revenues brought in by the 30 clubs. The thought didn't last long.

Now, both sides have to go back to their constituents and let them know the discussions are going nowhere. In Goodenow's case, he relayed a message to the the players last night while Bettman communicated with league governors.

"You knew this was headed in this direction, but you have a hard time believing the car is actually going to drive off the cliff," said a league source. "Once the season is gone, you really wonder what's going to happen.

"I can't believe that anybody can actually think what's happening here is good for the sport, but we're in the middle of it now and both sides are willing to fight to the finish. You now start to wonder if anybody will come away a winner."

No hope. No season. No chance. Empty Saturday nights will be spent from now until who knows when watching Movie Night in Canada and that seems like a sad story. It's going to cost a lot of good people jobs.

While some players in Europe were hopeful they were going to get the call to come home, that sentiment was dashed around 3 p.m. when Goodenow emerged on the steps in New York to let reporters know the talks were dead.

"I don't know if there's really been any reason to be hopeful for a while," said Fisher. "I look at the last proposal the league gave us and I pretty well settled on the fact there wasn't going to be hockey this year. What else could you think?

"I can't say I'm surprised. We've been prepared for this for the last couple of years. We knew what was going to happen. We knew this could be two years and who knows how this is all going to end? Nobody knows."

The point must be made this is not a real negotiation and anybody who thinks otherwise is fooling themselves. There hasn't been anything resembling compromise by the NHL since the lockout started Sept. 15. This is all about getting a salary cap.

So where do we go from here?

Bettman will begin the move toward employing replacement players in the next few months by going to the National Labour Relations Board in the U.S., where he'll declare legal impasse and turn this fight into one ugly mess.

Replacement players aren't going to sell with the fans. They're going to be a joke. The players indicate they aren't going to cross the line, but there will be some and that group will mostly be made up of guys who need the coin.

"We remain united," said Fisher. "We know we're not going to accept a cap."

Let's just hope Bettman puts us all out of our misery and gives up this charade that there is actually going to be a season.


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