Players not ready for a vote

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 11:35 AM ET

Bryan McCabe fully supports a vote involving the NHL's 730-plus players today. Heck, it might even be fun to tabulate the results in order to find out who the majority of NHLers favour in tomorrow's Super Bowl -- New England or Philadelphia.

When it comes to casting ballots concerning the NHL's latest proposal, however, McCabe, like the majority of his union brethren, doesn't feel as if there is any reason to even open the polling stations.

"What are we supposed to vote on?" the Maple Leafs player rep said last night. "It's not even an issue at this time.

"We are a tight-knit union. I give my full support to our negotiating committee and so does our union, which is strong and united. When they feel there is something to bring to us, they will let us know.

"There is nothing to vote on. The past few days have shown the owners will not back off their stance (for a salary cap)."

The continued insistence on cost certainty by the league left union head Bob Goodenow perturbed yesterday as he scurried out of New York after two days of negotiations with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, executive vice-president Bill Daly and an outside counsel. But 13 hours of talks seemed to determine only one thing -- Bettman is not backing off.

For their part, neither are the players.

"When they bring a proposal to the table in good faith, maybe there will be a reason to vote," New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur said. "But that hasn't happened.

"The word 'collective' in collective bargaining means there are two sides negotiating. So far there has been one -- us."

Pittsburgh Penguins forward Rico Fata echoed Brodeur's sentiments.

"We're so strong as a union that I can't see us voting against ourselves," Fata told the Pittsburgh Tribune Review.

Despite speculation that the NHL could pull the plug on the 2004-05 season early next week, the league refuses to publicly acknowledge such a plan is in place.

It's a stance McCabe does not understand, especially since the majority of the NHL schedule already has been scuttled.

"The writing's kind of on the wall," he said. "I think that's kind of obvious to everyone. I mean, who's kidding who? It's mid-February already.

"Even if the league does not announce it, it's plain to see that this season is being flushed down the toilet."

While that belief may be shared by many players, Edmonton Oilers general manager Kevin Lowe still has a nugget of hope.

"I've been pessimistic all along that there would be no hockey, but the fact they have not completely cut off all talks leaves me a bit optimistic," he said.

"Regardless of (ownership's financial) losses, the players thought they would continue to be paid the same way. Well, the owners have said all along that would not happen."


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