No answers for NHL's headache

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:16 AM ET

What's next? Wade Redden can't tell you. It doesn't seem like anyone knows.

With the NHL season about to be cancelled, players have no idea where this will lead.

While NHL commissioner Gary Bettman --the man with all the answers -- jumped on a flight back to New York last night, it would appear the season could go down with a formal announcement next week.

They sat there for four hours yesterday, but only 90 minutes of that was spent together in face-to-face meetings. They might as well have been in a different world.

"I don't see us making any progress before the announcement is made," said a sombre NHL VP Bill Daly during a news conference.

For the first time since 1919 the Stanley Cup will not be awarded in June and the NHL will become the first pro league to cancel a whole season.

There are no guarantees hockey will be back next year either.

Embarrassing? Yep.

Destructive? Maybe.

Nobody really believed coming into this process that the NHL would actually jump off the bridge by cancelling the season.

Or that the players had the resolve to let it go.

But it seems like there's no stopping it now.

"It's not surprising. It's been going this way for a while and I've been kind of resigned to this fact since early in January," said Redden last night from his Edmonton home.

LITTLE OPTIMISM

"There just hasn't been much room for optimism. Everybody would rather be on the ice and who knows what happens once the season is officially cancelled?

"We could be sitting here next January in the same place. Who knows? Next year, at this point, is probably a long shot at best. That's too bad."

Yes, it's sad that it has come to this. The players who have flocked to Europe have got a place to play and they'll be busy until the world championships.

The players who aren't playing will be summoned to Toronto for a meeting with union executive director Bob Goodenow.

Expect the NHLPA to face difficult questions because some are wondering why it has reached this point.

Bettman will meet with the board of governors sometime next week in New York. Despite his claims, not every owner supports his bid for cost certainty.

Jobs will be lost in cities through the NHL as a result of the season being cancelled.

Sources say the league will have to move quickly if they want to declare an impasse and try to break the union. The process in front of the National Labour Relations Board in the United States can take 2-3 months.

"It's hard to believe both sides are actually going to let what's about to happen take place, but there doesn't look like there's any way to stop it because these guys might be even further apart," said a league source.

"Can it be saved? There's not enough time now to get anything done. They have pushed this fight to the absolute maximum and it would appear they're at the point of no return.

"The only question I have is: What's next? I'm sure a lot of people are asking that question."

Just one of many questions that need to be answered.


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