SUN Hockey Pool

Flirting with disaster

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:29 AM ET

What do former Senator forward Bill Muckalt and yesterday's NHL negotiations have in common? There's no goal in sight.

Oh, who could forget Muckalt's 2001-02 season when he did not score a goal? And who could forget the disgusted look on NHL VP Bill Daly's face as he emerged from a meeting yesterday in Toronto?

Daly announced no progress was made with the Players' Association, no further bargaining sessions are planned and it's only a matter time before the year is cancelled.

While the league is willing to talk, Daly confirmed NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has the authority to shut down the season and he's expected to make that move Monday in New York.

"Today's meeting was pointless," said a frustrated Daly. "We really haven't made any material progress and we're within days of having to cancel the season. You have to realize there's not much more you can do.

"I don't think it's a matter of courage to cancel the season. The reality is we've made attempts to try to address our issues and we've tried to get a deal done.

"We remain open for discussions, but we're at a point if we don't make any progress where we're going to have to cancel the season.

"I don't even know why we met in the first place. The union brought nothing to the table. We were discussing things we talked about three months ago and as recently as last week. We didn't accomplish anything."

Not only did Daly not rule out the possibility of using replacement players, he also admitted the two sides brought in a mediator from the U.S. Federal Mediation Council Service last week -- a rendezvous that produced no solution.

"They understood the position on both parts, but they weren't able to offer anything that would act as a solution," said Daly, who said the league may have several options to consider.

"Obviously, once the season is cancelled it's our desire to continue to negotiate and try to find a solution. That has been our focus throughout this process and it will continue to be our focus.

"That being said, we have to look at what our alternatives are. We have many options and I'm not going to say what those are or whether they include replacement players. What I can say is we will look at all our alternatives."

Union senior director Ted Saskin said there's not much sense in talking because the league is determined to get a salary cap.

"There are other ways than a cap to find a system that works and we've tried to give the owners a system that we feel can be flexible," said Saskin in a conference call with reporters.

Asked if the NHLPA would pick up the phone to try to get discussions going, Saskin said: "No. We made it pretty clear we were always willing to sit in a room and try to negotiate an agreement. We have yet to find a negotiating partner."


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