SUN Hockey Pool

Cupid's arrow misfires

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:55 AM ET

There is no Valentine's Day love forthcoming from either the NHL or NHLPA.

With NHL commissioner Gary Bettman poised to cancel the season any time now, NHL VP Bill Daly and PA senior director Ted Saskin secretly met for five hours yesterday with the U.S. Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service in Washington, but sources indicated things once again did not go well.

According to a statement from the NHLPA, Scot B. Beckenbaugh, acting director of the U.S. FMCS, requested the meeting. The two sides had met twice previously with the FMCS in the last year.

"(Yesterday), the parties met for the third time with FMCS officials," Saskin said in a statement. "There was no progress to report as a result of this meeting, and in fairness to the process it would serve no purpose to comment further."

Daly echoed those sentiments.

"No progress in the collective bargaining process resulted from the meeting," Daly said in a statement. "We have no further comment."

So while an exchange of cards and chocolates between the two sides doesn't appear to be imminent, sources indicated that a group of owners -- who aren't salary-cap hard-liners -- agents and players were trying to cobble together a proposal last night that might be acceptable to both sides.

While Bettman lifted a gag order on owners, GMs and team executives on Friday so that they could speak with players directly in hopes of convincing them to put pressure on the union to salvage the season, sources say not a single Senator was called.

The players, meanwhile, were warned on their private website if they did receive any phone calls from management that they should remember the battle for a new collective bargaining agreement "isn't about one player" and the NHLPA is acting for the group.

"I didn't get a call from anybody in Ottawa. I heard that was happening with some teams, but I haven't heard anything here," said Senators defenceman Wade Redden last night from his Edmonton home.

PLUG COULD BE PULLED

"If (the season is) cancelled, there are a lot of questions that have to be answered: What happens next? Where do we go from here? Nobody knows."

What will happen next is Bettman making the long-awaited announcement that the season is dead. That would make the NHL the first major professional league in North America to cancel an entire season from beginning to finish.

"I don't think there's much hope, but until they cancel the season officially I'm going to hope they can find a resolution," Blue Jackets defenceman and Ottawa native Luke Richardson said last night.

"You hope something could get done at the last minute. If we lose this season, this is a big roll of the dice for the players and the owners. There's risk for both sides because people say the game won't recover. I just think this is going to have a negative effect on the game for the next 10 years."


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