Miracle on ice?

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:10 AM ET

A hail Mary. A last-second saving of the season before the clock strikes 12. A miracle.

With NHL commissioner Gary Bettman slated to hold a press conference tomorrow when he's expected to announce the 2004-05 season is killed due to the lockout, hopes are low a solution will be found in time.

Count Andrew Ference as one of the multitudes who doesn't believe a miracle solution will be found.

"Are you kidding me? I have absolutely zero hope," the Flames defenceman said from the Czech Republic, where he plays for Ceske Budojovice. "If something miraculous happens, it'll be just that, miraculous, and you don't hope for miraculous things."

Both sides of the league's labour dispute, now in Day 152, met yesterday but not many believe a solution will be found for the billion-dollar standoff in time to save this season.

And that's a shame, Ference said.

"I'm extremely disappointed. I'm disappointed in the way the whole thing has gone down. There was a huge time frame we had to work with, the last couple of years, and it's very disappointing a deal wasn't reached," he said.

Unlike the many players who've pinned the mess completely on Bettman, Ference said both sides should share the shame.

"I don't play the blame game. It's very easy to understand where they're coming from," he said. "These guys are very successful businessmen and when you're successful businessmen you're going to look at what makes your company more valuable, so you'll look to reduce costs. You can't be mad at them for wanting what's best for their company.

"For the players, it's a lot more than just a business deal. That's why you get the emotional comments because of the emotion we bring to the mix.

"You're talking about guys who've played the sport their whole lives, so it's more than just a business negotiation and it's tough for guys to differentiate.

"You've got to blame both sides equally, there's two sides with negotiation. We have a problem with the economics of our sport that has to be solved.

"I'm really put off that in the summer neither side was willing to come to the middle and settle for a tie, both sides were going for a win. But I believe we took a big step in a number of areas. Not to say we came up with the final solution but we presented some ideas that were grounds for a workable solution. As far as who did the more compromise, I think without a doubt the players union has put forth a lot. I haven't seen much change with the owners from the start to now."

By all accounts, don't expect the owners to change in the future, either. Seeing the resolve both sides have shown, plenty of players and owners have spoken out and said this could last another year.

"If a year from now we're going through the same thing, it's a real shame," Ference said. "Eventually there's going to have to be some sort of compromise from both sides. If there's not, it's probably going to the end of the NHL as we know it.

"We've already done so much damage to the sport, to go through this next summer with no progress would be a real shame on both sides.

"Now we have how many months it is until next training camp and I hope to God they can sit down, have some meaningful negotiation and a solution."


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