SUN Hockey Pool

Wait 'til '05-06, fans told

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:07 AM ET

At the appointed hour yesterday, National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman strode into a meeting room in a hotel near New York's Times Square looking neither right nor left, his face impassive.

He marched up to the podium and read the prepared statement that put an end to the 2004-05 NHL season.

It cannot be said that he killed the season. Something that never had life cannot be killed, and this season never even got as far as the training-camp stage.

Bettman apologized to the game's fans -- "We are truly sorry" -- then stressed his determination to impose the kind of economic system that he feels the league must have to be successful.

Then came the announcement fans had long been dreading: "It is my sad duty to announce that because that solution has not yet been attained, it no longer is practical to conduct even an abbreviated season. Accordingly, I have no choice but to announce the formal cancellation of play for 2004-05."

Bettman promised there will be a 2005-06 NHL season, but he was less precise as to the means he would use to accomplish that end.

He also said, "My hope is that in the next few weeks the union will come forward and begin negotiations anew."

But this set of negotiations collapsed, Bettman said, because the gap was wider that most people believed.

The league had suggested a salary cap of $42.5 million US per team and the union had countered with an offer of $49 million.

Bettman said his teams can't afford an amount of that magnitude. "The NFL cap is somewhere around $80 million," he said, "and their revenues are something like 21/2 times ours."

He said the $6.5-million difference when applied to the 30 teams would be "more than $200-million league-wide. We didn't have it to give."


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