League aftershocks

A tombstone pretty much sums up the mood in Edmonton outside Rexall Place, home of the Edmonton...

A tombstone pretty much sums up the mood in Edmonton outside Rexall Place, home of the Edmonton Oilers, following the cancellation of the NHL season. (Edmonton Sun/Brendon Dlouhy)

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:13 AM ET

After the shock of Wednesday's cancellation of the NHL season came yesterday's aftershock.

All through the hockey world yesterday, those involved with the game were wondering out loud whether anything could be done to bring about an after-the-last-minute reconciliation between the National Hockey League and the NHL Players' Association.

As is often the case in situations like this, rumours were rife.

But there is no attempted coup.

There has not been a liaison between Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky to force a reopening of talks.

There has not been a delegation of NHL players approaching the league's New York office to try to effect a solution.

But there has been a lot of talking between interested parties who saw an opening in commissioner Gary Bettman's answer to a Toronto Sun question on Wednesday.

When it was suggested to Bettman that a deal could have been struck based upon a $45-million US salary cap, Bettman said: "If they wanted 45 million, I'm not saying we would have gone there, but they sure should have told us. It would have been incumbent upon them to tell us if that's where they would have made a deal."

Yesterday, sources said that Bettman himself could have gone there. Hours before his self-imposed deadline of 11 a.m., Bettman was given authority by the owners to agree to that $45-million figure, if pressed.

But Bettman apparently wanted the union to re-open negotiations so he could appear to be making a concession. When the union didn't call, he cancelled the season.

Yesterday, Bettman's hint that a phone call from the NHLPA might have given him reason to pause was seen by analysts on ESPN and the MSG Network as a key point. They said that perhaps it might not be too late to make a last-ditch effort to bring the season back from the dead.

Perhaps as a result, there has been some urging -- on both sides -- to consider whether it is irreversibly too late to save the season.

But it doesn't go beyond that.

New Jersey Devils president and CEO Lou Lamoriello summed it up best when he told Pierre LeBrun of The Canadian Press: "All I've heard is all the rhetoric. I don't pay attention to that until someone tells me factually.

"Believe me, I think I would have heard something factual, but I just hear what everyone else is hearing. After a while, you start believing it because you hear it so much. But then you pinch yourself and remind yourself that there's probably nothing to it."

Gretzky also denied that anything was in the works.

"I did talk to Mario today," Gretzky told the Fan 590. "I had a brief conversation about pretty much what everyone else is talking about, can we believe we're in the situation we're in.

"Nobody understands why we're in this situation. Nobody has the answer to how we got here or how we're going to get out of here.

"To say Mario and I had a conversation to try to stir up the conversations and talks again, that's just not true."


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