Game on. Perhaps.
Three days after NHL commissioner Gary Bettman apologized to NHL fans for cancelling the 2004-05 season, he may ask today or tomorrow if he can take that apology back and, with it, start to restore fans' faith in the league and the game.
The NHL and NHL Players' Association will meet today in New York to try to reach a new collective bargaining agreement. The game's two biggest stars, Wayne Gretzky, the managing partner of the Phoenix Coyotes, and Mario Lemieux, the owner/player of the Pittsburgh Penguins, are expected to participate.
Although The Hockey News and ESPN.com reported last night on their websites that the NHL and NHLPA had agreed in principle to a $45-million US salary cap, sources indicated a cap had not yet been agreed upon. There are smaller details that need to be ironed out, but if a deal is finalized this weekend, many observers expect a $45-million cap will be the centrepiece.
The NHL requested the meeting, the NHLPA said.
The presence of Gretzky and Lemieux could be the clearest sign that a new CBA is imminent. Gretzky, who was asked by the NHLPA to take part, especially is image-conscious and it's hard to see why he would become part of something that could blow up in his face.