NHL players have finished their plunging scream on the roller-coaster and now they are ready to get off this crazy ride and get on with their careers. "To resume talks after the season was just cancelled is a little weird, but, hey, we want to play," Edmonton Oilers' Ryan Smyth said last night after learning that the Players' Association and NHL will get together today in New York.
"It's in our best interests, not only right now, but for the future of the game."
Maple Leafs forward Darcy Tucker, who acknowledged he had to let his head clear in the past few days in the wake of the cancellation, was taking a cautious approach. Negotiations had appeared to take a turn for the better earlier this week when the NHL dropped its insistence on linkage and the players said they could live with a salary cap. But, of course, the sides could not bridge the gap between a $42.5-million US cap put forth by the NHL and the $49-million cap proposed by the players.
"They might as well do it now," Tucker said of the renewed collective bargaining negotiations. "They were eventually going to talk anyway. I have no expectations. I can't get my hopes up until I find out more within the union."
Smyth, who has worn Canada's colours a record nine times in international competitions, probably will do so again for the world hockey championship in the spring if the season can't be salvaged. On this one, though, his heart lies with his Oilers teammates. And if it takes a $45-million cap to get a deal done, so be it.
"I'm in full support of the union and Bob. I back them 100%," Smyth said. "A lot of the things this week came as a surprise (such as the players agreeing to a cap), but that's what it takes. Everybody hurts through this whole process the longer it goes."