League VP Bill Daly has accused the NHL Players' Association of sabotaging a last-ditch shot at netting a new collective bargaining agreement. Daly told the Sun in an e-mail yesterday the league went to the table Saturday aiming to hammer out key issues in an effort to get a new CBA in place, but was stonewalled by the union's unwillingness to negotiate.
"I fear the union may have had a different agenda with their press release and the leaks (of a deal) Friday night," said Daly from New York. "They wanted us back at the table and didn't even bring a new proposal."
The NHLPA issued a press release Saturday indicating the deal the league talked about in New York was worse than the "final" $42.5-million (all figures US) salary cap offer proposed last Tuesday.
While nobody was more upset than Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux by the inability to compromise, many find it difficult to believe how ridiculous this has become.
"It's an absolute travesty and it's inexcusable the season wasn't saved for the good of the game," said Ottawa lawyer Larry Kelly of Octagon Hockey. "I applaud the efforts of Gretzky and Lemieux for trying to bring this to a resolution."
Now, with no hope of reversing NHL commissioner's decision Gary Bettman to officially cancel the season, the board of governors will meet March 1 in the Big Apple to decide what's next.
Senators owner Eugene Melnyk and president Roy Mlakar are expected to be in attendance as Bettman updates the governors on what comes next in the negotiations.
Daly said the league never went into Saturday's meeting thinking this season could be saved. Instead, the hope was to move closer to solving other issues. That didn't happen.
"From our perspective, (Saturday) was about talking through the issues that need to be resolved in order to do a deal, not about saving the season," said Daly.
"We'll keep working at it. We know we have to do a deal at some point and the sooner we're able to do that, the better it will be for all of us."
WHAT COMES NEXT?
The players are expected to gather in Toronto in the next couple of weeks to plot strategy with executive director Bob Goodenow and president Trevor Linden.
They were upset the framework the owners talked about Saturday was worse than the last offer made at the 11th hour.
The league indicated the union had better get used to that stance.
"I'm not sure I would sense that sense of urgency," NHLPA senior director Ted Saskin told Canadian Press when asked about the league's desire to settle before the draft scheduled for June in Ottawa.
"We all have something at stake in terms of eventually getting an agreement, but I think it's true that with the cancellation of the season and the fact everybody worked so hard over the last few weeks ... it's going to take a certain amount of time (to regroup)."