SUN Hockey Pool

Players hold out glimmer of hope

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 6:20 AM ET

Even admitted eternal optimist Martin Gelinas isn't expecting an 11th-hour solution. He won't even begin to hope the NHL and the players' association will come up with a new collective bargaining agreement by tonight's deadline. Like all his Calgary Flames teammates, Gelinas is begrudgingly resigned to the fact the CBA will expire at 10 p.m. MDT tonight without a deal in place and the lockout will take place one minute later.

"Unless there's a miracle, it's not going to happen," he said forlornly last night during a reception for the team's annual charity golf tournament. "It's not going to be solved unless they make an offer.

"I don't expect it to be solved (today) but I'm an optimist and I hope in the next two weeks, they get their act together.

"Those are two smart people, on both sides, and they've got to know what's at stake," he continued. "Not only what's at stake for the players and the owners but also the people who work at the games, in the concessions and the ushers, and everyone else involved. There's way too much for people to just let it slide."

Most of the players who should be gearing up for training camp and then defending the Western Conference title have gathered in the Stampede City with full expectations they'll hit the links today and be told to go home before midnight.

To a man, they're not happy about it. Nor were they happy about the fact meetings weren't taking place last night while the World Cup of Hockey final was taking place.

"It's frustrating," said defenceman Andrew Ference. "The way I look at it, with the owners and the players association, there's so much mistrust and feeling of confrontation and that's not going to solve anything.

"We have to look at it as a business, not a sport, and successful business partners work together. You can't have all the marbles in the bag, you've got to do what's best for the corporation."

The biggest issue that will most likely postpone the puck dropping on a new season is --as the NHL says -- cost certainty.

Having seen salaries escalate nearly three-fold in a decade and having posted losses of $273 million US in 2002-03 and $224 million last season, the NHL owners say compensation must be capped.

The players, knowing salaries increased 2% last season, insist the existing CBA could still work if owners learn to police themselves.

No talks are scheduled between now and tonight's deadline.

Ference pointed out one element of it all that seems to have been forgotten by both sides.

"You know, the players would have a lot better feeling if they knew a reduction in salaries would mean reduced ticket prices for the fans," he said.


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