Hope floats away fast

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:51 PM ET

Two days of talks have added up to nothing. Well, nothing other than frustration from -- usually -- the most upbeat person you'll meet.

"Once again, I let myself to be optimistic and hopeful, and I was really hopeful after these last two days of talks," said Calgary Flames star and NHLPA rep Jarome Iginla yesterday.

"I thought there was a deal to be made if there was compromise but what we get from Trevor Linden and other sources is they're not interested in compromise, not at all.

"I'm not hopeful for this season. And, to be honest, next season, too," Iginla stated. "That's reality, not anybody trying to make threats or a fake resolve."

The clock on the NHL season is nearing two minutes to midnight, if it's not there already, with no solution in sight.

There were no talks yesterday and none planned after two sessions this week.

All we have are philosophical differences that don't seem to hold a solution. Ownership is demanding cost certainty, while the players are emphatically against a salary cap.

"Just call it and let the fans have their season ticket money back so they can spend it elsewhere," said Iginla. "If they're not going to have a league to come back to, a fair one, let them do other things. Stop getting everyone excited and optimistic with going to talks. I'm sure they're tired of it."

But to the owners, it's not just about this season.

"I really believe, how long it takes is how long it takes," said Flames GM/head coach Darryl Sutter. "I'm not in any way one of those guys in save-the-season mode. It's still got to be a deal that works long-term, and speaking selfishly, for the Calgary Flames. If there's a deal made that doesn't work in the long term, we're in a worse position in three months than we are right now."

Iginla insists the December proposal from the players -- which included a 24% rollback -- works. Or at least it's a terrific starting point even if it doesn't include a linkage of salary to revenue.

"They can make money, very good money, in a number of systems with all the controls we're willing to give but they're going with, 'It's our way or the highway,' " Iginla said.

As for why the players are against a salary cap, Iginla said they believe guaranteed contracts would disappear, which is the case with the NFL, and feel salary arbitration would be abolished.

"We're not even asking for a free market. (Under the players' proposal) it's very restricted and controlled in the owners' favour and we're willing to make it that way," he said.

The fact owners allow market forces to dictate what they can charge for tickets, food, beer and parking while demanding cost certainty from their employees is not lost on the players.

"This is a big risk for the game," Iginla said.

"This is the owners' choice. They own the teams and if they want to risk the damage done to hockey after a year, two years, fine.

"Next year, I'm not going to wait around and hope in September it's going to be done.

"Next year, there's going to be more players in Europe, my family included. We're not going to wait."

Meanwhile, Sutter believes a season will be saved.

"I haven't changed my outlook from day one. I'm the eternal optimist and still, deep down, believe somehow we will play," he said.

"There's still a considerable length of time for us to start to play."


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