SUN Hockey Pool

D-Day delayed

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:58 AM ET

Ken King started off the day suggesting Feb. 3 could very well be a day in which the league made history.

"For good or for bad," added the Flames president.

While many figured the rare meeting between Bob Goodenow and Gary Bettman would end with a press conference announcing the season had officially been scrapped, a shocking sliver of optimism emerged when the league's two principle negotiators didn't.

Locked away in a New York boardroom well into the evening, a joint statement saying only that talks would continue gave hope when none was expected.

"I'm glad because it means we're still in the process," said King. "I still think there's time to save the season. Don't ask me how long I'm going to hold that view."

Gary Bettman has long insisted once the major principles of a deal were agreed upon, a full-fledged CBA could be drawn up quickly.

"It could be done in a matter of days," said Bettman in Calgary last year as part of a Q & A with fans.

"This business isn't terribly complex and the problems can be fixed. We'll dance when our partner is willing to dance."

That said, there can be only one of two explanations for last night's extended meeting, pushing back the inevitable season cancellation at least a day:

1. Goodenow somehow found a way to soften his stance on the introduction of a salary cap, sparking the very first meaningful dialogue between the two sides.

Or:

2. Both sides were trying to make it look like they're making one last-ditch effort to save the season so they couldn't be accused of giving up on the season without one last fight.

Don't bet on No. 1.

At this point, it's unreasonable to believe there's any hope this season will be saved, which is the least of everyone's concerns in that boardroom.

The important thing is saving the game, which can't be done without lengthy discussions, of which these two have not yet shared.

Here in Calgary, word is King spent part of his day signing letters to season ticket holders outlining their options when word comes down the NHL is indeed the first major sports league in North America to have an entire season wiped out due to labour strife.

"I did all sorts of things, including notes to season-ticket holders," said King, refusing to delve into the content of the letters.

"But I've never wavered from my optimistic stance, which is based on logic. I believe we have an excellent package in front of them. Somehow you have to believe they think that, too."

If so, it'll be interesting to see how Goodenow will try saving face after more than a year of painting himself into a corner with his anti-cap stance. The reality is, yesterday's meeting simply prolonged the inevitable, setting the table for even more hearts to be broken today, tomorrow or early next week when we'll be talking about history again.

As in, the season is history.


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