SUN Hockey Pool

'I'm spent, man'

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:04 PM ET

Having run the emotional gamut, Jarome Iginla sighed. "I'm spent, man. I'm completely, completely spent," the Flames captain said, barely above a whisper.

"There's not much to say.

"I'm trying to find different words for disappointing and I'm running out."

Like so many in the hockey world, Iginla awoke yesterday morning thinking the NHL season would be saved.

The Flames NHLPA rep wasn't just hopeful, he was certain the rumours of a new collective bargaining agreement with a $45-million salary cap as the focal point were true.

The meeting in New York, with Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and all the heavy hitters in town, had to mean the "uncancelling" was a done deal.

Then came the bad news -- the lockout wasn't over.

"I was already making plans with all the excitement. This is the biggest drop," Iginla said.

With that, the stake has been put through the heart of the 2004-05 campaign.

If the NHL wasn't already the biggest joke in pro sports, the league ensured it with yesterday's antics. They summoned the players' association to town but, instead of offering a new proposal, the NHL returned to its $42.5-million cap offer from last Tuesday. In fact, a few new wrinkles made it even less appealing to the players.

"What an opportunity the league and the players had ... to have two great ambassadors like Gretzky and Lemieux to help work things out," Iginla said. "And now it's a shame. It would have been such a positive step."

Instead of being the white knights, Gretzky and Lemieux end up being dragged into the biggest joke of all for the cruelest game on earth.

"They call NHLPA president Trevor Linden and say they want to work on it. He flies all the way from Vancouver to New York for that. If they wanted to just shoot it down, just tell him over the phone and say, 'This is the way it is,' " Iginla said.

"Why bring Wayne into it -- the Great One -- and Mario? I can't grasp it. I just wish it wasn't done that way.

"This is a true apology to the fans. This shouldn't be happening -- alive and dead, alive and dead, alive and dead and then the biggest alive when you see those two involved, then dead. It's too bad."

One theory is owners were sending a message their offers will only get worse from this point forward.

"I hope that's not the case," Iginla said. "I really don't know if that's what they're doing but we've already shown we're serious and they've shown they're serious.

"I didn't expect the owners to be weak and I hope they didn't expect us to be weak. There's no doubt we want a season, we love playing hockey and wanted a season ... but it's still about the right deal.

"I feel bad for the fans. Everybody owes them an apology," Iginla said.

"If the NHL wants to send us a message, do it over the phone or the fax, computer, whatever you want. Not the way this went down. Why bring the fans into it?

"How many people got excited?"


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