SUN Hockey Pool

'We did our part'

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:47 AM ET

Anger. Frustration. Disappointment.

Emotions ran the gamut yesterday for players in the wake of Gary Bettman's announcement the 2004-05 NHL season had been cancelled, but there was a common thread in reaction to the news.

To a man, Edmonton Oilers' players insisted the NHLPA did its best to negotiate in good faith -- offering a 24% rollback in salaries and putting a salary cap on the table as bargaining reached the 11th hour - to strike an agreement and save the season.

They say they did their part.

"I thought they did everything in their power to not only save the season, but the future of the game," said Ryan Smyth. "You've got to give the committee credit. They did an excellent job.

"It's frustrating, no question. We all have a passion to play the game and we love the game. It's an unfortunate thing, but we just didn't have a partner to dance with."

With Bettman and owners insisting the NHL's economic framework had to change to ensure 30 viable franchises, players say they moved as much as they could - even if most of the movement on both sides didn't come until the final 48 hours before the deadline.

"Absolutely," said player rep and captain Jason Smith. "I thought with our proposal with the cap and the rollback, there was a chance to get a deal done. We weren't being way out of bounds."

December's offer of a rollback - which, for example, would've cut Smyth's 2004-05 salary of $3.55 million by almost $900,000 - was rejected. With the deadline looming, the NHLPA put forward a salary cap of $52 million after months of insisting a cap was a deal-killer. Their final offer of a $49-million cap wasn't enough.

"I firmly believe we threw a lot out there," said Eric Brewer. "For them to say we've run out of time and that there's nothing we can do further at 11 p.m. (Tuesday) night is a little ridiculous. It's obvious they haven't really been engaged in the talks as forthright as we have. That's the way we feel about it. We backed off a lot of things. They wanted a salary cap, they got that."

Many players were taken by surprise by the decision to put a cap on the table - even with owners coming off linkage to revenues.

"I was shocked," said former Oiler Todd Marchant. "As a group, we prepared like we weren't going to accept a cap, we weren't going to negotiate a cap.

"It came out they were willing to come off linkage, so we were willing to discuss it. I found it kind of odd ... after you read through things and look at the whole proposal, you look for the positives."

So, if now was the best time to get a deal and the sides couldn't make the numbers work, where does it go from here? "I don't think there's any way to predict or project where we'll end up," said Smith. "I don't think you can guess what's going to happen until we're back at the table and working on it."


Videos

Photos