Melnyk not satisfied

Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk.

Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk.

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 1:48 PM ET

Thanks, but no thanks. That was the strong message delivered by Senators owner Eugene Melnyk yesterday when asked whether a 24% pay cut offered by the NHL Players' Association will be enough to help end the current lockout.

"It's not a solution," said Melnyk. "It's a one-shot deal that doesn't work."

In Ottawa for the official opening of the Bell Sensplex, Melnyk said he's still hopeful the season can be saved. But he's told NHL commissioner Gary Bettman he doesn't think the deal offered by the players is good enough.

Though Melnyk's is only one voice on the NHL's board of governors, it's believed most of the other 29 owners feel the same way. That casts a large shadow of doubt over tomorrow's meeting between the two sides in Toronto.

It also means a salary cap could be part of tomorrow's counter-proposal delivered by Bettman and VP Bill Daly to NHLPA boss Bob Goodenow and the union's executive committee. If that's the case, there's a good chance the season could be dead.

"Although the 24% rollback is something that we look at seriously, it's not a permanent solution to the problems," said Melnyk, who bought the Senators out of bankruptcy.

"The most important thing is to fix the system. What we don't want to do is end up back in the same situation three, four or five years from now. What happened to this team and in this community in the last three years is devastating. We can't let it happen again.

"There is one solution and that's what is being proposed by commissioner Bettman. If we follow that track, we will have hockey that is here to stay."

Melnyk, who has been in constant contact with Bettman, said what's promising is that the players recognize there is a problem.

"The 24% rollback recognizes the financial aspect of the game is crushed," said Melnyk. "We need to start somewhere. That's a start."

To keep himself busy on Saturday nights, Melnyk has been watching DVDs of the 1972 Canada-Russia Summit Series.

"I have watched the Canada-Russia series three times. It's actually really amazing," he said. "I've been watching football. What else are you going to do?

HURTING GAME

"(Saturday) night, it actually really hit me. I hadn't been back in Canada when it was cold and snowy and then I started thinking, it's very unnatural to not be watching hockey on a Saturday night. Obviously (this is) not (good for the game). People are finding other things to do on Saturday night."

But Melnyk said he'll absorb the losses associated with a cancelled season -- believed to be $8-10 million -- to get the right deal

"Better to deal with that today than continue for years, and years, and have the whole franchise in jeopardy," said Melnyk.

"The owners are very united as to where we stand on the issues. We are all very aware of the problems we have and, as far as the owners are concerned, they know the issues and they know how to solve it and we're just hoping it can get solved fairly quickly."

bruce.garrioch@ott.sunpub.com


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