Just call him The Disappointed One.
With NHL players and owners set to meet again later this week, an exasperated Wayne Gretzky -- aka The Great One -- fears both sides have regressed back to the drawing board.
"It seems like they are starting at square one," Gretzky told The Associated Press yesterday.
"If you expect these guys to come out with a deal tomorrow, that's not going to happen. I hope it does, but it's going to be tough," he said.
Gretzky, a managing partner with the Phoenix Coyotes, knows all too well the effects of the lockout. His Coyotes laid off six full-time employees earlier this week.
The normally even-tempered Gretzky has been outspoken on a number of topics in the past few days.
- On replacement players: "My honest opinion is I don't like it. They're not the Sundins or the Leetches of the world ... The commissioner has to do what he thinks is best to get the game back on the map and get it going. We're only one of 30 teams, we'll follow suit."
- On participating in future negotiations: "I'm a phone call away. But at this point in time there is no plan for me."
- On NHLers participating at the 2006 Olympics: "Once we do get a deal done, after missing a full year, do you want to really shut down your league for 16 days to go over to the Olympic Games?"
- On the WHA: "Guys are talking about starting the World Hockey Association again," Gretzky told the Chicago Tribune. "That's the same WHA with the $10-million salary cap? But they don't want one in the NHL? Boggles my mind."