News does not surprise Leafs

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:09 AM ET

Unless he plans on venturing into the odd mosh pit at an upcoming concert or two, Bryan McCabe's appearances at the Air Canada Centre could be few and far between. McCabe, the Maple Leafs player rep and a noted rock and roll zealot, doubts he and his teammates will be stepping onto the ice surface at their home arena any time soon during a season that seems all but lost.

Minutes after participating in a conference call involving the NHLPA executive and the 30 player reps, McCabe was on the phone with a number of his teammates last night. Whether it was to Darcy Tucker in Toronto, Wade Belak in England or Karel Pilar in the Czech Republic, the message was clear.

"I just filled them in and told them the situation was pretty bleak," McCabe said. "No one was surprised but they were disappointed. There really is no where to go from here.

"I think the league set out from the beginning to lose this season, and now they are on pace to do it. We did everything to have hockey return, and they didn't budge.We may have to lose the season on their behalf."

While the union offered a 24% across-the-board rollback of salaries, the league countered with a scale that would result in a 35% cut for Mats Sundin, Ed Belfour and other players earning $5 million US or more.

Under the NHL's formula, Sundin's salary would shrivel from $8 million to $5.2 million in 2004-05. The NHLPA's format, on the other hand, would result in a $6.080 million ticket for the Leafs captain.

'GIVE, GIVE, GIVE'

"Usually in negotiations both sides concede," McCabe said. "Here it seems we give, give, give, and get nothing back. It's pretty sad there won't be hockey this year because of it.

"I believe (commissioner) Gary Bettman was planning all along not to have any hockey this year."

McCabe, who recently returned from a less-than-memorable stint with HV-71 of the Swedish elite league, doubts he'll go back after Christmas or in the new year.

"Right now I'm just enjoying the holidays at home with my wife," he said. "We'll see what life brings after that."

Meanwhile officials with Maple Leafs Sports &Entertainment Ltd. publicly are behind Bettman's decision to reject the union's proposal even if it puts the season in jeopardy.

"Our support of the commissioner and the other 29 owners is steady and solid," MLSEL president Richard Peddie said.

Given the Raptors home-heavy schedule, a slew of upcoming concert dates at the ACC, and negotiations to turn Lakeshore Lions Arena into a new state-of-the-art training facility for the Leafs, the MLSEL staff remains quite busy these days.

The corporation last week responded by scuttling a planned 25% pay cut for full-time staff that was to have kicked in on Jan. 15.

"I remain hopeful the right deal can get done," Leafs general manager John Ferguson said last night. "Nothing I heard (yesterday) changes that position."


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