McCabe rips Bettman

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:11 AM ET

A candid Bryan McCabe ripped into NHL commissioner Gary Bettman yesterday, just hours after the league announced that a board of governors meeting will take place Jan. 14.

While NHL officials would not reveal the agenda for that conference, many observers, including McCabe, feel the season might officially be cancelled at that time.

Would that come as a surprise? Not to McCabe and his fellow union brethren.

"Do they really need a meeting?" McCabe, the Maple Leafs player rep, said last night. "I mean, Gary's been poised to throw away (this) season for the past five years.

"I think he's known this was going to happen for a long time now."

Chris Chelios and Manny Legace are among the players who have pointed accusing fingers at Bettman the past several months, claiming the commissioner -- and not the owners en masse -- has been the key stumbling block in efforts to establish a new collective bargaining agreement.

Now you can add McCabe to that growing list.

"I 100% concur with that," McCabe said. "Just look at the situation in Toronto. We have great ownership there. I feel privileged just to be able to play in Toronto.

"Listen, Gary's the guy running the ship and he knows nothing about hockey. He's a basketball guy. If he bumped into me on the street, he wouldn't know me. You could probably say that if he bumped into 95% of the league.

"It's been his plan all along to break the union. It's a sad, sad day."

There was speculation in hockey circles yesterday that the league was preparing to table another offer by Dec. 31, although NHL officials understandably refused comment.

Either way, NHL Players' Association VP Bill Guerin said the union is not planning another move after the league rejected the players' recent proposal, one that included a 24% across-the-board rollback of salaries.

"It's apparent with (the NHL's) last offer what they're after: They're trying to divide the union by making the highest paid guys take cuts. We'll see what happens," Guerin told Sun Media yesterday from Dallas.

"I really think we were strong as a union before they turned down our last offer and we may be even stronger now. I know certain guys spoke out about not being happy and that's fine. That gave us a chance to see where some guys were at. I know that we're going to remain strong as a union to fight through this."

The NHL salvaged a 48-game season when the previous lockout ended on Jan. 11, 1995. Should this labour dispute drag deep into next month, it likely would be too late to save the season.

Maybe it already is.

Larry Tanenbaum, Richard Peddie and John Ferguson will represent Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment at the governors meeting, which will be held in New York. Keep in mind that Bettman does not need an official vote from the board in order to cancel the season.

"We haven't had a (governor's) meeting since September but we've been in touch with the league on almost a daily basis," Peddie, the president of MLSEL, said. "Gary has done an excellent job of keeping the Toronto Maple Leafs informed about what is going on."


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