A candid Tie Domi has a blunt message for Gary Bettman and Bob Goodenow.
"Get together now before it's too late!" the veteran Maple Leafs forward said yesterday, urging the NHL commissioner and the head of the players' association to finally step out of the shadows and up to the plate before the 2004-05 season is officially flushed away.
"Bob and Gary are our leaders and they owe it to the 730 players, the 30 owners, the countless number of fans and the hundreds of thousands of people who are affected by this, to give it one last shot. If the season is cancelled without one last shot or without their best efforts, there will be serious consequences for both parties and the sport."
Domi is worried about the future of hockey, especially given the indifference of many fans toward the lockout.
"When dog shows and poker are receiving higher ratings (than hockey had) on ESPN, there is legitimate reason to be concerned," he said.
"This has nothing to do with who's right and who's wrong. This is about the game. And for two guys to have control of this situation and not talk, it doesn't sit well.
"It's not like the clock is ticking any more. We're at midnight right now. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out this is a crucial time for all parties involved."
Unfortunately, Domi's plea might be falling on deaf ears.
In an e-mail message yesterday afternoon, NHL executive vice-president Bill Daly said he "anticipated that something will be scheduled for later this week." Yet later in the day, Daly seemed less optimistic, wondering why he had not heard from the union.
The answer is simple. The players were not impressed during a pair of meetings last week, claiming the owners continue to insist on cost certainty -- meaning a salary cap.
"Bill knows that the concepts they discussed with us on Thursday would not form the basis for an agreement, so he should not be surprised that he hasn't heard from us. We were very clear on Thursday that we would not be negotiating over his proposed concepts," Ted Saskin, NHLPA senior director, said in a statement.
Maybe not. But Domi was quick to point out that Bettman and Goodenow were not part of any recent face-to-face talks.
"We know there is a lot of bad blood right now, but we can't let egos get in the way of the game," said Domi, one of the more business-savvy Leafs. "We need to work together to help the game grow.
"The owners and players both want a successful NHL and that starts with a partnership. But before you can have that, you need trust and there isn't a lot of that right now. We need to fix that.
"One side wants a cap, one doesn't. It's up to (Bob and Gary) to be creative and find compromise."
Domi has seen little of that from the league.
The union, he noted, offered a 24% across-the-board rollback in salaries. The league, meanwhile, has conceded little.
"The bottom line is, the fans don't want to hear our issues. They don't want to hear who's right and who's wrong. They just want entertaining hockey back."