Tucker says it's toast

Darcy Tucker from the Maple Leafs after a practice at the Corel Center.  (SUN File Photo/Tony...

Darcy Tucker from the Maple Leafs after a practice at the Corel Center. (SUN File Photo/Tony Caldwell)

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 11:38 AM ET

According to Darcy Tucker's lockout clock, midnight has come and gone for a hockey season. "It's 1 a.m., to me," the Maple Leafs forward said yesterday as the National Hockey League prepares the official death notice for some time next week. "I really thought this was over three weeks ago when the time to have a proper season passed."

Commissioner Gary Bettman said the cancellation of the season was inevitable if no serious collective bargaining was under way with the Players' Association by today and tomorrow.

Nothing concrete is happening, except for an interesting exchange last night in separate TV interviews on The Score between the No. 2 men on each side. League senior vice-president Bill Daly said he was receptive to discussing a salary cap without linkage to league revenues, which he said came up last summer with the union and become "a hot topic" of late among those on the periphery of the talks. But he claimed the damage done in terms of lost millions of dollars since the lockout began in September makes that idea harder sell today.

"I'm inviting that conversation if it's something they're interested in," Daly said. "But the time to for that was four, five or six months ago."

Daly's talk of separation of cap and revenues took union senior director Ted Saskin by surprise, but not enough to hop a plane to meet Daly in New York.

"It's always been presented to us as one concept," Saskin told the network. "We're not interested in negotiating any arbitrary cap. If he has other ideas he would like to present, he should present them to us through proper channels."

But even if the linkage question is the long sought -after middle ground, it likely won't be applied until later in 2005 or '06. Both Saskin and Daly said neither side had plans to get in touch this weekend and both expect the season to pass away.

"It looks bleak at best," Leafs general manager John Ferguson said.

Questioned Thursday on the actual process for mothballing the league -- the first time since 1919 the Stanley Cup would not be awarded -- Daly said much of that sad duty had already begun.

"A lot of those legal mechanics are things that our clubs have really been dealing with since Day 1, since our first missed game this season," he said.

"Obviously, they have relationships with sponsors, business partners and season-ticket holders. I don't think the nature of managing those relationships changes that much upon cancellation."

Tucker says he and his union allies are not going to fold at the last second, holding on for a free market system.

"We've known a long time this day would come," Tucker said. "We've taken a stance and we believe in it, all 700 of us."


Videos

Photos