Season 'Crossed out

NLL commissioner Jim Jennings vows the league will come back in 2009 after scrapping the upcoming...

NLL commissioner Jim Jennings vows the league will come back in 2009 after scrapping the upcoming season. (Sun File/Perry Mah)

IAN BUSBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:51 AM ET

The National Lacrosse League played its hand yesterday and cancelled the upcoming season, but the players' union doesn't seem to be buying the story.

The 2008 campaign is gone as far as the Calgary Roughnecks management is concerned because a new collective bargaining agreement couldn't be reached by a Monday night deadline.

"They didn't take our deadline seriously and didn't take us seriously," said Roughnecks owner Brad Banister.

"They had some people look at our books, and they know we're not making money. There are some teams making money, but not everyone."

Roughnecks player rep Kaleb Toth said the union is waiting to continue negotiating because they submitted a counter-proposal in rejecting the league's offers.

"I'm heartbroken to be honest with you," said Toth, who held a meeting of Calgary-based players last night. Calls to other Riggers for comment weren't returned.

"This is the worst decision the National Lacrosse League has ever made. I just hope it doesn't affect us long-term and that we can resurrect the season. I hope we can get something done before January and go from there. I don't understand how they can do this."

The league vows to come back in 2009, but the future of the Roughnecks could be in doubt.

The team will likely close its doors for a year unless a 13th-hour deal can be done.

Banister vowed to do all he could to make sure the Roughnecks return when the league re-opens for business.

"Seven years in this business is like 14 in any other," said the only owner in franchise history. "I don't give up on things. Our office doesn't want to quit. We will strive to be better, put more people in the seats next time. We're not giving up. There's always hope."

Roughnecks GM Kurt Silcott was equally optimistic.

"I think the league can survive -- our product is entertaining," said Silcott. "It will hurt. I hope we can survive. We're working on a business model to see if there's a way to keep ourselves going."

According to the NLL, it's too late for this season, which was set to begin in late December.

Silcott, who was on the league's negotiating committee, said a deal needed to be done before marketing plans could be put in place and season tickets could be sold in good faith. Instead, the league has ordered teams to release arena bookings, which would make it extremely difficult to un-cancel the season.

"To try to start this thing up again on a moment's notice is an impossibility," said commissioner Jim Jennings.

The league asked to begin negotiationing with the union back in December, but it wasn't until recently the PLPA came to the table.

In the previous two rounds of negotiations, there was a 12-day player strike in 2003 and a last-minute settlement on a 2004 renewal.

The main dividing point between the sides is money. Silcott said the union is looking for no salary restrictions, unrestricted free agency and lower age qualification for becoming a UFA.

The league offered a 3% pay increase in a five-year deal.

The average salary last season was about $14,500, while the maximum for veterans was $21,294 and franchise players (no more than two per team) were paid $25,552.

"Their offer was pretty much in right field, and ours' was in left field," Silcott said. They were asking for ... things that would have killed this league anyway.

"I thought ours' was a deal a lot of players would be happy to play under. Ultimately, their leaders make the decisions for the players. A lot of players didn't get to hear the deal we put on the table."


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