With the top bargainers for each side in a figurative penalty box yesterday, the NHL and the National Hockey League Players' Association...
NEW YORK — With the top bargainers for each side in a figurative penalty box yesterday, the NHL and the National Hockey League Players’ Association tried to negotiate a settlement to the seasonlong lockout and save the remainder of the 2004-05 schedule and the Stanley Cup playoffs.
But talks broke off after more than six hours in a Manhattan hotel, and it appeared that the season — canceled by commissioner Gary Bettman on Wednesday — had lost any chance of being revived.
“I know that today was not good,” said Trevor Linden of the Vancouver Canucks, the president of the union.
Bill Daly, executive vice president of the NHL, said in a written statement, “There remain significant differences that need to be discussed and resolved by the parties.
“No new proposals were made by either side.”
Ted Saskin, senior director for the union, said, “It’s certain that the season will not be resurrected. I can’t see anything worse than what they put on the table today.”
Both sides indicated afterward that the critical issue of a salary cap was barely discussed and that there were no compromises between the league’s proposed ceiling of $42.5 million a team each season and the union’s proposal of a $49 million cap, with a few exceptions to go higher.
Yesterday’s talks ended three days of frantic chatter that alternated between optimism and pessimism. Bettman and Bob Goodenow, the union’s executive director, were nearby when discussions were held at the St. Regis Hotel in Manhattan, but they did not sit at the conference table.
Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux, Hall of Fame players, entered the talks at the union’s request, although Lemieux is both a player and part-owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins, and Gretzky, retired as a player, is a managing partner of the Phoenix Coyotes.
In an interview with Canadian network TSN, Gretzky said, “As silly as it sounds, I thought the talks were pretty positive. Unfortunately, we just couldn’t come to an understanding.”
Bettman and Goodenow have denied this stalemate — the first in which an entire season of a major sport in North America has been canceled because of a labor dispute — is the result of a personality conflict between them.
Linden, referring to optimistic reports before the meeting, said, “There was a misconception that the two sides were close. That partly came from the side of ownership and some of the general managers, the fans and the media.
“It was crystal clear from our standpoint that we weren’t close, and it was evident today.”
Gretzky, asked what was next for the league, said, “We don’t know, that’s what’s alarming.”