Two days of talks prove to be futile

Friday, January 21, 2005

After two days of negotiations, the NHL and the players' association appeared no closer to a deal that could save the hockey season.

Representatives from the league and union met for 4 1/2 hours Thursday in Toronto, the second straight day the sides held discussions in an attempt to end the four-month lockout.

The sides also held a five-hour meeting in Chicago on Wednesday, but they remained divided on the idea of cost certainty, a concept the players' association says is an unacceptable salary cap.

As was the case on Wednesday, there were breaks in the negotiations so each group could huddle separately.

"We've had two good days of communication," said Bill Daly, the NHL's chief legal officer. "But we still have very strong philosophical differences.

"I can't say we're any closer."

Following the two-day session, the only thing the sides appeared to agree on was that they are still far apart.

"We clearly have some strong differences of opinion that we've had for some time," said Ted Saskin, the players' association senior director. "We continue to look for ways to bridge the gaps. We have not been successful in doing so.

"We have no current future meetings scheduled, but the lines of communications continue to be open."

More than half of the regular season -- 671 of 1,230 games through Thursday -- has been wiped out so far, plus the All-Star game.

This latest setback again pushes to the forefront the possibility that there will be no hockey played this season.

"We all know time is not an ally," Saskin said.

If the season is wiped out, the Stanley Cup wouldn't be awarded for the first time since 1919, when a flu epidemic canceled the final series between Seattle and Montreal. The NHL would then become the first major North American sports league to lose an entire season because of a labor dispute.

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