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NHL No contract guaranteed for '05-06



Published: Fri, February 18, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Despite late movement to save season, sides are back to square one for next season.

NEW YORK (AP) -- Day 155 of the NHL lockout was stunningly Day 1 of the off-season.

In becoming the first major sports league in North America to lose an entire season to a labor dispute on Wednesday, the NHL finally got the national attention it's always craved.

But it was for all the wrong reasons.

Now the fear is the fight over a new deal between owners and players will just start over from scratch. Everything offered has been pulled back, any softening of the positions has been lost.

One canceled season could easily become two if cooler heads don't prevail.

"I was expecting to hear there wasn't a season for the past six weeks," Rangers forward Bobby Holik said. "I hope the people in these negotiations realize they're not that far apart. Let's not blame one or the other. The blame is collective, and let's get working on a new day."

Breakthrough clarified gap

There was no progress made through the first five months of the lockout, but breakthroughs were achieved just days before the season was lost.

The dispute has always been about a salary cap, but even after owners and players made concessions in an effort to reach a deal that would save the season, it all fell apart over dollar figures.

"We didn't make good history, but we made history another way," Dallas forward Bill Guerin, a member of the players' association executive committee, said Thursday. "We have to be the first union to offer a salary cap and get shot down."

All along, the players' association swore it would never accept a cap -- but that was before the NHL dropped its insistence on having a link between league revenues and player costs.

A wall was knocked down, but it was too late. Once the sides started trading numbers, it became clear they weren't close enough to a deal. Even though the league's cap offer of $42.5 million per team was only $6.5 million less than the players' proposal, it proved to be a gap that couldn't be bridged.

"It's crazy," said Islanders general manager Mike Milbury, a union representative during his career. "Twenty years ago when I played, we didn't have in the dressing room catalogs of 'Christie's Great Estates of the World.' I mean, these are wealthy people, millionaires, and they are losing valuable time."

Network will wait

The NHL's partnership with NBC will still be there when play resumes. The revenue-sharing deal in which the network is not even paying rights fees is for two years, with the network holding the option for another two.

That won't start until hockey is played.

"We were prepared for any eventuality," NBC Sports spokesman Mike McCarley said. "We have profitable replacement programming in place."




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