The National Hockey League and the NHL Players Association broke off talks yesterday in Toronto aimed at ending the lockout and beating a weekend deadline to save the season.
The sides met the last two days in an attempt to bridge the gap between the owners' demand for cost certainty, which would tie revenues to player salaries, and the union's vehement opposition to a salary cap.
"I can tell you unequivocally and without a doubt that we are done," NHL chief legal officer Bill Daly told the Associated Press last night.
"Without a change in position by the union, the season will be canceled," Daly said. "There will be no further contact with the union before the season is canceled unless they reach out to us."
Daly said he doesn't even know why the union asked the league's representatives to continue meeting, calling yesterday's get-together a waste of time.
"We didn't cover any new ground [yesterday]," said Daly. "I don't understand what their agenda was. I just know we didn't make any progress."
No new meetings are scheduled.
"We're kind of out of tricks," said Daly. "We've made every effort to try to get something done with the Players Association. We've made three consecutive proposals without counterproposals from the [NHLPA] and we don't have anything left at this point. It's disappointing.
"We went into this process hoping we'd come to an agreement with the [union] that would be fair for the players and that would provide a system that would work for the long-term benefit of the clubs, the players, and, most importantly, our fans. To date, we haven't been able to achieve that objective and that's very disappointing. We have made three consecutive proposals -- Dec. 14, Feb. 2, and then again [Wednesday]. There is no creativity left on this side in terms of trying to get a deal done. If the [union] were to call us and want to meet with us . . . we'd make ourselves available. But there's nothing left on our side."
Daly said commissioner Gary Bettman will make an announcement regarding the status of the season after the weekend. Barring a last-minute change in positions by the sides, the rest of the season will be shelved.
Daly said the NHL has consulted mediators throughout the process, particularly in the United States, in an effort to find common ground. NHLPA senior director Ted Saskin said all the league has been doing is repackaging the same proposal. The one thing both sides agree on is that they are far apart. "It was effectively a reproposal of the triple [salary] cap proposal we had already turned down on two prior occasions," said Saskin. "It had the thinly disguised veil, really a [public relations] gimmick, of suggesting they would accept parts of our Dec. 9 framework until such time as one of any four triggers that they had stipulated would be set off, at which point in time it would convert to their triple cap proposal, which, as I said, we already turned down twice before. We made it clear that wasn't a basis for any progress."
The longer the lockout lasts, the NHL said, the chances are future proposals put forth by the league will offer less to the players because of the adverse effects of losing a season.
"We really extended ourselves over the last little while to try to come closer to where they were," said Daly. "Whether we'll be able to maintain that position, I would frankly doubt it in terms of extending ourselves because of the level of business damage that's been done."