An NHL team owner requesting anonymity said that, barring a major, unforeseen turnaround, he expects the league to announce either later Thursday or
Friday it is canceling the 2004-05 season, EJ Hradek of ESPN the Magazine has learned.
This comes just one day after the NHL players' association rejected the league's latest salary-cap proposal. However, the union did invite
commissioner Gary Gettman and players' association chief Bob Goodenow back to the table Thursday after the leaders sat out the previous five sessions
over a two-week span. The meeting in New York began around 1:30 p.m. and was still in progress five hours later.
If the season in canceled, the NHL would be the first North American sports league to lose an entire season to a labor dispute. The Stanley Cup has
been awarded every year since 1919, when a flu epidemic wiped out the final series between Montreal and Seattle.
Players turned down the NHL's offer on Wednesday, sticking to their vow that they will never accept a salary cap.
The main sticking point remains the league's commitment to getting cost certainty and the players' association's vows never to accept a salary cap.
The union flatly turned down the somewhat flexible cap -- which the league termed a "floating team payroll range" -- formally proposed by the league
The 4½-month lockout reached its 141st day Thursday, and it has forced the cancellation of 772 of the 1,230 regular-season games, plus the All-Star
Neither side expressed optimism Wednesday that the philosophical differences could be bridged, but Bettman and Goodenow were needed in the room before
any deal could possibly be reached.
The NHL proposed a six-year deal that contained a cap that would force teams to spend at least $32 million on player costs but no more than $42
million -- including benefits. The union needed only a few hours to turn it down.
There were other components to the offer, such as a profit-sharing plan, reduced age for unrestricted free agency, a raise of the minimum salary, and
the continued conclusion of guaranteed contracts, but the issue has always been about a salary cap.
Bettman has said that teams lost a total of more than $1.8 billion over 10 years and that management will not agree to a deal without a defined
relationship between revenue and salaries.
Last season's average salary was $1.8 million, and the NHL wants to push that back with a salary cap. The latest offer would give players between 53
and 55 percent of league revenues.
An economic study commissioned by the NHL found that players got 75 percent of revenues, but the union has challenged many of the league's
The NHL has been operating under the same collective bargaining agreement since 1995, when the last lockout went 103 days before a 48-game season was
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.