Tuesday, February 15, 2005

BIG NEWS: BOTH SIDES FINALLY STARTING TO CRACK

Here's what happened. Both sides met in Niagara Falls in top secret, again- no Bettman and no Goodenow. They met for several hours and broke up past 10PM. They reported no progress. But here's what's now leaked out: I got this information from WFAN ( that's right, the Americans who all supposedly don't care about this story are reporting this).

AP is reporting that for the first time the owners have moved off of linkage to team revenues as a part of the deal, while maintaining a "cap" of 40 million.

In response to this "unprecedented" move the players made a counterproposal of their own: they agreed for the first time to something they said they would never accept: a cap...

... of 52 million dollars.

The owners turned it down.

So talks broke down over money! No new talks are scheduled for Tuesday. Yeah, right. They said the same thing yesterday, and they still met.

WFAN is now saying the philosophical differences between the two sides may have finally been resolved. If they do meet again, they may well start negotiating over money. But they said on WFAN that this looks like the NHL getting greedy. Maybe they thought the players were cracking and caving in.

It looks to me that the chances of resolving this thing have improved, dramatically. But the cap figure remains a stumbling block. I agree with the guys at WFAN that this labour dispute may well now boil down to the issue of money and we could see a cap come in at 46-47-48 million. And we'll get a hockey season. But we could have some concerned fans in Edmonton with a cap figure like that. This doesn't exactly completely level the playing field, does it?

If the press conference was a ploy, it seemed to have the desired effect to get things jumpstarted. I have a suspicion these discussions aren't over. But I'll say right now I'm an optimist. As long as this silliness keeps going, you can't throw the towel in on hockey.

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