Talks termed 'charade' or 'side step' yield little
By wire services
Published September 3, 2004
Three days of meetings between the NHL and the players' association failed to bring the sides closer to a new labor agreement that would prevent a lockout from being imposed in less than two weeks.
The sides talked for about 20 hours over three days in Montreal and finished this latest round of discussions Thursday. All that appeared to be accomplished was the completion of an assessment of the business and management operations of each of the 30 clubs.
The NHLPA called these discussions that began two weeks earlier in New Jersey a "side step" in the negotiations. The NHL labeled it a "charade" and said the players were stalling to force owners to lock them out once the collective-bargaining agreement expires Sept. 15.
"We continue to be somewhat dubious as to where they're going with it, but they made assurances to us that it was for the purpose of furthering the negotiation," said Bill Daly, the NHL's chief legal officer and executive vice president. "While they didn't commit to making a proposal, I would suggest we expect one since they suggested this discussion was for a purpose."
But the NHLPA contends owners will listen only to a proposal that includes a salary cap, a solution the players refuse to offer or accept. The players have been reluctant to offer a new deal it feels has no chance of being received favorably.
"They are still only interested in negotiating a cap system, which provides us with no reason for optimism and no basis for any real progress," NHLPA senior director Ted Saskin said.
For now, the sides are negotiating while partners in the World Cup of Hockey that began this week. The championship is Sept. 14 - the eve of a potential lockout date - in Toronto. Both parties expect to get together next week. Toronto and St. Paul, Minn., are likely destinations because World Cup games are there.
If there is a lockout, it could prove worse than the one that lasted 103 days and cut the 1994-95 season nearly in half. Owners have been preparing for that possibility the last several years and have built a $300-million war chest.
Lightning signs a defenseman
The Lightning signed defenseman Marc Busenburg, who is expected to play for the club's minor-league affiliate in Springfield of the American Hockey League.
Busenburg, 26, spent last season with Hershey of the AHL, where he was fourth in the league with a plus-24. He had two goals and seven assists in 64 games.
PENGUINS: Right wing Tomas Surovy was re-signed to a multiyear contract. Surovy set career highs last season with 11 goals, 12 assists and 23 points in 47 games for the Penguins after spending the first half of the season with the team's AHL affiliate.
Times staff writer Tom Jones contributed to this report.