Hicks: '100 percent' of owners want cost certainty

Updated: February 12, 2005, 6:26 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Mario Lemieux is optimistic part of the season can be saved. Dallas Stars owner Tom Hicks is not.

Lemieux, himself an owner, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he hasn't given up hope, despite many signs pointing to the season's cancellation.

"I think they'll figure out a way to make a deal," he told the Post-Gazette. "It would be devastating not to play this season, for everybody involved. The fans and the game in general. The business, especially. A lot of people are going to get hurt.

"A lot of people are talking. A lot of the players are starting to get together. Hopefully, they can come to a solution before it's too late. ... It's a long shot, but, if you look at the future of the game and how much it's going to affect the business, I don't see the future being any brighter for everybody involved six months from now or a year from now. It's only going to get worse," he said.

Lemieux insisted he does not have access to inside information from other owners. He simply feels both sides will realize they risk long-term damage to the industry if the season is cancelled.

Officials throughout the league, including in Lemieux's own team, don't share Super Mario's optimism. Penguins president Ken Sawyer, who spoke publicly Friday for the first time since the lockout began, believes the season will be cancelled and points to the league lifting the gag order on team officials as evidence.

"I don't know why, other than the fact it appears we're at the end," Sawyer told the Post-Gazette. "I'm not saying we're there until I hear it from Gary Bettman, that the season is over. Until then, I'll remain hopeful that the players will make some move. But ... if you had to play odds on this, you'd say the season is over."

Stars owner Hicks, also speaking publicly for the first time, told The Dallas Morning News on Friday that he has spoken with commissioner Gary Bettman every day for the last three weeks, and until recently he remained optimistic a deal could get done.

"The players have turned down the best offer they're ever going to get," Hicks told the newspaper. "I can say that with absolute certainty."

Hicks said that "100 percent" of the owners are committed to getting a system with some sort of cost certainty, regardless of how long it takes. He said the league won't resume playing "unless it's under a system that works."

Lemieux and Sawyer said they aren't worried big-market teams will pressure Bettman to work out an agreement that won't provide cost certainty to small-market clubs.

"We've been active in 30 different markets, and we have fans in all those markets," Sawyer told the Post-Gazette. "I don't see any reason why we would be anywhere else but wanting to have a 30-team league. It gives us a great footprint across North America.

"We're a league of 30 teams, so everybody has a voice and right, and we need to get this working in all 30 markets," he said.

In separate interviews with the Canadian cable network The Score, players' association senior director Ted Saskin and NHL chief legal officer Bill Daly said they are willing to talk about the possibility of a salary cap without linkage to revenues. Saskin said the union has not dismissed the idea of a cap without linkage, and Daly responded by saying he welcomed negotiations on that issue.

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