Report: NHL board to meet March 1

Updated: February 22, 2005, 11:08 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

Three days after the NHL and NHLPA got together in a last-ditch attempt to save the season, things have turned nasty.

Commissioner Gary Bettman made some disparaging comments about the players' association Monday afternoon on WFAN Radio in New York and said that the union didn't offer any new proposals or ideas during the weekend meeting. NHLPA executive director Bob Goodenow released a statement Monday night refuting Bettman's claims.

"There was never a suggestion by the NHLPA that we were making an offer," Goodenow said. "Our presence in New York only occurred because of the League's request to meet."

Wayne Gretzky, managing partner of the Phoenix Coyotes, told the New York Post that he and Mario Lemieux, player-owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins, expected a new PA proposal but the two sides never talked about a hard cap number.

"… I took Trevor and Vincent aside and asked how they thought we could bridge the gap between $42.5M and [the PA's last proposal of] $49M to make it work," Gretzky told the paper, referring to PA president Trevor Linden and VP Vincent Damphousse. "They told me they weren't prepared to talk about a hard cap number until the other issues like arbitration, qualifiers and entry level were done.

"That's when I told them that I didn't have a role in that at all, that I wasn't there for that. And that's kind of the way it went. There never was real discussion about the cap number."

The two sides met for 6½ hours Saturday in New York before talks broke down, leaving the already canceled season beyond hope.

"As for Gary's comments that we came to New York with the purpose of conducting a media campaign, that's just erroneous and the facts prove this to be the case," he said.

Goodenow said the players addressed the media Saturday in a room at the St. Regis Hotel that the league had originally reserved for their own press conference.

"The room was left vacant when the League attendees slipped out of the hotel after they decided not to address the media after the conclusion of the meeting they called," Goodenow said.

"It is unfortunate that Gary Bettman would publicly engage in this type of false characterization of events that he himself set in motion last Thursday."

Also Monday, Canada's TSN reported the NHL board of governors will meet March 1 in New York City to discuss its next step in trying to resolve the labor dispute.

The NHLPA also plans to meet in the next month but president Trevor Linden admits he isn't sure what will happen there.

"It's uncharted territories, where we go from here I don't think anyone is quite sure," Linden said.

The league and Bettman would prefer a deal be in place by May, which would not only allow sufficient time to save the NHL entry draft -- held every year in late June -- but also give teams and the league plenty of opportunity to reach out to fans and corporate sponsors and market new rules meant to open up the game.

The players' timeline could be a little different. They aren't due a paycheck until next October.

"I'm not sure that I would sense that sense of urgency," NHLPA senior director Ted Saskin told TSN when asked about the league's wish to settle before the draft.

Last Wednesday, Bettman canceled the season, saying it was too late to play any semblance of a schedule. That made the NHL the first major North American sports league to lose a full season to a labor dispute.

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