Sat, Jan 22, 2005 - Page 20 News List

Players and league have 'philosophical differences' in NY


After two days of negotiations, the NHL and the players' association appeared no closer to a deal that could save the North American ice hockey season.

Representatives from both sides met for 4 1/2 hours on Thursday in Toronto, the second straight day the sides held discussions in an attempt to end the four-month lockout.

The sides also held a five-hour meeting in Chicago on Wednesday, but they remained divided on the idea of cost certainty, a concept the players' association says is an unacceptable salary cap.

"We've had two good days of communication," Bill Daly, the NHL's chief legal officer said. "But we still have very strong philosophical differences. I can't say we're any closer."

Daly said the two-day session was "the best dynamic to date in this process," but the only thing the sides appeared to agree on was that they are still far apart.

"We clearly have some strong differences of opinion," said Ted Saskin, the players' association's senior director.

Talks are expected to resume at some point, but no meeting has been scheduled.

More than half of the regular season -- 671 of 1,230 games through Thursday -- had been wiped out so far, plus the All-Star game.

This latest setback again pushes to the forefront the possibility that there will be no hockey played this season.

"We all know time is not an ally," Saskin said. "Our lines of communication are open."

If the season is wiped out, the Stanley Cup wouldn't be awarded for the first time since 1919, when a flu epidemic canceled the final series between Seattle and Montreal. The NHL would then become the first major North American sports league to lose an entire season because of a labor dispute.

There was hope that progress could be made this time without the presence of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and union chief Bob Goodenow, who were kept out of the meeting in an attempt to have discussions without acrimony that has built up between the two leaders.

This two-day meeting marked just the third time the league and players' association held face-to-face talks since the lockout was imposed on Sept. 15.

Peter Forsberg may miss the rest of the Swedish Elite League season after injuring his wrist while playing for his native club Modo on Thursday, Swedish media reported.

Forsberg left the game in the third period of Modo's 3-2 overtime loss against Linkoping, after a collision with Linkoping player Johan Franzen. According to tabloid Aftonbladet, X-rays showed a possible bone fracture in the wrist, and the 2003 NHL MVP underwent immediate surgery at the hospital.

"In the best-case scenario, he'll be on the injured list for eight weeks," team doctor Kim Thorsen told the paper.

"But if it really is a fracture, the whole season is probably lost."

The injury ruined a festive homecoming for Vancouver Canucks sniper Markus Naslund, who played his first game for Modo since 1993, joining 13 other current or former NHL players on the team.

Naslund, who scored 164 goals in the last four NHL seasons -- the most in the league -- received a standing ovation from the home crowd but went scoreless during his first game since the World Cup last September.

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