The NHL's lockout of its players continues into its third day today, with the league and the NHL Players Association planning to resume talks tomorrow, but with few players apparently believing any good news will emerge soon.
After a 90-minute meeting among Washington Capitals players yesterday that included a discussion of the issues, the union's position and a letter sent by commissioner Gary Bettman to all players detailing the standoff, several Capitals left for distant homes while others made plans for recreational and family activities.
Capitals general manager David Poile has said the team's training facility at Piney Orchard Ice Rink in Odenton was to be open for practice at 10:30 a.m. today, but Caps defenseman Sylvain Cote said no players will be there.
"We're all in good shape and ready to play," said Cote. "They obviously don't want us to skate. If they did, we'd be playing. So, no one will be skating during the next two weeks here and probably nowhere else around the league."
Bettman has set Oct. 15 as the next deadline for reaching a collective bargaining agreement. Bettman said a full season could be played if an agreement were reached by that date. After that, he said, the situation would be reviewed daily.
Talks between Bettman and union head Bob Goodenow likely will be in New York at an undetermined time tomorrow. Negotiations broke off Wednesday.
Bettman's letter to the players, designed to clarify the current state of the league, was met with disbelief.
"He starts out telling us how great everything is -- with the Sun Belt teams doing great, with the new television contracts, last year's playoffs and the rapid growth of merchandising revenue -- and then he tells us how teams are losing money," said Don Beaupre, the Capitals' goalie and player representative.
"It doesn't make any sense. They say they're losing money, and what was the news? That the New York Islanders signed [rookie] Brett Lindros to a five-year, $5.7 million contract, and the Islanders are supposed to be one of the teams losing money."
Goodenow says there are "wide differences" between the two sides.
Listening to the Capitals yesterday, they seemed very wide.
"The outlook is so bleak, it's scary," said defenseman Jim Johnson. "There doesn't look like much common ground. It's going to take a lot of hammering out."