- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Seen and heard last night at Air Canada Centre in Toronto:

OUT AGAIN: Peter Bondra missed his second game in a row because of back spasms. These are the first two games of the season the left wing has missed.
"No change there," coach Bruce Cassidy said after the morning skate. Bondra did not take part, a clear indication he would not play.
"I just think later in the practice it caught up to him and it didn't respond well this morning," Cassidy said of Bondra's performance during practice Monday, where the wing sped around the rink like the Bondra of old.
"He chose not to go out [yesterday]," Cassidy said. "He told us he wasn't ready to go, so hopefully it'll be ready [today]. With a back, you don't know. I don't ask a lot of questions; it's something that came up out of the blue. It's up to the medical staff and him. When he's ready, he goes in. In the meantime, we live without him."
GAP A WIDE ONE: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has been touring league cities, pausing at each to send not-so-subtle messages to the NHL Players Association that the stakes are widening coming up to contract negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement, due to go into effect in two years.
Bettman is now being quoted as saying he has been given a mandate by the league's governors to go after a hard salary cap and has the unanimous support of all 30 owners not to budge until one is obtained.
Bettman never uses the words "salary cap." Instead, he always substitutes the phrase "cost certainty" to ensure league teams "can be economically stable and competitive where they are currently located."
The New York Post said the cap figure being targeted is $32million. Only 10 of the league's 30 teams have salaries now that would fit under that cap. With that figure in mind, the New York Rangers would have to trim $37.2million off their payroll of more than $69million. The Caps would have to make cuts totaling about $18million.
Players dumped by teams for being too expensive to fit under the cap would become available in a dispersal draft, according to the Post.
Bettman's figure is probably a bargaining chip to be thrown onto the table, but he has been promising "cost certainty" measures almost since the day the old agreement was reached in January 1995.
Bettman has been quoted as saying the owners are in complete agreement that players would be locked out until the governors' goals are reached. Most observers fear that a work stoppage of at least a season will result.
Dave Fay



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