A day that started with optimism that the NHL and NHL Players' Association were making headway toward ending the lockout finished in complete dejection.
In less than an hour, the NHL rejected three union proposals that Commissioner Gary Bettman said were simply variations of earlier offers and didn't begin to approach the 50-50 split in revenues the NHL proposed Tuesday.
"I am to say the least thoroughly disappointed," Bettman said with Wild owner Craig Leipold standing behind him. "We are nowhere close. ... We gave it our best shot."
Donald Fehr, the NHLPA executive director, said the union issued three proposals -- one that gets to 50-50 immediately as long as current contracts are honored.
Sidney Crosby, one of 18 players in the room, said Bettman, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly and four owners, including Leipold, dismissed the proposals in 10 minutes.
"Something is not right there," the Wild's Zach Parise said. "It's confusing. All these owners, maybe this was their plan the whole time, to sign all these guys to these big contracts knowing full well they're not going to pay the value of them. To me, that doesn't sound like good-faith negotiating, yet they keep preaching it."
Parise said he was talking about the flood of long-term deals inked hours before last month's lockout and not "singling out" Leipold, who signed Parise and Ryan Suter each to 13-year, $98 million contracts July 4 and already has paid them $10 million signing bonuses each.
"You have all these owners signing big deals minutes before the CBA expires and then going the next day, 'We don't want to pay these contracts,' " Parise said. "Maybe that's how they conduct business. That just doesn't seem right. What if us players signed a deal and said, 'You know what, I actually want 15 percent more?' "
Scores of players, including the Wild's Devin Setoguchi, took to Twitter to criticize owners for turning down a 50-50 offer as long as contracts are honored. However, according to a league source, that third proposal was only described, not written, and not painted as 50-50. Fehr admitted he didn't run the numbers.
In a statement, Daly said, "The so-called 50-50 deal ... is being misrepresented. It is not a 50-50 deal. It is, most likely a 56- to 57-percent deal in Year 1 and never gets to 50 percent during the proposed five-year term of the agreement.
"The proposal contemplates paying the players approximately $650 million outside of the players' share. ... The union told us that they had not yet 'run the numbers.' We did."
Also, according to a source, the union's first two proposals call for owners to pay players 55.5 percent in Year 1, or more than $1.9 billion. Last season, players received $1.883 billion. Fehr said the first two proposals get to 50-50 by Year 3 and 5, respectively, although the league source disagreed.
Bettman said the two sides were speaking different languages, took a "step backward" Thursday and the next step will be canceling games and signature events, like the Winter Classic, if the sides can't close the gulf.
"I'm obviously very discouraged," Bettman said.
Said Fehr, "Today is not a good day. It should have been, but it's not."
Bettman had said if a deal can be reached by Oct. 25, training camp could start Oct. 26 and a full 82-game season could begin Nov. 2. Now, that seems unlikely.
"It just sounds like Tuesday's proposal was a publicity stunt to get everybody on their side," Parise said.
Asked what the players' end game is, Parise said, "You want to do what's right for every other player in the long run and for players that are going to be in the league after we're done as well. You do have to sacrifice things.
"Trust me, we all would love to be playing right now. It's not fair to the fans right now what is happening. But you have to fight for what's right."