Bob Goodenow, the executive director of the NHL Players' Assn., portrayed his union as united and blamed NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman for the 7-week-old lockout after a meeting with player representatives from 30 teams Tuesday.
Goodenow said, however, that the meeting would not result in a new proposal from the union.
"We're not pleased there is a lockout, we're not pleased the players are not playing, but the league has taken this course," Goodenow said.
"You would have to ask Gary what the league is going to do to get hockey back to the fans."
No talks are planned, both sides seemingly entrenched on the key issue -- Bettman and the owners want "cost certainty," which the union perceives as a salary cap.
Bettman said in a television interview Monday that the season could "slip away."
Goodenow responded to that Tuesday, saying that the players were prepared for that eventuality.
"We hope there will be a season," Goodenow said. "Once the season is canceled, the process will move forward to next summer or fall, when the next season comes up.
"If Gary makes history and cancels the season, we'll move on to the next point."
Union leaders said the meeting with player representatives had been scheduled a month ago, but some players have said recently that they wanted more negotiation.
Ottawa's Rob Ray said over the weekend that not only would he play if the NHL used replacement players, but that he knew "about 10 players who would be ahead of me."
Montreal's Pierre Dagenais questioned the situation in a radio interview, saying, "guys have started to talk in the last three weeks.
"It could open Bob Goodenow's eyes. I'd be curious to see it, if they took a poll of the players on a salary cap. They may be surprised to see how many players in my situation would vote in favor of a cap."
Dagenais attended the meeting Tuesday and left wearing a NHLPA baseball cap, telling reporters, "I said what I said last week, but it was nice to come here and learn a lot about the issues."
Goodenow said that the players remained united.
"There is absolutely no crack, no divisiveness," he said. "We have heard a couple players, younger players. We have 700 players [in the union] and you will never get 700 people to agree on everything.
"There is frustration on the part of some players, who have said that it would be nice if we were meeting. They understand that Gary has said he is not going to compromise on this, so this is where we'll be until Gary wants to talk."
Goodenow also said that if the lockout canceled this season, he hoped the league would not attempt to use replacement players next season.
He said that it would be up to each player to decide whether to play, but that "I wouldn't look kindly on players doing that."