TORONTO - There was no simply no way for Sidney Crosby to hide his disappointment.
Just one week after telling The Canadian Press he was confident a deal could be struck that would save the NHL season, the Pittsburgh Penguins captain acknowledged Thursday that he was going to start looking closer at what options might be available for him in Europe.
"A little harder, yeah," said Crosby. "I think that's something that everyone's got to figure out. You try to figure out where things stand and I don't think they're in a great spot right now."
Crosby was one of 18 players to attend a bargaining session that saw the NHL Players' Association table three proposals. The league quickly dismissed each of them.
It came on the heels of an offer from the league that would see revenues split 50-50 and have a full 82-game season start on Nov. 2. Crosby left Toronto feeling less certain that any NHL hockey would be played at all this year.
"Today wasn't really a step in the right direction if that's what we're trying to do," he said.
The labour impasse comes at a time when Crosby is as healthy as he's been in a long time. Severely hindered by concussion-related problems the last two seasons, he's symptom-free now and anxious to get back to playing meaningful games.
Despite the obvious insurance issues he'd have to contend with before heading to Europe, it's looking more likely he'll have to join the roughly 150 other locked-out NHLers abroad to resume playing.
A nagging concern for the NHL's most recognizable player is his belief that the league isn't committed to negotiating a fair contract.
"When you look at the offers, it's pretty clear," said Crosby. "I don't know if their willingness to negotiate has really shown through their offers. They've been kind of hard-line offers, take it or leave it."
Crosby entered the NHL following the lockout that claimed the entire 2004-05 season and played a big role in the success the league enjoyed afterwards. Despite the bad feelings that have crept into CBA negotiations, he doesn't expect that it will dampen his enthusiasm to help the NHL grow the game once the work stoppage comes to an end.
"Hopefully, we're not at that point yet," said Crosby. "You have to separate those things. It is a business at the end of the day. That's the darker side of things and nobody likes dealing with this.
"It's not good for anyone, that's the bottom line."