Brad Richards still has dire worries

New York Rangers forward Brad Richards, who was due to make $12 million this season prior to the lockout, says he's "scared for the game" and isn't getting his hopes up despite the involvement of a federal mediator in the labor dispute between the NHL and NHLPA.

"We're scared for the game," Richards said Tuesday in New York. "That's the biggest thing. Where is the game going to be if this keeps going?"

Richards played in a charity game Saturday in Atlantic City, N.J., and said that mirrored the collective feeling among other players.

The NHL rejected the NHLPA's most recent proposal Wednesday, causing many to fear the entire season could be lost . The league was forced to forfeit the 2004-05 season because of labor strife, as well.

With the league and union at a stalemate once again as the lockout has stretched into its 10th week, both sides agreed Monday to employ the use of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services to resolve the situation. The first session is slated to take place Wednesday at an undisclosed location.

But Richards is skeptical that progress can be forged through a neutral third party, given the league's bargaining stance since imposing the work stoppage Sept. 16.

"I'm not too optimistic about it," Richards said at the launch for his partnership with the UNTUCKit clothing line. "There has to be a negotiation. There hasn't been yet."

The league initially offered to give the players a 43 percent revenue share (last year they received 57 percent) but has since agreed to a 50-50 split in subsequent proposals. Beyond the division of revenue, the two sides remain divided on other issues, such as player contracting rights, as well.

"That's the biggest crock I've ever heard of," Richards said of the league's concessions. "I still don't know what they think a negotiation is. None of us really do."

"Right now, (the league's offer) is take-it-or-leave-it and it's a deal that makes no sense for the future of the league, so we're trying to figure out a way to get some momentum and get it so it's good for both sides, not just one side."

Richards said the union's membership has discussed the possibility of decertification -- an option that a source told ESPNNewYork.com might still be exercised -- but still needs to learn more about the potential ramifications.

Decertification, a process initiated by both the NFLPA and NBPA in both of their respective labor disputes, would dissolve the union and allow players to file an anti-trust suit against the league.

"It's been discussed, but there are so many details that we as players have to learn about. That takes time," Richards said. "Just because it's a popular word right now, it doesn't mean we're absolutely doing it."