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Same old, same old...
Take it or leave it
7/11/05 - by Ken Smyth

You'd think that after about 300 days of lockout, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Executive Director Bob Goodenow should be worried about keeping their jobs. Better qualified specimens can be found at Mel Cotton's in cartons marked "Live Bait". Still the owners and players are standing behind their leadership, (using them as human shields, perhaps?) oblivious to the fact that entire US population of diehard NHL fans can now comfortably fit into a minivan. This blindly loyal behavior is not restricted to humans, there's a story on Yahoo about 450 sheep being killed by following their leader off a cliff.

So nothing changes. Same old, same old. Once again there's a story that the NHL and the Players Association are within a few days of an agreement, once again it's denied. It's the equivalent of Groundhog Day, only when it ends here we don't wake up with Andie McDowell. Just Goodenow and Bettman in our bed and we'll definitely burn those sheets and take a shower with Lysol and an SOS pad, hoping to God that there's nothing that can't be cured with penicillin or Nits.

Whatever either side thought they could gain by hanging tough in the negotiations, the strategy backfired. The players will be taking a big hit on salaries, and the owners' will find that even with that salary cut, cap and a tie to revenues that they will still be losing money. It should've been easy to see that ESPN would be dropping the contract once the Stanley Cup Playoffs were cancelled: playoff ratings are the whole reason they put up with airing games during the regular season.

You can argue that that wasn't much money in the overall scheme of things, but it was exposure. Now it will take a few years of filled arenas for a long-term NHL contract to be more attractive to a network than NCAA chess, even that timetable could get screwed up if the chess boys start getting caught with guns and banned substances (I believe that would be women) and their ratings go through the roof.

I was hoping there would be a break, I was even hoping that the WHA-will rise-again rumors would be amount to something, though those had as much chance as a hard way-five bet in Vegas. (If the shooter does roll a hard-way five, you've obviously had too much liquor or a bad Lasics operation). Right now the important thing is to get the NHL moving under its own power in some form as soon as possible, before it's towed.

It's my belief that the NHL owners will put out a take-it-or-leave-it-we-mean-it-this-time offer out there soon and announce an end to the lockout. If the NHLPA doesn't accept then the teams will start a 2005-06 season with replacement players and however many veterans break with their union. There could be a lot more than you'd think. Expect also that a lot of marginal European players will go home and stay there if they feel that the money in North America is no longer worth the wear and tear of the long schedule, physical play and small rinks.

There will be rule changes like touch-up off-sides, no touch icing and removal of the center line off-sides. Maybe even a shoot-out after overtime. Some purists may sneer, but they probably did that when they dropped the sixth skater and put nets, instead of sticks, behind the goalie. But it will be hockey and it will start in October; if for no other reason than to keep Sidney Crosby from playing in Europe in a sweater that looks like a NASCAR uniform. If this lockout makes referees actually call interference like they did back in the 70's I'd almost say that losing a season was worth it.

Trophies for the 2004-05 season.

There were no games on the ice, just off. They were pretty pitiful as these union/management disputes go, I mean nobody got pistol whipped or called a lying c***sucker, except Bettman during his weekly Thursday appointment with Mistress Domina. Anyway, we still need to polish up the hardware and pass it around, though this year the dinner will be take-out:

1) Hart Trophy (MVP)- Sidney Crosby of the QMJHL Rimouski Oceanic. Simple arithmetic. Big draw + relatively cheap + unsullied by this whole mess = Most Valuable Player

2) Art Ross Trophy (Scoring)- Jeremy Roenick, Philadelphia Flyers. If you don't like the deal the players get, stay home. JR is known for sticking a size 15 skate into his mouth at frequent intervals, but he is exactly correct in detailing what the customers' rights are in a free market system.

3) Lester Patrick Trophy (service to hockey in the US) Lou Lamoriello, New Jersey Devils President/GM. Yes its been about a year and a half since the New Jersey Nets were sold and Lou stepped down as their CEO and President , but look at the excitement (yawn) of the NBA Finals this year! Classic Devils hockey now invades the NBA, meaning that if the NHL ever does get some sort of act together there may be some TV time left. A second one of these trophies for Lou.

4) Norris Trophy (best defenseman)- Dale Tallon, Chicago Blackhawks GM- Former Blackhawk defenseman Dale take over as GM in June and immediately fires coach Brian Sutter, replacing him with another former Blackhawk defenseman Trent Yawney. This stifles any immediate threat to the continued decline of the 'Hawks and ensures plenty of empty seats in the United Center. Message here from Blackhawks VP Bob Pulford is that it's fine to bring in fresh blood to the organization, just be sure that they don't spill it anyplace you can't wipe off. Not only that, Brian Sutter's blood had a little too much St. Louis Blue in it for Pulford to handle.

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