Friday, February 18, 2005

NHL: BACK FROM THE DEAD

Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux are going to be part of those meetings tomorrow in New York to try and put the deal in place to rescue the season. Word is there's a tentative deal with an agreement to a salary cap in the range of 45 million. And from all accounts it looks like there's no way this will get derailed. They're going to sit there until they get a deal done. The outrage over the cancellation of the season and the nuttiness of the whole negotiation process finally got to these guys. I think. They could still end up blowing it all tomorrow, but I doubt it. I think the season's going to get un-cancelled.

Seems if this season and this sport is to rise like a phoenix from the ashes, it makes sense that the man from Phoenix ( the Coyotes ) is involved in the resurrection. Hey, they didn't call this Armageddon for nothing. Mel Gibson ought to do a movie on this.

I think in the end both sides realized that cancelling the season was going to do absolutely nothing for them. The majority of the owners realized they were going to see their TV deal with ESPN go up in smoke in short order if they continued this nonsense. I give the folks at ESPN some credit for helping resurrect the season, if it comes about. By announcing they were thinking of junking NHL games, I'm sure they got the owners absolutely scared. Losing their cable network TV deal would have KILLED the NHL. (Imagine, if both ESPN and the CBC announced earlier this year they were both going to junk NHL games, the season could have started up a long time ago.)

And the owners of the richer franchises realized that the lockout was doing nothing for them anyway, so they went and sandbagged the Nashville Predators and the Edmonton Oilers and they're going back to the table. I don't know what the Edmonton Oilers, those big hawks, are going to make of this deal. I'll bet they are going to feel as if they got hosed. But that's life.

Also, from what I've read on the Hockey News website and listening to WGR, Gary Bettman's drop-dead press conference was an attempt to trip up Bob Goodenow and his usual deadline pressure tactics. And it worked. The union members caved when they realized their own union bosses had sandbagged them and agreed to the salary cap. To which the union members said: "I thought we were fighting to prevent a salary cap! I thought it was solidarity forever! And here we are agreeing to a cap!" And that's when the union members caved and said, that's it, we're through fighting this labour war.

Looks to me like a big, big win for the owners- most of them. We'll see what deal comes forth tomorrow.

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