2005-01-28 / Sports

The NHL Season Is Dead! Wait Till Next Year Hockey Fans

By Joe McDonald Sports Columnist

By Joe McDonald
Sports Columnist

Gary Bettman has a lot of work ahead of him in bringing the NHL back from the abyss. (AFP/Getty Images/File/Stephen Chernin)
Gary Bettman has a lot of work ahead of him in bringing the NHL back from the abyss. (AFP/Getty Images/File/Stephen Chernin) Let’s raise a glass and drink a toast to the death of the NHL’s 2004-2005 season.

Let’s drink to Messrs. Gary Bettman and Bob Goodenow, since their arrogance and unwillingness to compromise has brought us to this point.

And let’s tip our caps to all the members of the Players Union and owners, who sat by and watch their leadership bring the sport to the point of no return. Any season started now would be considered a sham.

The two sides had a very long time to settle this dispute and they have done nothing. The Players Union didn’t even come to the table until mid-December with any sort of proposal and the owners flat out rejected it.

Now we are seeing Bettman and Goodenow sit back and their underlings are in negotiations. This is nice press and makes it look like something is getting done, but even if these meeting come out with some sort of proposal, the commissioner and union chief will need to approve any agreement. If they don’t come down from their hard stance, nothing will be approved, since Bettman wants a salary cap and Goodenow does not.

Let’s say they do come to an agreement, how much credibility will the 2005 season have? If they can come up with a schedule to play 40 games, can anyone really consider that a real season? And what of the eventual Stanley Cup Champion? Will they be considered a true victor or will there be an asterisk next to their name in the record books.

The NHL needs to consider the 2004 - 2005 season a wash and make sure next season is uninterrupted. They first need to get better leadership on both sides and have them sit down and hammer out a deal that both sides can live with but neither side loves.

They also need to put aside their negotiating tactics and continue to talk. There is a general belief that when the season is canceled, so will the labor talks, since the union will have no need to sit down until next season is in jeopardy. Neither side can allow this to happen. The sport will survive a loss of one season, but it may not come back with ’05-’06 being delayed.

Add to that the bigger mess of the draft. With Sidney Crosby - who has been compared to Wayne Gretzky - eligible for the draft, the league will need a fair pecking order. And with no season, who will get the first round pick? If you make it a lottery and one of the bigger teams, like Toronto, Detroit or the Rangers get the pick, would it be fair to the rest of the league? The league needs to come up with something now, so when the draft comes in June, no one will have a problem.

The sides need to sit down and end this war. This season is a failure, but there is still plenty of time to hammer out a deal and not have next year’s start delayed.

The only way is to have the sides Bettman and Goodenow represent stand up and want a deal to be made. If that means removing the commissioner and union chef, fine. But don’t throw away any future this league has because of petty squabbling and tactical delays.

Get a deal done by June and then we can raise a glass then to the future of the NHL.

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