Is it time to sing?

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:27 AM ET

How will we know when it's over? When Trevor Linden joins ERC Ingolstadt in the German Elite League?

When Sportsnet sends Nick Kypreos home?

When Mark Messier puts his equipment up for auction on eBay?

When Theo Fleury and the Horse Lake Thunder are awarded the Stanley Cup?

When officepools.com declares bankruptcy?

When Canada changes our national sport to something crazy like lacrosse?

When Georges Laraque arrives at your front door offering to shovel the walk for $10?

When the next Don Cherry Rock 'Em-Sock 'Em Hockey comes out featuring nothing but fender-benders on Wayne Gretzky Drive?

When Paul Lorieau shows up for Canadian Idol auditions?

When Canada announces the Team Canada lineup for the World Hockey Championships in May in Austria?

When the Road Runners announce season-ticket packages are available for next season?

How will we know?

When two consecutive days go by without watching that clip of Gary Bettman and Bob Goodenow sitting in the stands together, laughing and eating Nachos?

For me, personally, the time to officially call it an end was the other day when a Toronto-based national newspaper managed to get the big scoop out of Edmonton ownership group chairman Cal Nichols saying that the Oilers would cease to exist without a salary cap and the Edmonton Otherpaper made it a front-page story.

Nichols has been saying the same thing, word for word, day in and day out, for four years.

Until then, I was quite proud of the Edmonton media for not getting the Toronto disease of soap-opera coverage of the ups and downs and ins and outs of a story which has had no ups and down or ins and outs.

I think most Edmonton-area fans have gone through this non-season knowing it was over before it began. I personally put myself down for no NHL hockey for two Christmases in a Day 1 (Sept. 15) column.

My take is that Heartland Of Hockey fans haven't missed the game that much.

They've missed the culture of the game - the hockey pools, water-cooler discussions, etc - but the actual neutral-zone trap, obstruction interference, 30-team NHL hockey? Not so much.

For those still scoring, 727 of the season's 1,230 games have already been scrapped.

I think it was Oilers' player rep Steve Staios's signing with Lulea HF in Sweden which meant that more than half (362) of the 730 NHL players are now playing in Europe. Maybe when it hits 400 it's over.

Maybe the last one left is supposed to turn off the lights. And while he's at it, announce that the season is toast.

But seriously, does Gary Bettman call a big press conference next week and proudly announce that the NHL will become the first of the four major professional sports in North America to not play a single game of a season from start to finish?

Being that it's Super Bowl week, will this appear in "Sports Shorts" in most newspapers in the U.S.A.? Is that Bettman's game plan? Then again, if he announced "game on" would it also probably appear in the same spot?

Or - and I'm really beginning to wonder about this - will there be no official announcement at all? Are we going to be left to sort of figure it out on our own?

Lemme see. The least number of games they could play is 28. (Come to think of it, I'd rather watch that season than the 82-game one).

You'd need at least two weeks to get all the players back from Europe, hold a bit of a training camp. Not to mention, do the contract work.

Let's work it out. Starting Monday. (Wouldn't want these guys to waste their weekend).

Figuring 14 days to lawyer a deal, get all the players back, hold a bit of training camp and add 56 days of schedule (playing every second night) ...

That would take us to April 10.

Last year's playoffs started on April 7.

When do we know when it's over?

Maybe it's up to us. Maybe it's not over until the fat columnist sings.

"Hey, hey, Paula ...

Goodnight sweetheart ...

Happy trails to you ..."


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