Lockout lookin' good

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:10 AM ET

The way you hear some people talking, you'd think we're being hit by Hurricane Ivan. Board up the windows and load up on bottled water, because the Mother of all Lockouts is upon us!

Well, I don't know about you, but I found Day 1 of the NHL shutdown rather pleasant.

Granted, it's still only September, and Don Cherry hasn't even begun pressing his ties yet. But even when the eye of the storm hits next month, and games are canceled, is it really going to cause anybody around here to lose any sleep?

If anything, local fans should be bringing in the shutdown with a toast of their beer steins, because we're going to see better hockey as a result, and how's that for a nifty bit of irony?

ALLOCATING

NHL teams spent yesterday allocating players to the American Hockey League, and some of the names on the list make you sit up in your Lazy-Boy, not to mention check your Manitoba Moose schedule.

For example, goaltender Dominik Hasek, the Ottawa Senators big off-season catch, will begin the year with the Binghamton Senators, who'll grace the new rink in early December.

Of course, by then Hasek will probably have pulled a groin again or have decided a couple weeks of conditioning is preparation enough for a winter of lounging by the TV.

So you can't count on seeing The Dominator, live, in all his sprawling glory.

But odds are Sens forward Jason Spezza will make an appearance, along with Edmonton Oilers forward Jarret Stoll and Steve Ott of Dallas.

Not thrilled, yet?

Maybe human wrecking ball Jordin Tootoo of the Nashville Predators, assigned to the Milwaukee Admirals, will give you a reason to actually go out to a game this winter.

Tootoo is the pint-sized forward from Nunavut who beat the odds by sticking in the NHL his rookie year. Two months from how, we'll be peeling his AHL opponents from the boards at Portage and Hargrave.

"We want him to play," Preds head coach Barry Trotz said from Nashville. "He did have some success last year, but in more of a limited role, as part of our energy line. He's used to playing at a very high level and playing a lot.

"My goal is to play him more. But he has to earn it."

If you watched the Brandon Wheat Kings the last few years, you know you'll get your money's worth watching Tootoo throw his weight around.

His teammate, defenceman Dan Hamhuis (seven goals, 26 points as a rookie) has also joined Milwaukee.

At the other end of the age scale, there's a report that Detroit Red Wings defenceman Chris Chelios is considering joining the AHL's Wolves, which would give Moose fans one more reason to hate that team.

And don't be surprised if Winnipeg native and 16-year NHLer Mike Keane, who played for Vancouver last season, signs a free-agent deal with the hometown team.

"I have to play somewhere," Keane told The Sun the other day. "I can't sit out even four, five, six months. The Moose (are an option), if there's a spot available."

Is there a spot available? For a local guy who's won three Stanley Cups?

Is the weather getting annoying?

"Mike's name has come up," Moose owner Mark Chipman said. "He's the logical one."

Chipman is just as excited about the good, young players who'll be in the AHL this season.

People like blue-liner Jay Bouwmeester, sent down by Florida, fresh off his World Cup win.

"It's just going to make our league that much better and more competitive," Chipman said.

As for that other league, well, it's about to get exactly what it deserves.

So order another round, and let's all drink to the perfect storm.


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