Hard to believe this lockout is happening

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 6:47 AM ET

NEW YORK -- Congratulations to Gary Bettman, Bob Goodenow and all the multi-millionaires both of you represent. You have officially graduated from sad and frustrating. You are now pathetic and disgusting.

How could you let this happen?

How could you allow Sept. 15 come and go without reaching some sort of workable arrangement?

To the rest of the world's population that gives a damn, it's gut-turning incomprehensible.

The everlasting image some of us can't shake from our memories is the TV clip featuring a couple of cheery spectators at a hockey game last season.

There they were, Bettman the league commissioner and Goodenow the head of the NHLPA, sharing a laugh and what looked to be a pizza.

It'd be a surprise if it didn't put pizzerias out of business everywhere.

Us simple working stiffs can't imagine how hard it would be to split up billions of dollars in way that would keep all of you and all of yours very, very comfortable.

Most confusing, though, is why you didn't lock yourselves in a room until you came to an agreement.

The salary cap issue was an immovable brick wall? Hire somebody to knock it down. Somewhere on this planet, those people exist. You should have recognized the urgency in finding them -- or hired somebody who could hire somebody who could.

BLEW IT

Bettman and Goodenow blew it. And they should both be relieved of their duties immediately. They had a deadline they couldn't meet, and the consequences will cost those they work for dearly.

Lost will be money, possibly franchises and jobs, and many, many fans, too. A firing offence if ever there was one. Earlier this week, a columnist in a Nashville daily, The Tennessean, took a light-hearted look at the NHL's player-owner dispute.

He wrote 38 ways hockey fans can amuse themselves this winter without their favourite game to watch. It was probably quite humorous to his American audience. After all, the NFL and college football seasons have started up. Baseball has a couple of very interesting pennant races heating up, and the post-season is just around the corner.

But our friends south of the border really have no clue what hockey means to Canadians.

To us, there is nothing even remotely funny about an NHL shutdown.

It's a good thing we still have alternatives. The Ottawa 67's. The Gatineau Olympiques. The CJHL. Our kids.

In truth, I always found the Ottawa West Golden Knights more fun to watch than the Senators, anyway. Other parents with children in minor hockey are nodding their agreement.

But I also love watching the NHL. I love going to the games. I love writing about them. I love hockey pools. I love a Hockey Night in Canada doubleheader. I love the Centre Ice package that brings almost 100% of all games played into your house for a couple of hundred dollars. That's like heaven to those of us who remember getting only Saturday night games on TV.

And I really don't want to imagine a winter without the NHL.

That is why -- as great as the World Cup was -- I found it impossible to really get into.

Because I, like everyone else, knew this day was on the horizon. And I couldn't handle the tease when I knew the heartbreak that would come with Sept. 15.

FELT SICK

Frankly, I felt sick every time I looked at the players.

Of course, it's not all their fault. The owners don't have to offer the $10-million contracts. Let the stars who demand such a salary go elsewhere to find it.

But the players must remember that they are employees who get paid yearly more than most of us will make in a lifetime. That crap about doing a disservice to those who will follow them by accepting an average salary of $1.3 million is old and tiring, especially to those who can't afford tickets now, with the average wage at $1.7 million. Choosing between them, I'm with the stuffed shirts I'd rather never ever talk to -- the Big Shots who take the financial risks that are part of owning an NHL team -- over players, the vast majority of whom are great, down to earth guys. But the bottom line is, yesterday both sides officially became one.

One pathetic and disgusting group that no longer deserves us.

don.brennan@ott.sunpub.com


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