Lockout end is in the stars

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:28 AM ET

Call me crazy -- and judging by my e-mail, many of you already do -- but I am one of the eight people left in this hemisphere who thinks there is going to be a 2004-05 NHL season in some form.

It will be a slimmed down season brought to you by Jenny Craig (think of Kirstie Alley meets Calista Flockhart), but it will pass for an NHL season and there will be a Stanley Cup parade somewhere in August.

It will end in the parking lot of the victorious team's rink and the players will simply tiptoe across the melting ashphalt, go inside for medicals and the start of next year's training camp.

I base my optimism on the fact the Dallas Stars are beginning to align.

Check the signs:

You've got an NHL owner (Peter Karmanos, Jr.) saying his "gut feeling is that this season is gone."

This is same fella whose gut told him NHL hockey would work in Carolina and we all know how well that has turned out. Whatever Karmanos' gut is saying, I'm inclined to believe the opposite.

"I know personally that I'd be willing to risk another season," added Karmanos. "I'm enough of a hockey fan to realize that once we got it straightened out, the fans would come back."

Come back? That assumes they were there to start with, right, Pete?

When it comes to hockey, the attention span of the people in Raleigh is about as long as it takes Dale, Jr., to get four fresh tires and a full tank of gas.

SPARKED BINGE

It is also interesting that Karmanos is willing to go so far to wipe out next season, too, which is big of him when you consider he played a not insignificant role in the NHL finding itself in its current place between a lock (out) and a hard place.

He is one of only three owners to offer a restricted free agent an offer sheet, fuelling the salary spiral. In 1998, he made Red Wings free agent Sergei Fedorov $38 million richer (over six years) when Wings owner Mike Ilitch matched Karmanos' offer rather than let Fedorov go to his arch-Motown rival.

So, I'm less likely to listen to Karmanos' gut, than, say, Mike Modano's wallet.

The Dallas Stars' star made what have to be considered the most truthful comments by a player so far when he told the National Post that if this season is wiped out, "it's going to be tough to come back in October and say we're going to be tough and stand firm. You are going to have guys who are saying, 'what are we doing?' You're going to have guys chomping at the bit to get a deal done."

At that point, of course, the owners will be in an even stronger position. They won't care about losing part of next season after having wiped this one out and could have the option of using replacement players at that point.

If Modano is right, then the time for the players to get the best deal they can get is now.

RETRACTION COMING

Of course, you can expect a retraction of some sort from Modano once the NHL Players' Association's Ministry of Truth gets through with him.

After two hours of a naked light bulb and being hypnotized with Ted Saskin's decoder ring, Modano will issue a clarification which will amend his comment to include "...to get a deal done that doesn't include satisfying the owners' satanic lust for a salary cap. That's what I meant to say."

Not that Modano is one of the most sympathetic figures in this tragedy. He is the guy who, when told he could make $400 a game playing in some North American leagues, replied: "That wouldn't pay for my dog's food for a month."

That's not as bad as Patrick Ewing's statement during the NBA lockout that "we make a lot of money, but we spend a lot of money, too," but it's in the same upscale area code.

Karmanos' gut.

Modano's wallet.

They're talking.

Now it's just a matter of time.


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