Time for league to 'kick the tires'

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:20 AM ET

Good morning and welcome to Day 128 of the NHL lockout, or, as I like to refer to it, Gary and Bob's Marathon of Dopes.

Now it gets interesting, huh?

Both NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA honcho Bob Goodenow have been told to continue to sit in the corner while the rest of the kids try to play nice.

At the request of NHLPA president Trevor Linden, they have broken up into small groups and are continuing to talk among themselves which is nothing but good news.

On the heels of their talk in Chicago on Wednesday, they talked for another 41/2 hours yesterday and when they broke out of their meetings in Toronto, NHL VP Bill Daly termed the talks "the best dynamic to date in this process."

Now, before you get too excited, the talks before Wednesday had pretty much amounted to Bettman and Goodenow throwing verbal spitballs at each other, so the leap from there to "the best dynamic to date" is not exactly Evel Knievel jumping the Snake River Canyon.

WHO PLAYS FOR COYOTES?

That did not, of course, stop the rumours from flying, the best being that the Phoenix Coyotes had alerted their players to be ready to get back on the ice within a week. A good, juicy rumour, no doubt, but it completely ignored the fact that just about everybody -- some members of Coyotes management included -- would be hard-pressed to tell you who plays for the Coyotes now, never mind track them down (where is Jason Chimera these days, anyway?)

"I have not spoken to any members of our roster for two months," said Coyotes GM Mike Barnett. "I don't even know where a third of our roster is."

There was also a similar rumour in Anaheim, where, if nothing else, rumours of an impending end to the lockout should have started speculation Sergei Fedorov and his brother, the inspirationally named Fedor, might have to be stopped from making music videos with Russian girl bands like RU ("America's answer to Russian Viagra!" according to Pravda, though something appears to be have been lost in the translation) and actually get back to playing hockey.

Fedor has apparently since been encouraged by somebody to make a four-track demo (you can check the songs out at fedorovbrothers.com for no other reason than to hear Fedor try to rhyme "not" with "slut").

That's enough reason to end the lockout right there.

SIX-YEAR DEAL

Colleague Bruce Garrioch reported in yesterday's Sun one of the possibilities apparently put on the table by the players is a six-year deal that would be salary-cap free for the first three.

If it didn't achieve the goals the owners want for cost certainty, then a salary cap would kick in for the final three years of the deal. That sounds entirely too reasonable.

If nothing else, by offering that kind of deal, the players are making it easier to understand the owners' motives in continuing this lockout. If the owners want nothing more than cost certainty, then the players' latest rumoured offer sounds like a logical step.

Kick the tires. Drive it off the lot. See what the mileage is like.

But if the owners' goal is not just to have cost certainty, but to break the union, as has been rumoured, then nothing short of complete capitulation on the part of the players is going to be acceptable.

That's not negotiating.

The players have been doing all the giving lately. It's time for the owners to bend.

Anyway, here is my plea: Trevor, Bill, if for no other reason than to keep a Fedorov off the airwaves, end this lockout now. Thank you.


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