Final faceoff

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:41 AM ET

Dear Gary and Bob,

So nice you guys could find the time to meet today.

Not sure if anyone's told you but in the month and a half in which you've avoided one another, the game has taken a bigger beating than Barry Bonds.

The good news is by depriving hockey fans of NHL action, you've helped put poker on the Canadian sporting landscape, opening the door for thousands of youngsters to grow up wanting to be the next Chris Moneymaker.

How lovely.

The bad news is you and the people you represent are now about as popular as Rita MacNeil, which is also to say no one in the U.S. has ever heard of you.

Regardless, today is obviously a big day for the two of you. In one sitting, you can dictate the immediate future of your league.

Odds are, some suggest, you will soon make history by ensuring the NHL is the first major pro sports league in North America to lose an entire season to a labour stoppage.

Thing is, you'd first have to become a major pro sports league to qualify.

That's years away.

Until then, your second-tier entity will simply be left to dangle like Ilya Kovalchuk while the remaining fans continue fruitless discussions on how this mess can be solved and whether it's safe to go All In with a pair of nines in the hole.

So do us all a favour.

End it.

Today.

If the players' association is still not interested in entertaining anything involving a salary cap, it confirms what we've known and feared for quite some time -- this party is over.

Unless Bobby boy is willing to bend on his un-winnable stance, there's no point in carrying on this nonsense. There's simply no time left.

Either announce today the 2004-05 season is wiped out or set a drop-dead date for next week.

Don't do it for the players who want to finalize their European vacations and don't do it so the media stops calling your houses late at night.

Do it to prove you can actually agree on something.

To save face, maybe you could position it in your press release as "agreeing to disagree."

Sure, it might mean you two will soon be spending even less time with one another. But, hey, no one said breakups are easy.

Just ask Sergei Fedorov.

We'll miss your catchy cliches, your oh-so-candid insights and those bubbly personalities of yours. We'll also miss your version of Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, which is sure to be renewed for a second season.

Man, can those guys ham it up.

So, shortly after breaking bread, swapping jokes, complimenting each other's ties and rehashing old dressing-room tales, figure out when this year's soap opera officially ends so we can all start focusing on discussions concerning the New Jersey Nets' defensive liabilities.

As an added bonus, act now and receive absolutely no coverage in the U.S., where newspapers will be filled the rest of the week with nothing but 36-page pullouts on Terrell Owens' soliloquies on how he got on God's medical plan.

Stop the facade boys, it's over. Call it a season today or risk doing even more damage than a 50-bit bump on a pair of deuces.


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