Plug your ears on this one

MIKE ULMER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:46 AM ET

Trust me, you don't want a National Hockey League season.

A season would require a complete capitulation by the players and, as difficult as it would be to endure a victorious Bob Goodenow, Gary Bettman's golden moment would be even worse to watch.

Bettman would try to be magnanimous, but cagey media types would not fail to notice that Goodenow will not be present at the press conference, having already embarked on his new career as the greeter at the Orangeville Wal-Mart.

CELEBRATORY SHOT

Before the press conference, the owners would be wearing 'Game On' hats with the tags still on and gather for a celebratory shot with each owner, extending his index finger while shouting: "Who's your daddy?"

Before reaching the podium, Bettman would have to run a gauntlet of wildly grinning owners and high-five Bill Wirtz who appears to be doing something that approximates the Funky Chicken.

Bettman would straighten his tie and adopt a stern, unsmiling countenance -- so different from his usual devil-may-care gadfly, Ellen Degeneres, type of presence.

"The NHL and its players are happy to announce this morning that we are open for business, thanks to a new contract that includes a salary cap," the commissioner would say.

"This is not a win/lose situation. Both sides had to give something to get something and, boy, did they get got.

"We are thrilled to bring fans the best hockey in the world. We'd like to start our season today but there are logistical problems. Some of our players -- Bryan McCabe, Brad Richards, Marty Turco, come to mind -- have stopped picking up the phones after being all but cut by their European teams.

"As well, it's going to take a week or so for the carrier pigeons to reach all the players with AK Bars Kazan.

"We are proposing a Feb. 21 opening date. That would leave time for a 16-game regular season and for you skeptics, look how well a 16-game season works in the NFL.

"Now, it's true we are mindful of the need to maximize playoff revenues and recoup some of our losses, but we honestly think the fans will warm to our new best 15 out of 29 playoff format.

"We hope to reclaim our spot in the hearts of the North American sports consumer above, not below, fivepin bowling and Ultimate Frisbee.

As many of you know, there will be a wholesale redistribution of talent with the immediate imposition of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

I, for one, will be anxious to watch Jaromir Jagr, Alexei Kovalev and Darius Kasparaitis back in Pittsburgh. Also, welcome back to Edmonton, Mark Messier.

Ah, I know many of you will be curious about ticket prices since we have managed to slash our player expenses by half. Let me just say this ... April Fools.

Let me also address the rumors many of you have heard about a $1-million bonus I was to be paid if I could leverage the players into a salary cap. That story was totally and completely false.

In conclusion, let me say that both sides had to give something to save the season. It was a tough negotiation ... ah, what the hell ... I'M GOING TO DISNEYLAND.'"


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