'Nobody wins in this'

CHRIS DOUCETTE -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:25 AM ET

Say it isn't so, Gary!

Even though many say they saw it coming, Toronto hockey fans were shaking their heads in disbelief yesterday as NHL commissioner Gary Bettman sounded the final buzzer on the 2004-05 hockey season.

"Wow. I'm surprised, definitely surprised. I didn't think it would get to this point," said fan Gary Round, who is in advertising and stopped by Shoeless Joe's on King St. W during his lunch break for the big announcement.

EYES ON TVS

All eyes -- of patrons and employees -- were on the numerous televisions in the bar and you could have heard a pin drop as Bettman began his 1 p.m. news conference.

Within seconds, everyone knew it was game over.

"I don't know what happened that they couldn't get a deal done over a lousy $6 million," said Round, 54, who went to bed Tuesday thinking an agreement was within reach. "It just doesn't make any sense."

"I think the NHL is going to lose a lot of fans," added Don Morrison, a 57-year-old painter and decorator. "And what about the little guys in this, the people who depend on hockey to make a living, many of them making minimum wage?"

Many hockey boosters were worried the dispute will drag on into next season.

"Nobody wins in this, nobody," said Jacky Hutchison, a 58-year-old millwright.

'IT'S OBSCENE'

The owners were taking some heat yesterday, but many fans placed the blame squarely on the players, saying they should be grateful to be playing the game they love for a living rather than telling their bosses how to run their businesses.

"The players are grossly overpaid, it's obscene," Hutchison said, adding something drastic had to be done about escalating salaries. "The owners have to make a buck to stay in business."

Down the street at the Loose Moose, Jeff Van Bakel agreed.

"I'm frustrated there's not going to be hockey this year," the 23-year-old Queen's University law student said.

"But I'm still backing the owners."


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