Local hockey folks were both frustrated and disappointed to learn that the NHL had become the first pro sports league to actually cancel an entire season yesterday.
"We've all known about this for some time but you still feel disappointed when you hear it (officially)," said Manitoba Junior Hockey League commissioner Kim Davis. "I blame both sides. The owners are steadfast and feel they have to be and the players have been steadfast and feel they have to be. But it's frustrating that they can't find a common goal. They don't have enough trust in each other but want to go to a full-blown partnership."
Davis, who played 36 NHL games, did not like the trend in players' salaries, however.
"In the last 8-10 years, a number of players have made a ton of money and some of those had no business making that much money," he said. "I would like to have seen more understanding of that from the players. On the other hand, the owners have been so cavalier about their spending. It's so frustrating. I really fear for what the future's going to bring for the sport."
University of Manitoba Bisons coach Mike Sirant had been holding out hope until the last possible moment.
"It's just unfortunate the game has come down to boardroom decisions," he said. "Like everyone else, I'll be anxious to see the consequences of the decision. But this can only hurt the league in the short term."
'CHANGE THOSE HABITS'
Sirant did not expect it to affect his hockey team, which is already enjoying a banner season and a boost in attendance.
"That was a great quote by Ken Dryden when he said that people will find out whether they had a passion for the sport or if it had just become habit," Sirant said. "And they could start to change those habits. I don't think that will happen in Canada because there's still some passion here but it could happen in the States."
The cancellation will not cause amateur hockey to suffer, opined Hockey Manitoba executive director Peters Woods.
"People are still into the sport," he said. "But kids want to emulate (NHL) players and certainly for them, there will be a hollow feeling today."