If a mediator won't work then go and find a judge

GARY PROUSE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:33 AM ET

Gary Bettman, mouthpiece for the owners, did his thing.

He squirmed like so much raw meat on the media grill, his face a beacon of red against a black backdrop when questions were asked that didn't suit his intended directions. His owners had done their best to seal a deal. The stretch marks, he said, were there for all to see.

Bob Goodenow, mouthpiece for the players, did his thing.

With sword drawn he slashed away at Bettman's words from a few hours earlier, counter-punching like an Ali in his prime, trying to explain why his players went as far as they could to bring the deal to a conclusion.

And the media band played on.

So, what now?

Well, unless we get a mediator to the table that has the patience of Job to work with both of these two armies of idiots, it could become very legal. Bettman was "crystal clear" on one point: "We weren't as close as people were speculating." Nice.

Simply, no one's budging here. Bring in an ice-breaker.

And if that doesn't work , bring in a judge.

You haven't seen mean and messy until this goes to court.

Can you say impasse? Can you say U.S. National Labour Relations Board? Can the owners impose their will on a contract, forcing the players back to work? Bitter just went berserk.

"We're done losing money as a league," said Bettman. "We're prepared to pay the players what we can afford - not a penny less, not a penny more."

Winter fades to spring, spring fades to summer, summer to fall.

Will NHL hockey be there then?

Certainly, unless the business end of these players - specifically their agents - can't shake off their concussed state in six months and get their clients to come to some reality, the answer is probably no. The owners are granite on this. It's their money, it's their puck.

The players will come to terms, either through mediation or, heaven forbid, a long, nasty court proceeding.

WHO WANTS TO BE JEFF GARCIA? So, how would you like to be former Calgary Stampeder quarterback Jeff Garcia right now? Last September he's in a bar with girlfriend and Playboy Playmate Carmella DeCesare. Things are cool until, oops, he bumps into his ex-girlfriend there. Words between the ex and the playmate ensue.

DeCesare shows her karate lessons were well worth taking, as Garcia heads to the washroom, hoping no one saw him and knows him for that beefy Cleveland Browns footballer he is.

Today, that would be the Browns footballer he was.

The team got rid of the coach Garcia spent this past season arguing with, and replaced him with a man wearing a Super Bowl ring.

The new boss quickly tied the can to Garcia. Oops.

Hell, it may be enough for him to come back to the CFL. Mind you, the league may have to fold a few teams to meet his salary demands.

ON A.I AND J.C.: A few words on a couple of topics: A.I. and J.C.

Allen Iverson is the NBA's top pointgetter, and a man who always puts up enough balls to pop 60 points. But he is greed personified on the court. I am a seething Sixers fan on this point. In '01 he helped them to the NBA finals. I looked forward to the following season. Nothing. Then in '03 the NBA's best coach, Larry Brown, left Philly for Detroit because of A.I. Brown won a championship last year, and now the Sixers are thrilled to be .500. A.I. Trade him. Please.

- I still believe Jose Canseco. Duh. Steroids in sports, baseball included, have been around a long time. What's interesting is that even with a more tightly wound baseball, Hank Aaron, the man guys like BALCO Barry Bonds are chasing for the career home run record, didn't need physical stimulants to own that record.

Next week. Be there.


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