SUN Hockey Pool

Look on the bright side

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:50 AM ET

As sad as the NHL season's demise was yesterday, it likely opened the door for Wayne Gretzky to team up with Hockey Canada once again.

Hours after Gretzky revealed he likely would have climbed behind the bench of his Phoenix Coyotes this year, Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson put a call into the Great One with hopes he'd shape Team Canada's entry at the world championships in late April.

"I'll talk to Wayne tonight and see what his interest level is," said Nicholson, hoping Canada can become the first country in a long time to three-peat at the worlds.

"I think we'll have a good shot at a lot of the top players based on their comments the last few weeks."

Nicholson said insurance issues for the locked-out players are close to being resolved.

He knows with top players such as Joe Sakic, Jarome Iginla and Martin Brodeur sitting at home the last few months, it will be important to schedule a lengthy camp for the club, complete with a handful of exhibition games in Canada.

Marc Habscheid will coach the Canadian team and has been piecing together his dream squad for the tourney, which starts April 30 in Austria.

With hockey fans limited to international hockey for their hockey fix, Nicholson says the world junior tourney in Vancouver next year also stands to benefit from the NHL's disappearance.

"It will be the biggest hockey event ever," said Nicholson, pointing out only 500 21-game ticket packages remain.

"Since 2002, international hockey is getting bigger and bigger. Sponsorship has gone through the roof."

Several big corporate sponsors such as Telus have already begun shifting money targeted for the Flames or Oilers to Hockey Canada's coffers for the tourney.

- - -

"If you want to know how I feel, I'll summarize it in one word -- terrible."

-- NHL COMMISSIONER GARY BETTMAN

"Keep one thing perfectly clear. The players never asked for more money."

-- NHLPA EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR BOB GOODENOW

"The scary part now for hockey is do the fans come back? We're not baseball, we're not the national pastime."

-- NASHVILLE FORWARD JIM McKENZIE

"The game's just suffered an absolute blow it'll never recover from."

-- CAROLINA FORWARD ROD BRIND'AMOUR

"We were on a track to get something done and I feel like Gary pulled the rug out from under us."

-- VANCOUVER FORWARD AND NHLPA PRESIDENT TREVOR LINDEN

"The fans really thought our players and everything were sort of innocent ... I don't think we'll ever feel that way again."

-- DON CHERRY

"I'm not even going to say what I think of Bob Goodenow."

-- OTTAWA SENATORS OWNER EUGENE MELNYK


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