Open your eyes!

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 1:31 PM ET

Dear Gary, Bob, Wayne, Mario, Trevor and all the rest of you: Get a deal done. Today. There's no choice, no alternative. Failure is no option.

You, all of you, have one job to do right now: Save this season.

This is not a plea borne from a need for the NHL to get back on ice in time to see the 2005 Stanley Cup presented.

This is a plea to stop the insanity and, more importantly, to stop the abject abuse of the fans and all those who need the game to make a living.

Three days after NHL commissioner Gary Bettman cancelled the season, you're all meeting in New York City today.

Players, such as Flames captain Jarome Iginla, realize the importance of your task.

"Both sides realized that for the big hit hockey would take, maybe we needed to take another crack at it," Iginla told the Canadian Press yesterday.

Depending on whom fans believe, there's either a deal in place with a cap somewhere around $45 million US -- as reported by The Hockey News -- or it's just more of the process, which the NHLPA claimed late last night.

For your sakes, it had better be the first option, or close enough to make it a reality in time to start a 28-game season that's slated to begin March 5.

Fans have been through too much, suffered a ridiculous amount of emotional distress and gone through too much of a wringer to get their hopes up yet again only to find out you still can't make it work due to 'philosophical differences' or some other catchphrase they've grown sick of since this began more than five months ago.

As far as we know, the season was dead and buried. Apparently, it was laid to rest in Stephen King's 'Pet Sematary.'

An anonymous source told The Hockey News there was no way a deal would fall through this time: "I couldn't possibly imagine the idea that somebody is going to try to make a name for themselves in the last minute here."

Don't make him a liar.

Can the players accept a salary cap at that figure, seeing as less than a week ago the no-cap stance was repeated over and over from every union member?

Apparently so.

"Whatever they come up with and if they decide it's a good deal, fine," said one player who's optimistic the emotional roller coaster is over. "Just get it done."

Until there's a deal in place and both Bettman and NHLPA executive director Bob Goodenow are smiling together and saying, "Game on," I'll be a little skeptical.

As one league source said: "It really comes down to Bettman. If he rejects what's been put together, he'll have no trouble getting eight owners to go with him."

But if 22 owners are for the deal, how can minority rule with so much on the line?

To let everyone know you're close again and then pull away would make the pain all the worse. Fans are already angry, hurt and frustrated. To treat them again with so much contempt could force them to burn down the Saddledome.

Seeing as the NHL would be reduced to a pyre with one or even two seasons lost, saving this season is of utmost importance.

As one player agent said: "If you thought it was a mistake cancelling the season and they correct the mistake, how can you be critical of them for correcting the mistake?"


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