SUN Hockey Pool

Moliere would be proud

GEORGE GROSS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:46 AM ET

Jean Baptiste Poquelin, better known as Moliere, produced 12 of the most durable and penetrating satirical comedies of the 17th century. One of his most controversial works was Tartuffe, a biting expose of false piety. I bet that when he wrote it, Moliere must have had visions of the NHL and the NHLPA on his mind.

I have been purposely staying away from writing about the hockey lockout fiasco which I'd sooner compare to a tragicomedie.

The negotiations between the two sides were indeed a tragicomedie. They talked. They met at secret places, then leaked the location to the media, and here and there postponed or cancelled the allegedly clandestine get togethers. Then they wouldn't meet or talk for weeks.

And when Gary Bettman, the NHL commissioner, finally announced the end of the 2004-05 season, the two sides blamed each other and attempted to disprove each other's allegations.

Moliere, where are you when we need you?

Not surprisingly, and under the pressure from superstars Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux, as well as from television networks and major advertisers, the NHL extended an invitation to the NHLPA to resume negotiations in New York yesterday. The union accepted the invite but the two sides failed to reach an agreement.

Last Wednesday's announced death of NHL hockey as we know it hit me particularly hard. I'm very disappointed that there will be no Stanley Cup competition this year. It bothers me because I was very fortunate to have been on the hockey beat in the 1960s when the Maple Leafs won four Cups in six years and I thought they had a shot at it again this spring.

Wednesday's announcement certainly created a commotion as people on both sides of the ledger realized that the impasse may do permanent damage.

Again, in the past 48 hours, behind-the-scenes meetings were taking place between players and some owners including Gretzky and Lemieux. "Let's do whatever it takes to save this season," seems to have been their motto. It didn't work.

The original season-ending conclusion has reverberated across Canada and the international hockey world.

"We don't like fights," said Jan-Ake Edvinsson, general secretary of the International Ice Hockey Federation.

"We like to have law and order in our organizations. Fights are not good in any sport and we like to have order in all our partners' setups and that includes North America."

Bob Nicholson, president of Hockey Canada was also discouraged.

"I'm very disappointed," he said. "We stayed away from talking to the (NHL) players (about the upcoming world championships in Vienna.) "I wish the NHL and NHLPA could have found some commonn ground on which to make a deal."

Elsewhere, people look at the lockout with a lot of emotion. My calls to European hockey experts proved this.

"The public in Slovakia blames the players," said the spokesperson for a call-in show at a prominent radio station in Bratislava, Slovakia. "Most fans are claiming that the players are greedy and dissatisfied with the millions they're already making and they don't care about the millions the owners are losing. People compare the income of the players to their own meagre salaries and that's when they get angry."

GROSSLY ABBREVIATED

Toronto baseball fans are mourning the passing of Peter Widdrington, 74, chairman of the Blue Jays in 1992 and '93 when they won the World Series. Peter, former chairman and CEO of John Labatt Ltd., was laid to rest Friday. Our deepest sympathy goes out to the Widdrington family ... Six new members were inducted into the Oakville Sports Hall of Fame on Friday, including former Argos kicker Zenon Andrusyshyn, world champion paddler and Olympic silver-medallist John Wood, World Cup freestyle skiing champion Meredith Gardner, swimming ace Melanie McKay, world champion taekwondo star Mike Morningstar and, posthumously, track and baseball ace Ollie Johnson. Olympian Larry Cain was the Master of Ceremonies for the affair at the Oakville Convention Centre.


Videos

Photos