Consider the source

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:36 AM ET

Sure, the squashing of Saturday's new-found optimism was embarrassing. Yes, the NHL is now being compared to the old CFL.

But, no, this time league officials don't deserve to be ridiculed for their latest failings.

Nor do the players.

Blame this frustrating little episode on the media.

In particular, The Hockey News.

As hard as it is to believe, it was an unsubstantiated quote from an unnamed player posted on the magazine's website Friday that sparked a media frenzy that had everyone believing the word 'uncancelled' would soon be introduced to the sports lexicon by Gary Bettman.

The 'source' said the two sides had agreed to a deal in principle that included a common-sense $45-million salary cap. The league said nothing of the sort.

Well aware there were divisions in the NHLPA ranks and that players and owners were starting to realize the huge implications of missing an entire season, it quickly seemed to make sense the two sides could bridge the gap. Add Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux to the meeting's lineup -- a legitimate Hockey News scoop a day earlier -- and it all seemed probable.

The mass media followed the report and the public wanted to believe it.

Turned out the two sides had nothing new to offer and are farther apart than ever.

Heartbreak: Part Deux.

Still, despite the optics, the decision to call the meeting was a prudent one by the NHL, if not to examine the possibility of a weakened NHLPA, then to bolster its argument for the declaration of a labour impasse.

None of this is meant to tarnish the reputation of the The Hockey News, which has long been one of the sport's most reliable and entertaining sources of information.

However, questions must be asked about how credible or 'close to the talks' the source was, and whether the story should have been substantiated by another source or two before it was hurriedly posted on its site to 'break' the story.

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AROUND THE HORN: Even in death, Louie Sutter managed to have a tremendous impact on the NHL. In the midst of cancelling the season Wednesday, Gary Bettman admitted the historic announcement was postponed a day for the Sutter patriarch's funeral in Viking. When asked how proud his hockey-mad father would have been to know he kept the NHL season alive for an extra day, Darryl Sutter smiled. "He would have been happier to know there were four games on that night." ... Stamps prez Ted Hellard when asked if his club had put a call into free agent Jeff Garcia: "Not at this moment ... yet," he said. "A lot of water has to go under the bridge before that happens" ... A debate now rages on as to whether an agent would be de-certified by the NHLPA if one of his players plays amongst NHL replacements next year.

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PARTING SHOTS: The eloquent LeBron James on why he and everybody else ignores the slam-dunk competition: "All the dunks is taken -- ain't no more dunks" ... According to ESPN, front-running MVP candidate Steve Nash has played seven-plus seasons and scored more than 7,000 points without a dunk ... NBA commish David Stern gives thanks daily the NBA isn't the NHL: "It's the opening prayer at each of our league meetings." ... Michael Feterik stupid-quote-of-the-week flashback: "How many quarterbacks can you have?" asked the Stamps owner in July 2003 when it was suggested NFL castoff Henry Burris should be signed. "Would Henry be our first guy or fourth guy? I would say fourth." At the time, QBs No. 1 through 3 were Marcus Crandell, Kevin Feterik and Scott Milanovich.


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