Ryan Smyth deserves the utmost respect, both as a hockey player and a human being.
The Edmonton Oilers star plays the game the way it should be, is always willing to suit up for his country at the end of a long NHL season and treats all around him with respect.
That's why it's a little painful to say I'm glad his charity tour through Western Canada fell flat on its face.
With poor ticket sales in Red Deer and Regina, and only 1,800 on hand in Moose Jaw, the tour came to a crashing end when the Winnipeg date had to be cancelled.
Good on the fans for sending a strong message they want nothing to do with NHLers until the lockout is over.
Now hopefully those fans the WHA is counting on to fill the barns in Hamilton and Vancouver do the same.
It's the only way the paying public seems to get a vote in this fiasco and it would be great if the message is sent and heeded.
EXTRA BASES: Let's get this straight: Barry Bonds, in his pathetic complaints about how the media is unfair to him, chastises the press for making his kids cry but has his 15-year-old son right beside him? I doubt Junior is as devastated about what's in the newspaper as he was about finding out Daddy had an eight-year affair ... Best line about the joke that was the U.S. Congress hearings with the steroid users -- er, I mean baseball players -- came from David Letterman: "Why don't the Mets take performance-enhancing drugs?" ... With opening day just around the corner, get used to this phrase: The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Sure doesn't roll off the tongue, does it?
RINK RAP: Next time an NHL player whines about losing the public-relations battle, remind them about the NHLPA executives and Bob Goodenow having the audacity to hold their meetings in Palm Springs. Then again, you can get quite a bit done between the first tee and the 18th green ... That bad decision wasn't lost on many of the players who sacrificed $1.5 billion in salary in the fight ... See the difference in the Hitmen when Ryan Getzlaf and Andrew Ladd come to the fore? Make sure you pick up a ticket for tomorrow's Game 3 or the fourth game on Wednesday and show your support ... Fans hoping to see a couple of potential future Flames should tune in the NCAA Frozen Four. Colorado College goaltender Curtis McElhinney, a Calgary product, will be on display when his team faces Denver, while Kris Chucko and the rest of the Minnesota Gophers meet the U of North Dakota.
LAST RITES: Having just watched the UFA Bisons and Edmonton's Southside Athletics play to the fifth overtime in a thrilling finish to the Alberta Midget Hockey League championship series, three things come to mind: (1) Those kids on the Bisons may not feel like winners but for them to come back from being down two games in the best-of-five affair makes them winners in my book; (2) Keanan Boomer, the Athletics goalie who stopped 81 shots in yesterday's game, should relish this performance forever; and (3) There is nothing better in the sporting world than overtime hockey ... Mark McLoughlin, at age 39, and Tony Martino, 38, are eying a return to the Stamps. They're both still pups compared to how old Lui Passaglia was (46) when he finally packed it in after the 2000 season.