NHL skating on thin ice

BILL LANKHOF -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:57 AM ET

Sidney Crosby playing in Europe? Ridiculous.

But, hey, the ridiculous happens. Afterall, people still believe that silly rumour that the Maple Leafs once won the Stanley Cup, too.

Wayne Gretzky's name may be synonymous with the NHL and Canadiana but that's not how it started. The previous time the NHL owners got uppity, Gretzky ended up playing his first professional games with the World Hockey Association in the hockey hotbed of Indianapolis. When people dubbed Crosby "The Next One" who knew that he too would consider tunnelling his way under the NHL's rulebook.

What good is Gary Bettman's cost certainty if all it does is steer the best players to other leagues and countries?

The NHL ended up having to adopt a whole league to get Gretzky back. Nobody knows what the costs of the new CBA will be but if it results in the loss of many premier players, there now may be every justification for rescinding the league's claim to the Stanley Cup.

And, then, who wins?

A lot of people have suspected for some time that the NHL is minor league but who knew it would go out and prove it?

PAPER TIGER

Greg Cote, Miami Herald, on the Miami Dolphins cutting safety Quintin Williams after an arrest for drinking and driving at 178 km/h: "Williams was found guilty of being not nearly good enough to get away with behaving so stupidly."

DUCK SOUP

Anaheim Mighty Ducks management expresses shock former coach Mike Babcock, who was not under contract, might be signing on with the Detroit Red Wings. "I would regard that a shocking breach of etiquette," head quack Brian Burke said.

Almost as shocking as leaving your coach dangling for months without knowing whether he has a job -- then offering a lame-duck one-year deal. You, go, Mike.

RUBIK'S CUBICLE

Who were the three winners of the Tour de France between Lance Armstrong's six-year run and Miguel Indurain's five-year reign? Answer below.

ALL BETS ARE ON

Just because Major League Baseball says a game is suspended doesn't mean that it doesn't count. Particularly if you are keeping score with a ProLine ticket.

A Sun reader complained this week that he had been "cheated" by ProLine. The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation has been fielding "several calls ... about a unique outcome," admits spokesman Don Pister from his Sault Ste. Marie office. "Bettors are interesting. I'll bet the complaints are from people who lost their bets."

Well, yes. Who would call to complain about having a winning ticket. Anyway, last week a baseball game between the Houston Astros and Cincinnati Reds was suspended because of rain after seven innings tied, 2-2. It was replayed last Saturday in its entirety. The lottery corporation declared the Thursday game as a "Tie & Under."

Callers suggested that since Major League Baseball suspended the game there is no outcome and all monies should be refunded. "Baseball has it's own rules and we have our rules at ProLine. In our rules you bet on a game that happens on a particular day with particular starting pitchers and hitters ... and at the end of that day there's a result," Pister said. "I'm sure (the people) complaining bet one of the two teams to win. But if we hadn't called it a tie, you'd probably be hearing from all the people who'd bet the game as a tie."

Baseball? A tie? Who would make a silly bet like that when it only happens if Bud Selig shows up at the all-star game?

"You need to go to betting school," Pister said, chuckling. In ProLine ties in baseball are quite possible because a tie is considered any game with either team winning by one run.

Rules for ProLine can be found at www.olgc.ca.

Pister says he has got to run. He has an appointment. He has got to deal with his dentist -- just another guy digging around for the tooth, the whole tooth and nothing but the tooth.

BITS 'N' BITES

The Tour winners were Denmark's Bjarne Riis (1996), Germany's Jan Ullrich (1997) and Italy's Marco Pantani (1998) ... World War II veterans will be collecting donations for the Tony Stacey Centre at a booth tonight during the Argos' game. The centre is Canada's premiere long-term care facility for veterans. Give 'em a loonie -- they've already given you a lot more ... Deceased Pittsburgh Steelers fanatic James Henry Smith made posthumous history with a funeral-home viewing that consisted of his body propped up in a recliner in a living-room setting, remote in hand, with team highlights playing on a TV set. Meanwhile, in Toronto, you can see the same thing in the high-priced lower bowl seats at the Air Canada Centre at any Maple Leafs' game.

SMART 'N' SASSY

"Why would I go to the grocery store?" -- Ryan Sheckler, 15-year-old skateboarding star when asked if he gets recognized at the grocery store. 


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