Cap anticipation growing

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:31 AM ET

I have been looking forward to this moment for the last 300 days or so.

Ever since the NHL owners started their lockout of their players last Sept. 15, reducing the relevance of the NHL in the U.S.A. to less than a spelling bee, I have been consumed with thinking about this moment.

Now it appears as though it is close at hand.

Yeah, yeah, the NHL lockout's over.

That's not what I'm talking about. We've known this announcement was going to happen because hockey reporters have been writing and saying "this is the week" or "today's the day" for the last two months and even a broken clock is right once a day.

(The NHL apparently wanted to announce the end of the lockout yesterday because there's nothing going on in sports and they could capitalize on the space and airtime afforded by the lack of news. After almost a year of no NHL news, that seems a bit hypocritical, huh?

Never mind that most American sports fans will still flip by the "NHL Lockout Over" story to get to a rehash of the MLB All-Star Game, a recap of another teary Jack Nicklaus press conference at the British Open or a profile of the guy who puts the air in Lance Armstrong's tires.)

EXCITING TIME

But, for those of us who care, this is an exciting time.

Yeah, exciting new rules are on the way (though I haven't heard one of my friends who used to have Senators season tickets say, "The tag up offside is back? Where's my VISA card?!")

New rules are good.

Good news is good.

But that's not the best part.

It's the anticipation.

What colour will the hats be this time?

Will they just dig out some of those big black ones from 1995 that look like they were snatched off the head of Elmer Fudd and had "Game On" splashed across the front?

The end of the 1994-95 lockout remains as one of my favourite NHL moments and not just because the lockout was over and we could go back to watching the Senators lose 15 games in a row.

No, it became special when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA honcho Bob Goodenow put those "Game On" hats on their heads for a photo op at the press conference announcing the end of the 1994-95 lockout.

I saw a clip of it recently. Goodenow plunked it on his head at a jaunty angle for what appeared to be the most painful two seconds of his life.

The look on his face was what you might have imagined at the moment when his secretary said, "Sean Avery on line one."

Goodenow grimaced before whipping the hat off his head.

And the players had won that lockout.

TOTALLY NEEDLESS

With that big, high-front ballcap on, Bettman looked like he had just climbed down off of Secretariat. All he was missing was a whip and a pair of muddy goggles.

But there is a new reality for the NHL now.

Given the hit NHL revenues have taken during a lockout that now appears to have been totally needless, the NHL might want to save money on having new hats printed up with some catchy slogan borrowed from a recent Mike Myers movie.

Then again, has there been a recent Mike Myers movie?

It will be difficult to match the simplicity and brilliance of "Game On."

There are going to be many exciting things to contemplate in the next few days. Will the Senators be able to keep all their free agents?

Where will Sidney Crosby wind up?

Which rule changes will be introduced and how will they affect the game?

Which goaltender will be the first to complain about the size of the new pads?

But I can't wait for the press conference.

Will they be able to get Bettman and Goodenow in the same room?

What will the slogan be this time? "NHL -- Remember Us?"

Will Bettman's say, "Take This, Chelios"?

Will Goodenow wear a hat that says "Will Negotiate For Food?"

Or will it say, "I Told Them It Would Take TWO Years!"


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