SUN Hockey Pool

The silence spoke volumes for fans

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:48 AM ET

On the eve of an NHL labour war that threatened to wipe out two whole seasons, hockey fans complained that they didn't have a voice.

How wrong you were.

By not saying a word, you spoke loudly and clearly about how much power you actually wield in this whole thing. You scared the life out of both sides and almost certainly ended the lockout six months early.

By holding firm and not panicking at the first sign of a lockout or lost season, by not begging players to come back or pressuring owners to get the game back on ice, no matter what the cost, you got almost everything you ever wanted.

You get a level playing field and a chance to be contenders again. You scared the NHL into significant changes that might actually breathe life and excitement back into the game, and you made the NHLPA realize that they need hockey and its fans more than hockey and its fans need them. By standing firm and not giving in to either side, you took them both behind the woodshed and spanked some sense into them.

Nice work.

GRUDGE? WHAT GRUDGE?: There is concern in some circles that bitterness and resentment from hardcore fans will cripple hockey the way it crippled baseball after its strike. It won't. Fans in the U.S. aren't passionate enough about hockey to harbour any real resentment and fans in Canada won this thing so big they've got no reason to be mad. If the players had won, there'd be cause for concern, but the way this thing turned out, the ticket buyers should be high-fiving all the way back to the rink.

Resentment? The 301-day lockout is the best thing that happened to Oilers fans since they last won a championship.

NO EXCUSES: If the new world order means anything in the NHL, it means this: All the excuses are gone. The Oilers' excuse for finishing ninth every year was money. Gone. The NHL's excuse for a boring product was that the only way $30-million teams could survive against $60-million teams was to kill the game. That's gone too. Edmonton has to challenge for home ice in the first round, the NHL has to challenge Major League Baseball and the NBA ... It's also proving time for the likes of Philadelphia, Dallas, St. Louis and Detroit. No longer will their GMs be able to hide their mistakes with a big pile of cash. Let's see how good they are when they don't have double or even triple everyone else's budget.

GET SMART: Don't buy the Bob Goodenow apologists who say he got the rug pulled out from under him by players who didn't have the stomach to finish a fight. The players didn't get scared, they got smart. They realized the owners weren't caving this time, that sitting out a year cost them billions and they had absolutely zero chance of improving their position or making the money back by sitting out a second season. It's basic poker: When somebody calls your bluff, you don't keep bluffing.

SLATS ALL, FOLKS: After years of being pressured by ownership in New York to splurge on overpriced stars he wouldn't have touched with a 10-foot pole in Edmonton, is this a chance for Glen Sather to prove himself a Hall of Fame architect, or will it fuel critics charges that he just rode on Gretzky's coattails? ... What will the reaction be from players, who are now partners in the NHL business, if Bret Hull comes out and says the game is terrible and he wouldn't pay to watch it?... The NHL has to give the Canucks a timeline for Todd Bertuzzi's return. They have to build a team and make a plan depending on how long he's out. Punish Bertuzzi all they want, but they can't leave the Canucks hanging.


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