SUN Hockey Pool

What took the NHL so long?

TED WYMAN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 1:19 PM ET

As anyone who has been reading our series on the 10th anniversary of the Winnipeg Jets' departure can attest, your humble writer grew up an absolute hockey junkie.

Lived and breathed the game. Played it inside arenas, on outside rinks, on the street, in the living room and on the dining room table. Watched it live, on TV and in my imagination, read about it at every opportunity and allowed my life to revolve around it.

If there had been a way to hook it to my veins, I'd have had more track marks than Jose Canseco.

But over the last decade, I almost completely lost interest in the NHL, which should have been my most trusted source of a much-needed fix. I just couldn't stomach all the clutching and grabbing, trap-happy coaching and low-scoring snoozefests in which the first goal wins.

Today I can tell you that the desire is back.

These hockey playoffs have been tremendous so far. Rule changes have worked beautifully, teams are scoring like Ron Mexico at a frat party and Canadian teams are in the thick of the Stanley Cup chase.

Most importantly, referees are calling the games the way they always should have. Penalties are penalties, no matter when or where they occur.

Sure, there are a few too many power plays, but as a result, no lead is safe and comebacks are commonplace.

The powers that be in the NHL finally got it right and they should be commended, but we would be remiss to omit this one complaint.

What in the world took them so long?

BROKEN RECORD: Unfortunately for those many fans who would rather see Barry Bonds go away than go deep, the big-headed one is starting to crank them out again and will soon pass Babe Ruth on the all-time home run list. While he's clearly labouring toward the finish line, Bonds (711 homers as of yesterday) still has a good shot of catching Hank Aaron (755 homers) and becoming the all-time home run king, an achievement that would be a nightmare for baseball, given revelations about Barry's alleged steroid abuse.

On the good news side, baseball may not need an asterisk for too long.

There are currently two major league players on pace to shatter the all-time home run mark, whether it is held by Aaron or Bonds.

Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals is 26 and had 213 homers as of yesterday. At an average of 42 homers a season, Pujols could reach 800 before he's 40.

Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees is 30 and has 434 homers to his credit. He's never been injured and plays in an awesome lineup, so you have to think he can reach 800 as well.

Assuming neither player is found to have a personal locker at BALCO, you can bet the powers that be in baseball will be cheering for them to keep up the long balls.

That will put the record books back in the Clear, instead of being written by it.

NASH BRIDGES: Building on the momentum of Steve Nash's back-to-back NBA MVP awards, basketball is said to be growing in Canada. So much so that there are even rumours Toronto will someday get a professional team ... Ricky Williams might be headed to Canada, but don't jump to the conclusion that he's going to play in the CFL. He just heard we have some of world's finest grow-ops ... Forget Ricky, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers have placed Onterrio (Whizzinator) Smith on their negotiation list. The man with the most famous fake appendage since Boogie Nights isn't likely to give Charles Roberts a run for his money this year though. That would be pure "phallacy." ... Isn't this just so Devil Rays? Tampa Bay has the best prospect in baseball in outfielder Delmon Young, who has now been suspended for throwing his bat at an umpire and hitting him in the chest. This is not what the scouts meant when they said Young was dangerous with the lumber.


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