TORONTO - Those in the world of hockey involved with the NHL took a timeout from the grind of the lockout opera to honour four great players going into the Hockey Hall of Fame Monday night.
Tuesday morning, it's back to reality.
The ceremonies and highlights recognizing the speed of Pavel Bure, the size and skill of Mats Sundin, the eyes in the back of Adam Oates' head and Joe Sakic's wrists only served to remind us what we're missing right now.
No whirling Sidney Crosby, doing everything at top speed; no Steven Stamkos, dropping to his knee as he unloads a one-timer from the circle; no Jonathan Quick doing the splits; no Paul Bissonnette tweeting from the end of the bench.
NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr walked the red carpet into the Hall and only stopped to say he wasn't talking to the media and might leave early to do some work.
Commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly must have come in a sidedoor because they weren't seen on the carpet.
Over the last couple of months in which they have been justifiably criticized, it was good move by the both of them -- the only move, really -- to keep a low profile and try and let the four honourees have the spotlight Monday night.
That didn't keep the lockout, which will be two months old Thursday, from being a topic in the corridors of the Hall.
Lockouts are nothing new to the 2012 class of inductees.
Sakic and Sundin lost a year out of their careers. Oates might have played another season, but ended up retiring when the 2004-05 season was wiped out.
"I lost a year of hockey. It would have been 21 years instead of 20. That's what you lose," said Sakic. "Coming back from that made me appreciate the game even more. When you miss a year, I remember coming back that next training camp pretty excited to be back and play the game. You miss a year and you realize how much you miss the game."
NHLPA special counsel Steven Fehr was part of a panel at the Primetime Sports and Entertainment Management conference Monday and offered what has to be a somewhat encouraging comment on the negotiations, which seemed to conclude with a downturn Sunday after just more than an hour.
"When the moment is right, a deal could be done very quickly," said Fehr.
When told of Fehr's remark, Daly said in an email to QMI Agency: "I would say the issues aren't all that complicated, but our differences appear to be significant."
Getting to when the "moment is right" would appear to be a ways off yet as the laundry list ≠-- beyond the core issue of make whole -- remains lengthy, as we learned Sunday when divisions on contract issues became apparent. We're still waiting to hear when the next bargaining session will be.
But there's still reason to believe the "right moment" could come in a year that ends in "2" and not "3."
For a few moments Monday night, the game on the ice could be celebrated.
"Being here in this Great Hall, the sanctuary of our game, to celebrate everything that is good and right about hockey. Even in difficult times we find ourselves reassured to be here to recognize ultimate achievements on the ice," said Bettman. "All of us, fans, teams and players, look forward to the time the game returns there."
It was a night to reach back into the great pasts of some special players, but there will be no avoiding the inevitable return to the reality of the present Tuesday morning.
As Sakic spoke in a media scrum Monday in the Great Hall, right next to the Stanley Cup, his reflection could be seen in the glittering trophy.
"Hopefully they'll figure things out and get to playing soon. The fans want hockey. We all want hockey," said Sakic. "It hurts everybody. It hurts the players, it hurts the owners, it hurts the fans. It hurts the game."
Sakic's reflection played on the panel that said:
SEASON NOT PLAYED."