Harry Sinden believes the public will re-embrace the National Hockey League after its shoddy treatment of the fans, but isn't sure about healing the rift between owners and players after the lockout ends.
"That remains to be seen," said the Boston Bruins' president, a noted hawk in past dealings with the National Hockey League Players' Association.
The betting is that a collective bargaining agreement will be hammered out in the next month with a salary cap, once antithetical to the players' pre-lockout platform. Careful not to fire up the rhetoric again, Sinden said the owners' case has stood up through the ensuing nine months of haggling for a new economic order.
"Going in, I knew the truth and the truth was the league had no alternative (but to cancel the season)," he said yesterday. "When you really don't have an alternative, it's a very difficult negotiation for both sides to come to grips with."
Sinden has no doubt there will be sore feelings when the players return, but hopes the two sides can move on.
MILKMAN JOB AVAILABLE
"I can remember when I ran teams in the minor leagues and the players were getting about $4,500 a year," he said. "We'd start the season and they'd be moping (about their salaries). I'd say: 'Look, you've signed your contract, you had your choice. You could've stayed home and been a postman or a milkman and would've got about $4,500 (for those unglamorous jobs). But you didn't. So forget it.'
"Once they understood that, they were all right. And the next year if it didn't work out, they could still become a postman."
Sinden says there is enough time left to patch up relations with the fans for 2005-06.
"If we can come back and show a good product, then it's a beginning," he said. "Obviously the game's been out of sight, out of mind for awhile. But the game is so well established, particularly here and in Boston, New York, Chicago, Buffalo and Colorado. If we get (a CBA) done in the next few weeks, each team could put on a good marketing (campaign)."
The Hockey Hall of Fame is hoping for a faster CBA solution, too. With the summer tourist season here, walk-in traffic at the Yonge St. site is down 40% to 45%.