Lip service

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:13 AM ET

At the very least, the Calgary Flames were able to move some inventory yesterday, unloading hundreds of car flags to stakeholders lunching with Gary Bettman. That's pretty much all the fans -- or the team -- got out of it.

Prior to receiving their plastic parting gifts, the second of three waves of Flames fans who came to see the commish yesterday listened to what seemed an awful lot like an exercise being played out on the other end of the country by another pint-sized Yank.

Give both Bettman and U.S. president George W. Bush credit for one thing -- both have mastered the art of the sound bite.

First the prez makes headlines across Canada with a visit that included a dramatic clip about how excited he was to eat Alberta beef. The fact he then did nothing to ensure other Americans can enjoy the world's finest filets is as frustrating as it is predictable.

Cue Bettman.

Invited to Calgary by Flames' ownership to serve up that Kool-Aid Bob Goodenow keeps talking about, Bettman answered any and all questions yesterday the same way he has the last three months. And while he offered little in the way of hope or insight, he did deliver plenty of catchphrases.

"You can't make things happen faster than they're going to happen," said Bettman, in a quote sounding eerily similar to a Dubya-ism.

"One of the things we agree on is that mediation can't help us ... unfortunately, the union is trying to bargain by confrontation."

Just like Bush, Bettman talks a lot but has little to say and even less on which he can follow through.

As frustrating as that is, it didn't stop a crowd of 600 at Edmonton's Chamber of Commerce from welcoming Bettman with a standing ovation Tuesday, nor did it stop Calgarians from giving him a hearty applause yesterday.

The bottom line is while Bettman talks a good game, he and his owners are responsible for this mess. We still don't have NHL hockey and we won't have it anytime soon.

So while fans should appreciate Bettman's accessibility, more and more people now completely tune out anything he has to say. Same goes for Goodenow. It's the same old, same old.

Until they get the hockey world any closer to having the world's best playing in North America again, they're wasting everyone's time -- including their own.

Call us when you get it done.

Until then, we'll leave it to the big brains to analyse Bettman's rhetoric or piece it up against the NHLPA's latest retort. I couldn't care less.

It's been obvious for years the NHL wouldn't be in operation this season and there's absolutely no reason to believe we'll have it next year, either. No matter how juicy the sound bite, nothing has changed.

The one question Bettman was able to answer yesterday came courtesy of the FAN 960's Rob Kerr, who threw a simple query Bettman's way ... three times:

"Game 6 ... was the puck in," asked Kerr in reference to Martin Gelinas' apparent Stanley Cup-winning goal last spring.

Bettman said no, proving he doesn't always know the right thing to say.

He then returned to regurgitating the luxury tax, payroll tax, salary cap, cost certainty ... blah, blah, blah.

Too bad those flags handed out weren't white.

Because those fans who haven't yet surrendered will surely do so any day now.


Videos

Photos