Crosby just what NHL needs

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 2:14 PM ET

EDMONTON -- The drooling over Sidney Crosby has officially begun.

The NHL is finally back, and most folks -- with the exception of the players themselves -- are happy about it.

It was quite evident early on that the big men with sticks would be taking a salary cut, and that's exactly what's going to happen, possibly along with some significant changes to the game.

The real fun part, however, begins next Thursday when the NHL holds a draft lottery for the rights to Crosby, who sounds like he'll be sticking around North America for the next couple decades or so.

What a way to kickstart the new NHL.

"From our standpoint, if you pulled a pin out of a grenade, the bang wouldn't be as big as it would be if we got Crosby," Oilers vice-president of communications and marketing Allan Watt told the Edmonton Journal this week. "Our parking lot wouldn't be big enough."

Every team has to be thinking that way. The tension in the air next Thursday in New York is going to be thick just before that first ping-pong ball pops out.

Let's hope the show that follows on the ice is just as good.

TWO FOR LOCKING OUT: We posed the question last week: What, if anything, are you going to do to punish the NHL for forcing the fans to go through a winter without hockey?

"I realize the owners and players really don't care about me as a hockey fan," Tampa's Jerry Young wrote in an e-mail. "When they finally freeze the (St. Pete Times) Forum again, I plan on going to watch (the Lightning) hoist our (Stanley) Cup banner. I then plan on leaving the arena. It is going to take a lot more than a cute commercial to bring me back."

Another reader, who is a first-time season-ticket holder in North Carolina, has different feelings about the subject.

"The Carolina Hurricanes management has created a family-oriented product and entertainment event that we do not want to miss," e-mailer Gene Dillman wrote.

"We missed being at the games this past winter but are very excited about its return in just a few months. Why should I punish something that I love?"

Dillman also believes that the Hurricanes will get their fan base back.

That could be considered wishful thinking.

AROUND THE HORN: The Eskimos are usually the game of choice during the summer up here in the City of Champions, but you wouldn't know it this weekend. With the end of the NHL lockout and Champ Car's inaugural West Edmonton Mall Grand Prix tomorrow, football has been pushed to the back burner. The city's newspapers had 40- and 64-page pullouts for the car race ... Not sure what happened, but TSN's decision to broadcast the Edmonton-Winnipeg CFL game last night instead of the Toronto-B.C. Grey Cup rematch clash should be classified in the "blunder" category ... Michelle Wie was three wins away this weekend from becoming the biggest sports story of the year. But don't fret. She'll be earning an invitation to the Masters soon enough ... Speaking of Wie's performance in the U.S. Amateur Public Links, young men are now happy and relieved when they beat a 15-year-old girl -- and more than likely mortified when they lose to her. The times, they are a changing.


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