SUN Hockey Pool

Changing times

KEITH BRADFORD -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 10:56 AM ET

The man who sold Wayne Gretzky was away on business when the Oilers signed Chris Pronger and Mike Peca last week.

Peter Pocklington had no idea his old team was among the big spenders as the new NHL exploded into life.

And he couldn't believe his ears when told the Pronger deal was worth more than $30-million over five years.

"Good God,'' he spluttered, from his home in California, before doing his best to dilute his reaction.

"Having been through similar situations I don't want to second guess (management).

"... They have to make a business decision.''

Pocklington says he still follows hockey - and has a passion for the game - but you could forgive him for being a little behind the times.

When he left Edmonton in a bitter, messy parting of the ways five years ago, he saw the league staring down the barrel of a gun.

He believed rising salaries - even at that time - made running a Canadian team, let alone a competitive one, virtually impossible.

It was only when the league stumbled towards a lockout last year that he saw the tide start to turn.

"I think I predicted the settlement they were going to get,'' said Pocklington, who credits himself with pushing an NHL selection committee into hiring commissioner Gary Bettman back in the early 1990s.

"I felt pretty strongly. I know Gary Bettman and (he) wasn't going to back off.

"You can't have a league without teams like Edmonton involved.''

Now that Edmonton's involvement in the NHL has been secured, at least in the short term, Pocklington knew things would be different.

He just didn't expect the hockey landscape to change quite as dramatically as it has over the last week.

Chris Pronger to the Oilers for more than $30 million? Are you kidding?

"The new contract with the union is a big step forward,'' he said. "I wish the heck it was in place when I was there - I wouldn't have left.

"Hopefully now everyone will benefit.''

Pocklington says he doesn't subscribe to the theory that a few high-priced additions to a team - even ones of the class of Pronger - guarantees it a genuine shot at the Stanley Cup.

"It's awfully tough. It's a lot of hard work,'' he said of the task of building a perennial contender.

But the fact that the Oilers were able to go out and sign two top class players certainly sends a message, he said.

"It's kind of exciting to see these things happen.

"That's a pretty positive step - to see a city where I spent 30 years get back on top. I still have great feelings for Edmonton.''

Since leaving the city, Pocklington has built a successful business out of "rolling up'' companies south of the border.

The new CBA came too late for him, but he insists he's happy with his lot in life.

"I'm pretty busy doing my own thing. Life goes on, I never look back.''

But while he's in the habit of looking forward, what about the prospect of the Oilers winning another Stanley Cup some time in the near future?

"It would be wonderful. I would get a real kick out of that.''


Videos

Photos