SUN Hockey Pool

K-Lowe's got it right

JOHN SHORT

, Last Updated: 9:49 AM ET

Let's get something straight. There's no way to tell whether Thomas Vanek is worth $50- million or Dustin Penner has the talent to justify an annual boost of 1,000% boost in his hockey wages.

The next couple of years will answer those questions but in the meantime both men should put Kevin Lowe on their Christmas list for all time.

After the desperate Edmonton Oilers put those whopping amounts on the table in the fading hope that memories of the disastrous 2006-07 season would be removed from this community, a Toronto broadcaster dropped a strong hint that Lowe's willingness to throw money around probably leaves him, and his Oiler bosses, ahead of the negotiating curve--not behind it.

Until this off-season, there were few trips to the shopping market for restricted free agents. The New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers made a couple of moves and both came under fire for throwing the NHL salary scale out of whack.

The claim may have been true in the past. It isn't true today. New and frightening levels of financial foolishness were reached in the signing frenzy that surrounded unrestricted free agents less than a month ago.

If you believe as I do that salaries in all pro sports are insane, you'll agree that it's sad for the NHL to follow NBA and NFL teams in the rush to throw money down the drain, but as long as owners have egos and fans have short memories -- "what has my team done for me lately?" --the move was inevitable.

So Darcy Regier's feelings are hurt. So Brian Burke feels betrayed. Too bad, so sad. They've been around a long time. They helped write the financial rules.

Today, the issue is not whether Lowe's tactics are right or wrong. To me, it's far more interesting to wait for other general managers to start doing the same thing.

MAKING THE MOST OF IT

In every business, you get handed lemons occasionally. What you do with them is up to you.

This is true especially in sports, where the joys of victory and the miseries of defeat are in your face every day Even so, it's hard to imagine a more difficult time than this.

Drugs in baseball and in the world's highest-profile cycling event. A referee tarred with claims that he fixed games, the most frightening prospect of all for those who have ever believed in the philosophy that honourable competition deserves a high rank in our society.

Worst of all, an NFL quarterback whose production never matched his talent is connected with stories of dog-fighting and horrible examples of animal abuse.

Has anybody got a new recipe for lemonade?

WILLING TO SHARE?

One way or another, the next few weeks should lead us to the end of the Daryl Katz attempt to buy the Oilers.

However it works out, I'll never understand why this young man with pockets apparently deeper than the Grand Canyon didn't go quietly to the Edmonton Investors Group and offer to become a contributor. If there's a better way to establish himself as more than a rich guy looking for a toy, I can't think of one.

I felt the same way when Bill Comrie refused to become part of the group that kept the Oilers in town when there was no clear picture that any of the partners would ever get a penny of their investment returned to them.

If you listen at enough keyholes, you'll probably hear that Katz would welcome some partners after he bought the team, but he'd keep 51 per cent of the shares.

When Peter Pocklington owned the Oilers, his philosophy was simple: "If you don't own 51%, you don't make the rules; if you don't make the rules and you aren't making any money, why get involved at all?"

After Pocklington's financial moves destroyed his personal credibility and came within inches of moving the team to Houston or Oklahoma City or some other community far from Alberta, Cal Nichols and his allies answered the question without saying more than a few words. The record shows they did it for Edmonton.

JUST CHECKING

Won't it be a relief when the U of A and the province's colleges and high schools are back on the court and the rink and the field, playing basketball or volleyball or hockey or football for the simple pleasures of the game?

GET WELL, BILLY

In 1956, the first hockey game I saw in Western Canada, Bill Warwick played for the Penticton Vees against the Nelson Maple Leafs. I have respected him for every moment since that first meeting. We have done radio and television and many other things together. This warm and decent man is in the Glenrose Rehab Centre-- not for long, I hope.


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