September 17, 2004
No light at end of lockout tunnel
By CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun
Senators president Roy Mlakar and GM John Muckler unveiled the club's new uniforms for this season yesterday. They are some spiffy dark suits.
That's about all you're going to see when it comes to a fashion statement this NHL season, and when the suits are front and centre, it can never be a good thing.
Owners and managers around the league put them on display yesterday as they continued the battle to win the hearts and minds of anybody who is left caring about a lockout nobody but the owners wanted.
So where to from here?
Maybe it's just a case of Mlakar dealing with a worst-case scenario, but when asked yesterday what the plans were for the Corel Centre without NHL hockey, he pointed out they had "lost 41 prime dates."
Not 10 or 15 or maybe 20. Forty-one -- or the entire season.
That's the way it's looking right now, as bleak as it ever has, not a single reason to believe we won't be in almost exactly the same situation come December or maybe even this time next year if the owners are unsuccessful in what appears to be a heavy-handed attempt at union busting.
This is Day 2 of Hockey Held Hostage and the frustrating thing for me is there are no talks happening between the owners and the players.
There is no sense of urgency, no exchange of ideas, no hope that either side is going to move towards the middle ground where compromise can be sown.
This is a problem that only time is going to fix. Both sides are going to have to hurt for a while (as much as you can be hurt with a $300-million war chest on each side).
We're going to have to listen to more pious rhetoric from both sides.
A tip: Stop talking to us and the fans, and talk to each other.
After Mlakar and Muckler had their say yesterday, new Senators goaltender Dominik Hasek came strolling down a hallway in the Corel Centre. In a sane universe, he and his new teammates would have been reporting for medicals today with training camp starting tomorrow.
Instead, he was on his way for some therapy (the physical, rather than the psychological kind, though we may all be lining up for the latter.)
"Hey," I said, "how'd you get in here? Aren't you supposed to be locked out?"
"It's a secret," he said. "I have a special code."
Would he mind sharing?
Meanwhile, our attention will turn to other things -- the Ryder Cup which got under way this morning, the Renegades playing the Calgary Stampeders in a must-win game tonight, the Gatineau Olympiques and the Ottawa 67's getting their junior seasons under way, NFL pools, Barry Bonds chasing Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron, baseball players making like the WWE and tossing folding chairs into the beaks of female patrons.
Hockey will go from a blip on the U.S. sports landscape to a complete flat line.
Simply put, life will go on. It might not be quite the life a lot of people who invest their money and passion in the Senators would like, but, hey, those people will survive.
It's not so simple for the folks who work in the Senators' front office.
Mlakar said yesterday that Senators staff are going to be on vacation from Sept. 20 to Oct. 1. There will be a reduced work week after that. The longer this drags on, the more difficult it is going to be to justify even a reduced work week.
We're without NHL hockey.
Those folks are having their livelihood imperiled and their families' futures compromised.
Those are the folks who are the real story in this mess, not a bunch of billionaires and millionaires who can't decide how to split up a $2-billion pie.
I'd like to hear an owner's and a player's explanation to a five-year-old kid whose dad or mom has lost their job because of this mess and sorry, kid, but Christmas just isn't going to be the same this year.