Out of sight, out of mind

MIKE ULMER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:12 AM ET

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig could find a cure for any number of diseases, broker a peace between the genders and devise a public relations campaign that left Joe Citizen loving lawyers.

His obituary still would revolve around the words "cancelled the World Series."

Not much of a legacy is it?

That point was put to John Ferguson Jr., the Maple Leafs' youngish general manager, a smart lawyerly guy whose gift of the gab someday will arrive under the tree.

"Believe me," Ferguson said after the speech. "That (legacy) is not something anyone wants to occur or be part of."

Ferguson was addressing The Canadian Club downtown yesterday on Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd's contributions and investments in the community.

Seeing as the Leafs are in hibernation and the Raptors are best left on the road, there was a fine turnout to hear him.

Over here, Leafs coach Pat Quinn. Over there, part-owner Larry Tanenbaum. There were lots of business types, some kids from local high schools.

While he made a few vague references to the ongoing labour impasse that has left the game teetering on the brink of absolute ruination, Ferguson kept to the script about the Leafs being wonderful corporate citizens working harder than ever to forge the relationships between team, fan and customer.

That's his job. The backdrop is a bit more desperate than that.

The season comes down to Thursday's meeting between NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, union guy Bob Goodenow and their garrisons of lawyers. If things go well, they could meet again on Friday.

Ferguson, of course, is impeded by his own inclinations, the bounds of good sense, and the threat of a hefty fine from the commissioner, from speaking his mind. But even he is willing to admit that the whole flotilla, fans, players and owners, have pulled into the Last Chance Cafe.

"I'm not surprised there was an offer to meet and I'm not surprised it was immediately accepted," Ferguson said. "The reality is, it's Dec. 6."

Ferguson describes himself as "cautiously optimistic" about the talk.

Larry Tanenbaum is a cautious, courtly multimillionaire. Put him beside John Ferguson and he comes off like Jerry Lewis in his manic phase.

"I believe they're going to get a deal done," Tanenbaum said.

"The fact that they're talking is certainly a good thing. Bob and Gary understand the situation and they understand the needs of each other's constituency."

Before you get too excited, remember, it's just a hunch. Maybe a hope. No, that's too strong. Call it wishful thinking.

Christmas is coming, we hear, although it's too early to confirm it. Then will come a new year, some coldish nights, and then spring.

Hockey is receding in all of our memories and if you're like most people I talk to, you miss it a bit but not a lot.

DON'T MISS ACTIVITIES

People miss people when they are gone. They mourn absent friends and family and lovers. They don't miss activities. They go out and get new ones.

I got a nice e-mail the other day from a guy who took the refund from his season-ticket order and took his wife to the Caribbean.

Hmmm. Watching Bryan McCabe handle the puck or a week on a sandy beach? Tough choice.

With every day, the game that is gone, overhyped, understaffed, hyper-violent, is mourned less and less.

I believe John Ferguson when he says no one wants to be the guy who pulls the plug.

What's surprising, is how many people will not mourn if he and his bosses do just that.


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