The Last Word

BILL LANKHOF -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:39 AM ET

New year. New faces. Same baloney.

Canucks general manager Dave Nonis told a Vancouver chamber of commerce meeting that free agency in the NHL "is a joke" because by 2009 it will allow players to leave a team after they've put in seven seasons or reached age 27.

Nonis says management should have the right to keep a good team together and that under the current system Pittsburgh, for instance, could lose Sidney Crosby after they "put seven years of development money into him."

Just when you thought you'd heard the last of that whine now that ownership has a salary cap. In another time, slavery protected owners "development" money too, but few would suggest that was a great idea.

And, isn't it nice of him to overlook the fact that Crosby is also putting seven years of his career into Pittsburgh. That could end up being half his pro lifetime. No choice. Nobody ever asked him if he'd rather work in Toronto or L.A.

So, excuse me while I get a tissue. I'm getting misty just thinking about those poor NHL owners. Any more hard done by they'll have to settle for the cheaper champagne on the personal jet, fire the chauffeur or nanny and cut back on the wife's Gucci collection. Poor folks at MLSEL must only be a couple dozen million from a sleeping bag on a street corner.

Nobody's suggesting it is a good thing to see good teams broken up. But it is equally unfair that players shouldn't be able to sell their services for market value. A player like Crosby is going to give a franchise more than he ever is going to take -- whether that's for seven years or a lifetime. Management was given all the tools it asked for to operate profitably. Now they need one more -- a muzzle for Mr. Nonis, please.

DOGGIE DOINGS

The trend of dressing up dogs for Halloween is rising, with about 3.5 million puzzled animals competing for edible goodies, according to estimates on the website raisingkids.co.uk.

But, considering the Raptors went dressed up as a professional basketball team last year, you probably already knew that.

MONEY PLAYERS

Irish soccer star George Best will be featured on L5 bank notes to be issued on Nov. 25, the one-year anniversary of his death. "By selecting the most affordable note denomination we have tried to make the notes as widely accessible as possible," spokesman Cormac McCarthy of the issuing Ulster Bank told The Sun of London.

The U.S. Mint was considering doing the same thing to honour American stars but they couldn't find a bill big enough on which to fit Gary Sheffield's head.

WORDSMITHS INC.

Mike Bianchi, Orlando Sentinel, on Miami's football team: "Know what the 'Canes are like with their false bravado and out-of-fashion 1980s gangsta reputation? They're like your aging hippie friend from the '60s. They used to be cool, but now they're just a sad, little bald guy with a ponytail."

Roger Federer has withdrawn from the Paris Masters citing "general fatigue." Says Dwight Perry, Seattle Times: "Apparently Federer's tired of winning all the time."

BITS 'N' BITES

I understand this suggestion is borderline heresy, but is Damon Allen starting to act his age? His passes don't seem as crisp; his scrambling less effective. Just wondering ... Arizona Cardinals president Michael Bidwell issued a news release this week saying that despite the team's 1-7 record he is firmly behind coach Dennis Green. I was wondering who that was sticking the bull's-eye on Green's butt ... St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa cheers for the NHL Blues. But, when asked to drop the puck at a Blues game against the Red Wings, he needed a primer on the technique. "I said, 'Do you drop it and they start skating all around you? How do you get out of there?' " So, he's a lot like the team he cheers for. After losing eight of the past nine games to Detroit, it's evident the Blues don't know where to go after the faceoff, either.

SMART 'N' SASSY

"If I jump up in the air and never come down, he goes." -- Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland on his steal sign for slow-footed first baseman Sean Casey.


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