Here are two little words that would go a long way toward ending the NHL lockout: rival league. The NHL has a complete monopoly on top-level pro hockey in North America and that makes it easy for owners to shut the players out for a year or two.
At this point, locked out players are working in Europe in record numbers (out of sight out of mind as far as the owners are concerned) but there's little reason to believe they won't come back in a heartbeat when the NHL finally opens its doors.
What would really put the fear of Dave Schultz into the owners would be if hundreds of players started competing in another North American league, with teams in hockey markets, maybe even with a TV contract. Heck, they could even make a case to compete for the Stanley Cup. After all, it's not the NHL's exclusive property.
It's mind-boggling that nobody, except for the capital-deficient WHA founders (who had the right idea but little wherewithal), has tried to make this happen. The timing is perfect. There will be no NHL this year, maybe no NHL next year.
The WHA people knew they could use the lockout to get their league off the ground and make an immediate splash. Instead, they belly-flopped.
Reports surfaced yesterday that new owners will try again next fall. The track record is poor, so we'll believe it when we see it.
We just have to wonder why on Earth someone else hasn't taken this idea and skated with it.
CAN'T STICK WITH IT: ESPN was televising the World Junior Hockey Championship in the U.S. this year, but when the Americans were knocked out in the semifinal, it decided not to show the final. Taking its place was tape-delayed women's billiards. Just can't say enough about what Little Man Gary Bettman has done to grow hockey in the United States. Question: Who did a worse job of growing his sport south of the border? Bettman or Larry Smith? Discuss ... For his next brilliant move, the fifth-worst corporate manager in all the United States will move a franchise to Mexico City and blame the players for the weak peso and the watery ice.
STICK TO KICKING: Memo to Mike Vanderjagt (or Vanderjerk as most of the football world calls him). The last thing the Colts need is an 'idiot kicker' shooting his mouth off and firing up the New England Freakin' Patriots. Nice leg, shame about the brain ... On the other end of the spectrum: Anola's Corey Koskie left the Minnesota Twins organization with the utmost class, taking a half-page ad out in both Twin Cities daily papers. It read, in part: "Remember Twins fans, you put the Minnesota Twins back on the baseball map! This is a great organization, so keep cheering and waving that homer hanky." We make 'em good here in Manitoba, don't we?
MOSSBACK(SIDE): Randy Moss obviously thought it was a marvelous night for a moondance last Sunday at Lambeau Field, but with that hair style, we're doubting he took any inspiration from Van Morrison ... Moss might have made an ass of himself, but it's the Packers who are hanging their heads after getting beaten by a player who looked like a cross between Sideshow Bob and Maurice Cheeks after a motorcycle accident ... So, if the Packer fans really have a tradition of mooning the opposing team's bus, wouldn't Moss's 'obscene' gesture actually be pretty funny? ... Maybe Moss was just auditioning to replace Mickey Rooney in those recently-yanked bare-butt ads ... Word is an American music station is interested in building a reality series around Anna Benson, the now-infamous wife of New York Mets pitcher Kris Benson. Given her recent promise to have sex with every member of the Mets if her husband ever cheated on her, we're thinking there's always the Hustler Channel if things don't work out with VH1 ... If the Rams and Vikings both pull off NFL upsets this weekend, the 8-8 Rams will host the NFC championship. Meanwhile, the 9-7 Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars will jointly host a seminar on how to get into the NFC ... Good news for the Yankees. New prize Randy Johnson actually made it through a day this week without pitching a fit for photographers. However, just to keep endearing himself to New Yorkers, rumour has it he did tell some autograph seekers to get out of his face.