Hockey could use rival league

TED WYMAN

, Last Updated: 10:35 AM ET

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.

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