Thursday, May 19, 2005

 

On the Eve of Possibilities

Tonight as we wait for another round of negotiations to bring back our sport, all sides are preparing for what is being quietly touted as a huge day. A day that could determine what kind of season we see in 05-06. With the PA deciding it's best course of action, whether the best deal is now, in September or in January. While the NHL is coming up with it's best offer after trying for several days to get everyone on the same page and to build trust, which according to one player they have come a long way towards building...there is hope.

Hope for the players who have worked hard and overcome incredible odds to become pro and be the best in the world at the most fantastic sport ever created. They deserve to be on the ice. They deserve a chance to fulfill their destinies. A chance to get on the ice and skate at full speed in front of 20,000 fans. A chance to make a life's worth of money in a short period of time and give their kids the opportunities many of them never had. If another season is cancelled, many of these guys will never get that shot.

Hope for the families of the players. The people who have been so strong for the guys throughout this. Riding a roller coaster of emotions and keeping the house upbeat and full of life. We all have gone through stuff like this. Maybe your father's job was in jeopardy, maybe your own company is threatening lay-offs. Maybe you were waiting to get the letter from a college..It is hell. No matter how much you make, it is horrible every day...no escape from it....I talk to alot of the wives, girlfriends and parents of players. They read the blog and e-mail me looking for anything they can relay to lighten the mood. I will be so happy for them when this is over. I would do anything for some of them and their unbelievable kindness towards me.

Hope for the workers of hockey. From rink attendants to media relations people to broadcasters. They don't have the nest egg the players have. For the writers who battle for inches with Arena Football in the US. Many team employees are waiting to see what happens tomorrow before they are forced to make decisions to go and leave the sport they love. Many already have left.

Hope for the kids who play hockey. The ones who haven't seen an NHL game for 10% of their lives and yet get up at dawn with their parents and play in hazy rinks pretending to be Steve Yzerman or Martin Brodeur. My friend's 8 year-old son asked, "Why don't the Flyers want to play?"

Hope for the franchises and their histories. The banners that hang in the arenas...the ones waiting to be hung in Tampa (even though as a Flyers fan that stings) The record books with numbers waiting to be broken. The uniforms worn by many over the years. The owners. The many, many owners who own a hockey team because they want to, not because they need to. Because they want to hold a Stanley Cup one day on the back of a truck moving down the main street of their city.

And of course hope for the fans. Even the ones who probably think this article is corny as hell. So many fans say they just want their sport back. The difference between fans of this sport and those of others is that this isn't a major sport. This is our sport. We defend it when others attack it. We fight to get it on TV. We explain the two-line pass to our girlfriends. We get a new shirt every Christmas. We draft our fantasy teams. We play X-Box. We buy tickets on E-bay for play-off games. We play rod hockey and air hockey and knock hockey. We can't wait to see Crosby play. We want to talk about all the Free Agents. We want to be excited again. I believe that even the fans who are furious right now, the ones who say they don't care...they are the ones that back in February when we all thought the season was uncancelled were high-fiving each other.

It is easy to be cynical. It is probably even justified. To say they don't care about the sport. To say they don't care about the fans. You are free to think that. For me, who is lucky enough to talk to them, I can tell you it isn't true. If there is any truth to it, I'm not listening anyway. I'm not killing the magic of the sport that I pretended to be Gilles Gilbert in my basement playing 30 years ago...The excitement that will follow the new CBA will be incredible. We will forgive them, not because they deserve it, but because we deserve it. The NHL needs to be about the players again. When you talk too much about how much something costs you erode its charm. That has happened, but the sport is so fantastic when played by these 700 players that as angry and bitter as this fight has been...the sport is bigger than that.

I'm not saying the end will come on Thursday...It is always possible that tomorrow does not go well. But even if it falls apart quickly and gets uglier...I am feeling based on countless phone calls and conversations (many I can't discuss) the end is approaching quicker because of some serious progress between and amidst the two sides over the last two weeks, and there are signs that we will soon be talking free agents. There is hope for hockey. (If you have a lucky jersey you might want to pull it out)

I will be around all day on Thursday...Talking to every contact, digging every possible scoop, and updating with any rumor or speculation that I can find....Since many people joined the "INSIDERS" today, and I will be able to launch the website in the next day or so as well...

Warning..If you are pregnant or have a heart condition you might want to skip this ride for the next week or so...I will wake you when it is over.



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