Breaking Sports

Thursday, June 09, 2005

nhl- The New NHL

from Al Strachan and the Toronto Sun, Considering the gloom and doom that surrounds the NHL, the level of optimism within the game itself is astonishingly high.
In the past two weeks or so, more and more players have swung over to the let's-get-it-done approach, and told their representatives at the NHL Players' Association to get the best possible deal but do it quickly.
Some players, such as Brendan Morrison of the Vancouver Canucks, have articulated those views publicly, but there are many others, even some who were among the most militant a few weeks ago, who have now joined the pragmatists.
There aren't many secrets within the NHL community, and now, almost everyone seems to expect the new deal to be struck before the month is over. Even though a report of the salary-cap issue having been settled turned out to be premature, progress is being made.
But the optimism goes far beyond the mere existence of a collective bargaining agreement.
There is a sense on both sides that the game can sink no lower. Its support in the U.S. is close to non-existent; commissioner Gary Bettman has parlayed the once-lucrative network-television packages into nothing more than a memory; the league was so eager to win the public-relations battle in Canada that it did so by alienating the fans against the players and as a result, many of the formerly faithful are swearing that they won't return.
But against this bleak backdrop, there is an attitude that the NHL can only get better and that there is a league-wide commitment to making that happen.
The rule changes will not only be so sweeping that they should make the game exciting again, they will have the support of everyone involved.
There is a consensus that a dramatic makeover is needed and that after a year of inactivity, the timing is perfect. The widely held vision is the new rules will be a long overdue cure for many of the game's ailments.
The salaries will not be what the players wanted, but the system that is being hammered out is one that will allow higher salary-cap ceilings if the owners' revenues rise. As a result, the players will not return with a sense of animosity but with a desire to make the game more attractive to the fans and hence more profitable to the owners.
There has already been agreement among the players that they will become much more accessible and there is an agreement among the owners that any general manager who tries to thwart that development will not be allowed to do so.
In the past, accessibility rules have been ignored and the league, to its own detriment, has done nothing about it.
Both sides agree that if this game is to be sold, it is the players who will have to do it. And serious steps will be taken to bring that about.
In the past couple of weeks, a new attitude has emerged within the hockey world. There is a mutual sense of purpose that even borders on eager anticipation.
The NHL will be back next season, and in the not-too-distant future, the specifics will be made public. And after that, everyone seems to agree, it will get steadily better.