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Thursday, July 14, 2005

nhl- Rich get Richer

from Larry Brooks and the NY Post (reg. req.), The Flim-Flam men who sit on the NHL Board of Governors can dance their little jig all right, now that they've won their precious percentage-of-the-gross hard salary cap. But as they're doing their polka, they should understand they are dancing on the grave of hockey's long-standing culture.
The players weren't the only losers in this fight. The game lost, too. Some owners may have won — ironically, the big-market owners who never on their own would have instigated a lockout or endorsed a cancelled 2004-05 by far won the biggest — but the league as a whole has lost.
It's lost some relevance, it's lost some fair share of the marketplace, and, yes, those observations were made over and over again throughout the course of the lockout. Most of all, though, the league lost its uniqueness. From the beginning of time, successful hockey teams always were built on continuity, camaraderie, chemistry and character of a core unit. That time is over and done.
It's more than the imposition of a cap that will end the era, more than the percent limitation that will make it impossible for teams like the old Red Wings, Canadiens, Islanders and Oilers to exist, or even the latter-day Devils, Red Wings and Avalanche to retain their nuclei the way they have over the past decade.
It's the granting of unrestricted free agency either by the age of 27 or after seven years of NHL service (whichever comes first, beginning in 2008) that will change the faces of teams and the face of the sport forever.
The turnstiles at arenas may not turn so rapidly after last year's nullification, but the turnstiles to locker rooms — and, not incidentally, out of undesirable small-market locales — will never stop spinning. The small markets complained they couldn't keep their players after 29 or 30? Good luck keeping them after 26 or 27.
Two months ago, when it became clear to the players they could not get back on the ice this year without accepting a percentage-of-the-gross cap, they demanded mobility in return, demanded free agency at peak hours. The league never blinked.
The league never has cared about the game itself, but what it takes to win. The league never has appreciated excellence. This is a league long dedicated to the lowest common denominator....more...