NHL LABOUR WOES
Sweden opens way for players hit by NHL lockout
The Leafs face New York Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist in the first week of the season.(REUTERS)
As NHL Lockout 3.0 closes in on one week old, negativity is the only commodity that is in deep supply.
Saturday was supposed to be the first day of on-ice workouts for teams. Friday, the first day of training camp, was to have seen players report for medicals and physical testing, but the only thing being tested these days is the patience of the fans.
The first Saturday of training camp is typically one of the brightest and most optimistic days of the NHL season. For the most part, the players are the healthiest they will be for the rest of the season. Nobody has lost a game yet. The veterans at or near the end of the road are confident they can conjure up one more year; the first-round draft pick has not yet proven he was a squandered selection.
There are certain recurring themes in different NHL cities.
In the home of the Stanley Cup champion, there is always speculation about how the team will cope with the Cup hangover.
In Nashville, they wonder how the team will be able to sign some soon-to-be free agent star.
In Toronto, they ask if this is the season the Maple Leafs will be a playoff team.
In Phoenix, they wonder if they'll have a team.
Instead, there is only one question for what should have been the first Saturday of training camp: Will there be a 2012-13 NHL season?
Things have not been trending well during the past 24 hours.
The antitrust ruling Friday overturning the Swedish Elitserien's decision that NHLers had to sign for the entire season, not just for the short-term, will have an interesting effect. It's viewed as very favourable for the players since it gives them more options now for the duration of the lockout.
It doesn't sound like all the legal wrangling is done yet, but having a Swedish option for a place to play during the lockout will be good for the players.
In the meantime, in the absence of any on-ice NHL action, the league might want to sell tickets to a pay-per-view event like NHL commissioner Gary Bettman's next conversation with Detroit Red Wings vice-president Jim Devellano, who apparently didn't get the invitation to step under Bettman's Cone of Silence when it comes to the present labour situation.
In what's presented as an exclusive interview with Scott Harrigan of Island Sports News (islandsportsnews.net), Devellano threw out a few interesting comments, including comparing NHL owners with ranchers and the players with cattle.
"The owners own the ranch and allow the players to eat there," Devellano said. "That's the way (it has) always been and that's the way it will be forever. And the owners simply aren't going to let a union push them around. It's not going to happen."