Friday, February 18, 2005

Game On?

Ever since the cancellation of the season, there have been rumblings that the players were unhappy with union leadership. This response is entirely predictable, especially given the fact that Bob Goodenow lied for months, claiming there was no way he would ever accept a salary cap then caving at the last moment. Had he made that concession earlier the season could have easily been saved. From all indication, Ted Saskin was the only person on the players' side truly interested in a deal. There have been suggestions that the players would fire Goodenow and make a deal without the union, the Gretzky and Lemieux were huddled up and making a deal which they would present to both sides and a myriad of other suggestions. Today, these conspiracy theories appear to be on the verge of becoming reality.

Earlier today, Bill Guerin was supposed to appear for an autograph session in Dallas. That event was hastily cancelled as Bill Guerin told AM 1310 (the organizers of the event) that he had to leave town immediately and could not explain where he was going. Though initially reported only on Eklund's questionable hockeyrumors blog, this has now been confirmed by other media sources. Bill Guerin is a member of the union player executive, and if any last ditch effort was being made to save the season he would certainly be involved.

Further, TSN and Sportsnet had both downplayed rumours earlier this week. However, they both jumped on the bandwagon today, as did the Canadian Press. All three ran stories about the possibility of a deal being struck this weekend and the season being saved.

Meanwhile, Eklund's blog is now reporting that Ted Saskin and three high profile NHL players, including two executive members (Guerin would be one) are en route to NYC to present an offer to Gary Bettman. He suggests the league will accept it by Sunday at the latest. Eklund has been a figure of great controversy throughout the lockout, offering unsubstantiated rumours at his blog and generally having a positive outlook on the chances of a settlement. After the season was cancelled the site was swarmed with negative comments by people who felt lied to, and he's since turned off comments. Take anything he says with a grain of salt, but he has been right about a lot of things.

The strong suggestion before Wednesday's deadline was that an offer of $45 million would be acceptable to both sides. If the rumours are true, and where there is this much smoke there's almost certainly fire, we'll probably know soon.

For all my rage on Wednesday, I could definitely find myself forgiving the league and the players if it turns out that they were led astray by their leadership. Gary Bettman claims the league would lose a great deal of money with a $49M cap. I'm tempted to believe him. If Ted Saskin and the players come to NYC with a real offer to save the season and enter in to a reasonable cooperation with the owners...well let's not count our chickens before they hatch, but it'll be a whole new ballgame.

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