Finally, the plug has been pulled, and itís about time too.  After listening to six months of baloney Iím literally at the end of my rope and for once I can honestly say Iím at a loss for words.

Now all of us can get on with our lives, even though to be quite frank, life has gotten on just fine thank you very much.

Iím not going to repeat whatís already been said in the news because weíve been hearing it for far too long, but I will say this: this is going to sting for a long time to come, and do you know what?  For the time being I couldnít care less.

Yes, you read that right.

The game Iíve idolized for so long has run out of ways to impress me.  Forget the whole labor situation, the NHL game itself has simply worn out its welcome.  A recent Sports Byline online poll really says it all.  The question asked was ďDo you think the NHL is dead as a major North American sport?Ē  Not surprisingly, 77% of respondents answered yes.

Why should we care?  Donít get me wrong, I really feel most for those folks whose very livelihood depends on NHL hockey, but itís become clear to me over the past six months the two people who could have solved this whole mess donít care.  Iím tired of hearing all the excuses and rhetoric.  Yes, Gary Bettman and Bob Goodenow, Iím talking to both of you.  Both of these so-called leaders of the pack should be absolutely ashamed of themselves for even allowing the lockout to drag on for as long as it did, give us a glimmer of hope, only to pull the plug when we all knew full well there wouldnít have been enough time for a meaningful season anyway.

So now, sadly, for the first time since 1919 there will be no Stanley Cup awarded.  Not even the First and Second World Wars or recent 21st century terror threats were able to stop us from seeing a championship celebration.  Thereís only one word to accurately describe what killed the 2004-05 NHL Season: Greed.  Period.

So now, the fun begins.  Not only does the NHL need to get its labor impasse solved, if you can even call it that at this stage, it needs to fix the game.  It remains to be seen what, if anything, will happen to the 30 teams in the league now.  There is certainly a real possibility of contraction whenever we do play again, even though Mr. Bettman contradicts this, but realistically, if we donít end up losing or relocating at least two teams out of this whole mess I for one will be shocked.

Assuming all 30 teams survive, there is also the issue of how to improve the product on the ice.  Had it not been for the lockout, I think we might have seen a different game with some of the planned rule changes.  To further illustrate this, just watch an AHL game and cross your fingers we can get back to a similar level of play once it resumes.  I for one, am not holding my breath.

Letís not forget the most important ingredient: the players.  How many players either playing in Europe or nearing the end of their careers will actually return?  Will we ever see some of the unrestricted free agent signings from the summer of 2004 play for their respective teams?  For those teams who have to cut payroll to get under the salary cap (and make no mistake, there will be one, itís just a matter of how much), what do you do with those players you canít sign for fear of being taxed or fined?  How do we convince the future stars of our game like Sidney Crosby to play for an organization who's lost their identity?  Most importantly, when, where and how do you even hold a draft?

If the sport of hockey is a business, then the ultimate solution is easy: the leaders of the business have to go.  In business, if youíre a CEO and you mess up, youíre gone.  So I, on behalf of all fans, would like to ask for Mr. Bettman and Mr. Goodenow to both step down from their posts and allow someone else to take a shot at the net.  Iím sorry, but when you canít get a proper deal made during 10 and 15 years of tenure respectively, then youíll never get it done.  Personally I think Don Cherry could have made a deal faster than these two.

So we may not yet have cost certainty, but we are certain there wonít be a season, so letís stop all the rhetoric and letís not talk about it again until everything is fixed.  Letís just get it done right and get back on the ice in October 2005 with no more excuses.

The NHL can be rest assured of the fact I can still go see OHL hockey for less money than it costs to park or even bus it to the Corel Centre, and believe me when I tell you I wonít be first in line to buy tickets if and when the NHL decides to reopen their doors.  Furthermore, this lockout has given me and many fans an opportunity to re-evaluate our lives, and we will just simply find something else to do.


Well, now I can carry on with my EA Sports NHL 2004 simulation of the NHL 2005 season that wasnít.  Iíve actually fell behind in the schedule in the hopes the NHL could have salvaged something, but life will go on.  Here is are some scores from last month, with promises of more to come.

January 11 - New York Rangers 5  Anaheim 5  F/OT Ė Dan Blackburn 44 saves, Bobby Holik 4 assists  Ė  Tampa Bay 4  Ottawa 1

January 12 Ė Toronto 6  Nashville 2 Ė Gary Roberts 3 goals

January 13 Ė Calgary 4  Phoenix 1 Ė Martin Gelinas 2 goals, Jarome Iginla 2 assists

January 15 Ė Tampa Bay 3  Nashville 2  - Nolan Pratt game winning goal, Brad Richards 1 goal, Nikolai Khabibulin 39 saves  Ė  Edmonton 3  Colorado 2 Ė George Laraque game winning goal, Radek Dvorak 1 goal, Steve Staios 2 assists, Ty Conklin 29 saves, Paul Kariya 1 goal  Ė  St. Louis 5  Phoenix 1 Ė Brett Hull 1st goal of season, Dallas Drake 2 goals 29 seconds apart, Pavel Demitra 1 goal, Doug Weight 1 goal 2 assists, Patrick Lalime 17 saves

January 16 Ė New York Islanders 4  New York Rangers 1 Ė Alexei Yashin 1 goal, 1 assist, Mike Peca 2 assists, Mark Messier 1 goal  -  Ottawa 2  San Jose 2  F/OT Ė Daniel Alfredsson 1 goal, Martin Havlat 1 goal

January 17 Ė Edmonton 3  Anaheim 2 Ė Steve Staios 1 goal 1 assist, Radek Dvorak 1 goal

January 18 Ė Nashville 3  Vancouver 1 Ė Steve Sullivan 2 goals  -  Phoenix 3  Buffalo 1 Ė Coyotes win first game of the season Ė Paul Mara & Sean OíDonnell both score shorthanded, Mike Ricci empty net goal, Brian Boucher 41 saves. 

I want to reassure my loyal readers I will continue to check in at least once a month.  Next month Iíll be traveling to Syracuse, New York to catch some AHL action, and who knows maybe even some March Madness.  Take care everyone and Iíll talk to you soon.  It will take more than the NHL to stop me from finding ways to satisfy our hockey cravings.


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