Saturday, August 28, 2004

Is this the beginning of the Unravelling?

As the labour negotiations in NHL continue along their rancid path, the NHLPA may have one less card to play. It seems that they may not be able to use the WHA as a bargaining hammer for much longer.

In a surprise (though cynics would say not unexpected) announcement Friday, the fledgling league announced that its Quebec franchise had been taken away from the rights holder, Jean Paul Boily. Citing frequent appearances at WHA meetings seeking financial concessions, the league decided that Mr. Boily did not have the financial where-with-all to put a team on the ice this year and thus have terminated their operating agreement with him.

Now it possibly takes rather large cojones to start waving the finger of financial misrepresentation around. For all its bluster and occasional media releases, there has not been much said, let alone done, from the WHA headquarters since they held their player draft a month ago.

For a league planning on taking to the ice in November they face a rather large mountain called credibility. They haven’t signed any player of any skill level, to a contract as of yet. This despite the motions of draft from a Niagra Falls casino in July. The only big name they seem to have pursued in any fashion, Sidney Crosby has decided to stick to junior hockey and for the most part the majority of the remaining teams have yet to sign a lease with any arena.

With the exception of the Detroit franchise, none of the other teams have a GM or a coach, trainer or stickboy, let alone players. In short, the league still appears to remain the vision of a couple of guys in a bar, drafting teams on the back of a beer bottle coaster.

The final word on the state of the WHA at the moment belongs to league co-founder Al Howell who said: “The fans of Quebec deserve WHA hockey and we will now explore all options to make this a reality”.

One suspects that the hockey fans of Quebec City must be thinking what they did to deserve this salad of unfulfilled expectations.

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