Are we less than thirty days away from the complete shutdown of the NHL for this year? If Rene Fasel is to be believed, the remaining NHLers in North America may be rushing for their local passport office by the end of November. Fasel, who is President of the International Ice Hockey Federation, says he believes that Gary Bettman will call an end to the 2004-05 NHL season by the end of November, unless progress is made in a very quick order.
Fasel who offered no background on his claim, just a short blurb to the Montreal newspaperLe Matin, feels that the NHL is dangerously close to the point of no return, suspending operations until a new year unless the two sides find some common ground an quickly. Fasel went further with his observations suggesting that the question isn’t whether we’ll see hockey this year, but if there will anything to watch in the 2005 season!
With over 200 current NHLers presently in Europe there very well be a flood of hockey refugees by the new year destined for the Swiss, French, Swedish, Finnish Russian and German leagues to name a few.
For its part the NHL poured cold water on Fasel’s thinking, Bill Daly who seems to do most of the public speaking for the NHL these days said that Fasel was speaking purely for himself, and that his statements in now way reflected any communications between the NHL and the IIHF.
While that may be so, it seems likely that the bug was planted in his ear by somebody attached with ownership, since the league heavily fines its owners who speak out about the labour dispute; it would serve the NHL’s purpose to have a handy pipeline to funnel worst case scenarios towards the median and thus the union leadership. Whether true or not, the idea may be to create a bit of concern in the union camp, which would be used to move them towards a settlement on less favourable terms than they are seeking at the moment.
Deadlines come and deadlines go, at least with this one the pain is short-lived, with less than tree weeks before Fasel’s version of a drop dead date, perhaps we’ll see the two sides begin to seriously discuss their differences, rather than spend valuable time verbally jousting over the same old, same old.
But if one was a current NHL roster player, putting together the passport photos, getting the paperwork done and getting all your shots might make for a sensible employment strategy for the New Year!