Wednesday, January 26, 2005

The Alberta Clipper

The timing was wonderful, as the NHLPA and the NHL were held captive in a Toronto hotel discussing potential areas of agreement came a cold wind from the West. But unlike a cool refreshing breeze, this was one of those bone chilling blasts that makes you sit up and take notice.

Edmonton Oilers president Cal Nichols, sent an arctic blast to Toronto, with word that unless there was a salary cap or "cost certainty" (as Gary would say) in place, then he would ask the NHL to suspend his franchise, or consider moving it.

Cal's contribution to cause of collective bargaining is not exactly a surprise, most recently GM Kevin Lowe stated that unless some kind of fiscal sanity returned to the NHL then he would have to rethink his career options.

The Oilers who play in front of sell outs quite a bit of the year, have had their roster gutted over the years as players reached their peak potential and had to be dealt away due to the financial problems of the smaller cities.

Nichols said that many of his fellow owners were just barely hanging on and unless the cost structure is taken care of things can't go on. But the fact that he issues his warning while some of compatriots were involved in talks, has many thinking that there is a bit of a crack in the resolve of the management side.

Perhaps it was just a reminder to his guys at the table to not get off message, or maybe it's a last desperate plea to hold firm, for the sake of the teams like Nichols' holding on for a level playing field and a chance to stay alive.

Nichols says he wasn't sabre rattling, but merely speaking the truth. The players may take a different approach, questioning the timing of his outburst but his comments as cold and blunt as they are, merely reflect the opinion of many of the teams in the smaller markets.

But for Edmonton fans the words bring about a sense of trepidation, as they face not only the loss of hockey for a season, but if things don't shake out properly perhaps the loss of hockey forever!

Which puts all of the continual talking with no end into perspective. There's a lot to be lost in this dispute, Northern Alberta is hoping that their team isn't the first casualty of the brand new world where the NHLPA and NHL are taking us.

No comments: