Here we go again. Just when you though the final spike had been punched through the heart of professional hockey, comes word that not only are the two sides talking again, but quite possibly a deal has been made and there may be hockey again this year.
The Hockey News broke the latest bit of information on Friday evening, a tale of a planned meeting on Saturday brokered by Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux. Tales of player agents burning up the trans oceanic phone lines to clients in Europe telling them to get packing it's time to come home. The cancelled season apparently about to become uncancelled.
Of course as with any firestorm of rumour there's little to base the shocking developments in the great impasse of 2005. A 45 million dollar salary cap is apparently in place, leaving one to wonder the fate of the small market teams that claimed to need a cap in the thirties to survive. Instead of "making the game work properly" that Gary Bettman insisted was the basis of the drawn out dispute this time around, we seem to have a desperation bid to just get hockey back on the ice. How long a fix that will prove to be will be something to be argued for many years to come.
Just how many games any "regular" season might feature has not been disclosed, nor has a solution to many of the other sticking points in the last five months of point and counter point between Bob Goodenow and Gary Bettman.
No one knows what triggered the renewed attempts to find some common ground and exhibit some common sense. Perhaps it was the veiled threat from ESPN that the only footprint the NHL has on American TV was about to cut it's losses and move on from any form NHL broadcast in the future. Then again it may have been a coup from within the players ranks, as a number of top stars apparently have expressed disappointment at how the whole scenario spun out of control on Wednesday.
Regardless, the hockey talk shows (check out the 9pm-midnight block on CKNW Friday for a sample of the interest) are alive with excitement as hockey fans jump on any glimmer of hope that the sport may return shortly. Listener after listener expressing a hope against hope that this wild rumour takes root and proves to be factual by Sunday.
The timing couldn't be better for TSN, Saturday sees the Canadian Sports Network featuring a six hour tribute to Hockey called Hockey Lives Here. How appropriate if they could report during the six hour marathon that indeed Hockey Lives, ratings for TSN on Saturday should be through the roof as Canadians gather around their television sets waiting for the puffs of smoke from New York City. The signal for a return to the rink for the players, whether the fans follow remains to be seen.