As the NHL and NHLPA head back to what passes for a bargaining table these days, a cautionary note for the management side. Ken Fidlin of the Sun newspaper chain in Canada puts the boots to the idea of replacement players filling in the Unis of your favorite team next season.
As Fidlin points out and in two sentences he effectively ends the argument for replacement players quickly " Most American markets are already lukewarm to the game played by the most talented players in the world. What are they going to think of a bunch of guys skating on their ankles?". And with that the replacement idea should die a quick and merciless death.
Already in a bit of trouble with the likes of the Maple Leafs and Wayne Gretzky expressing no taste for the concept, the NHL would quickly find that the lifeblood of their game the television networks would most likely be asking for serious cash rebates should the pride of the most important professional league on ice be replaced by the pride of the beer leagues.
In fact the NHL must be waiting with a sense of fearful anticipation as ESPN ponders its options, the deadline for a new contract having come and gone on April 15th with nary an indication of what is next. Today the NFL announced that ESPN had just signed a huge contract to broadcast Monday Night football in 2006. With ESPN paying a record 1.1 billion for the NFL rights, Gary and his pals had best be hoping that the folks in the Sportscentre head offices have put aside a small stipend for hockey if and when it returns. And they better be bringing the hockey cards of Vinny Lecavalier, Dany Heatley and other young guns with them, imagine the cackles of derision if the NHL approaches ESPN with the concept of replacement player hockey.
So with that big stick now whittled down to it's toothpick size, perhaps both sides can now sit down in a calm, rational and good spirited manner to negotiate a deal and get everyone talking about drafts, training camps and ticket sales.