[This is the third of three articles posted today to catch up on the past few days that we have missed. Please scroll down after this NHL update for separate articles on Ranger prospects and on Cablevision.]
The NHL and PA are scheduled to meet on Monday to resume talks, the NHL having filed one grievance against the PA with the NLRB and threatening to file another, and owners proferring thinly veiled promises to ice replacement players this fall. So what is everyone talking about? What the NHL will look like if and when it ever returns to the ice.
Colin Campbell, once Ranger head coach with a record that would be better than it is were it forgettable, told The Hockey News that the NHL will be showing the GMs two versions of expanded nets when they get together in April to discuss rule changes. One version would curve outward from the base, the other version would remain a rectangle, expanded by two inches all around. Add that to the recent experiment with blue ice and orange blue lines, the certainty of shootouts deciding tie games, and even further talk from Nike about new Spiderman-like uniforms, and the purists are sure to go bonkers, while everyone else continues to ignore the NHL (or worse, have new fodder for ridiculing it).
The NHL is in for a shock. It is badly misreading the sentiment of the only fans who are still paying attention, the fans in Canada. Those fans overwhelmingly support PA capitulation in favor of the NHL's salary restrictions for one overriding reason -- they want the game they love and revere back. But bring it back looking like something out of a bad dystopian sci-fi movie and watch how those fans react. Too bad they can't see it coming and do something about it now, before it's too late.
More and more Canadian stars are choosing to sit out the upcoming world championships. No one has suggested this, but we're starting to wonder to what extent players are implicitly returning the favor to fans who explicitly chose to back the NHL against them.
Campbell, by the way, is one of two people added to the Hall of Fame selection committee. Bob Mackenzie at TSN.com characterizes Campbell as a hockey traditionalist and wonders how his reputation is going to weather the new look the NHL wants to relaunch with, Campbell being the NHL's point man on many of the changes, like wider nets.
It comes almost as an afterthought these days, but the NHL and PA are meeting next week. Of course, these days no one has any more illusions that it is anything other than a mating dance between the NHL and replacements. Bill Daly told TSN last week, "Clearly it's important and prudent to make sure there are no illegal impediments to legitimate business alternatives. Obviously, the use of replacement players or the use of cross-over players, in the event we were to unilaterally implement new terms and conditions of employment, are business alternatives that are open to us."
Said Tim Leiweke of the LA Kings: ''We're back playing hockey in September. There's an enormous amount of conviction and planning toward the fan. The fan has become a high priority for us and we can't abuse that trust. Fans want to see guys who are hard-working and grounded and decent." As opposed to players who can, oh, skate, stickhandle, shoot, and score, regardless of personality flaws like wanting to get paid as much as they are worth.
Then there is Eric Cairns. Even without the NHL, it seems we can count on Cairns and Dale Purinton to amuse us with their cementhead antics. Purinton you already know all too well about, his brawls and suspensions. Now Cairns has gotten into the act, suspended while playing in England for attacking a ref. Cairns was waived by the Rangers for his alleged lack of hockey sense. Is there anything more senseless than going after an official?