Saturday, December 15, 2012

Leave The Talent At The World Juniors

By Andrew McGilligan
SN Staff

Gary Bettman was right.

Now there’s a line most hockey fans will never utter. However, I agree with the commissioner when he said, a few weeks ago, that the two sides in the NHL lockout should take a break from the bargaining table.

Bettman suggested a two-week leave from negotiations. Sounds good, do it now and make it last until Jan. 6, 2013.

Why Jan. 6?

It’s the day after the gold medal game of the World Junior tournament in Ufa, Russia.

If the NHL wants to make fans happy this holiday season, then reaching an agreement after the tournament concludes, allowing all players to represent their country and not be yanked out for NHL training camps is the way to go.

Fans have been without NHL hockey this season; many are frustrated by yet another work stoppage. Taking away the top talent available for arguably the most exciting and anticipated tournament of the year would be a slap in the face.

It would effectively be the NHL saying we’re not ready to play, but we don’t want you to watch the best hockey possible while we’re frittering away more games.

Several NHL general managers, including Brian Burke of the Toronto Maple Leafs, have committed to leaving their players at the tournament regardless of a potential deal in the lockout.

Burke and some of his brethren recognize the benefit the World Juniors provide for young players and want them to gain that experience.

Yes, the lockout has gone on long enough, but what’s a few more weeks. It’s not like fans are chomping at the bit for training camp practices and preseason games.

Hockey fans want to watch the best hockey possible. The Word Junior offers fans the chance to watch players compete for country, perhaps the purest form of the sport.

In the end, Bettman was right; a vacation from negotiations is the right idea. However, like most things the commissioner has done, his timing was all wrong.

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