NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Hockey Icon Optimistic About NHL Returning

Don Cherry has no doubt made an indelible impact on any hockey fan that has watched a Hockey Night in Canada broadcast.  Hockey acumen and wit aside, Cherry is infamous for his ostentatious suit choices.  This year’s lockout has left the hockey world missing not only the game itself, but the former coach’s unique presence on the television screen.  But Cherry is confident there will be a saved season in the New Year.

Cherry, through his Twitter account on Saturday, voiced optimism about the progress of a the labor impasse:

“Look to the middle of January for the game to return! Those people who say it won’t be good hockey because it’s only half a season don’t know what they’re talking about. Don’t you remember the last time it was half a season and New Jersey won the Cup? It was a sprint not a marathon. Play within their own conference. Lots of action. The guys know every game is important. Won’t have the half season blahs. It will be terrific! They will go to the brink and then settle. Nobody in their right mind would kill the goose that lays these golden eggs.”

Perhaps Cherry is privy to more information than regular reporters, but I am hesitant to agree with him completely.  In the last two-plus weeks, there have been virtually no formal talks between the NHL and the NHLPA.  If Cherry is assuming that the NHLPA’s recent vote to give the executive board the authorization to file a disclaimer of interest (detailed nicely by espn.com’s Pierre LeBrun in this article) will initiate the end of this game of brinksmanship between the two sides, he is certainly putting a lot of faith in two men (Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr) that have demonstrated no ability to strike a deal thus far.

After the recent cancellation of games through January 14th, it appears the next few weeks of negotiations will determine whether or not we have a season.  A legitimate schedule could not be feasibly played if begun any later than the third week  of January, so the negotiating parties know what is at stake and what the timetable is.  If Bettman and Fehr value these “golden eggs”, as Cherry says, a deal will happen soon.  If not, Cherry and loyal hockey fans everywhere will be silenced for good.

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