There he is, standing high atop the Strip in Glitter Gulch, neon twinkling incandescently in the background. The tumbleweed desert gas pit stop that mobster Bugsy Siegel helped transform into a garish mecca, that Sinatra and the Rat Pack once lorded over. And in his fists, wads of greenbacks, two stacks of cash subbing for a cellphone. A high roller in a town absolutely sick with them.
Evander Kane, of course, is claiming that it was all a lark. And there’s no reason to doubt him on that score. He’s contending that the whole thing has been taken scandalously, totally out of context. That the photo was apparently snapped in November (hey, weren’t they locked out then, too?), as a friendly jab at boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Some people, Kane added, have no sense of humour. And maybe we don’t.
The Winnipeg Jets, after all, didn’t pony up $31.5 million in extension money three months ago for any amount of good ol’ common sense.
Still, the optics could not have been worse. Crying oppressed at the hands of the merciless tyrants of big business; reduced, after earning upwards of $40,000 a day, every day, during the season — practice, game, travel, off — to trying to scrape by on a pauper’s $10,000 a month. And a guy tweets THAT picture — whatever the date, whatever the intention — to 100,000 followers?
Honestly, sometimes you wonder if any lights are still burning in the attic.
Do that, and you’re just inviting a blindside hit. Might as well be caught idling across the New Jersey Devils’ blueline checking your skate laces with Scott Stevens lurking in the shadows.
As a nice segue from the contentious, wildly ill-advised twitter photo, only hours later NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly cleared his tonsils and went on the radio to issue a fish-or-cut-bait warning. While no firm “drop-dead” date — those crafty Mayans have it all over the league on that one — has been set, Daly admitted that “it is fair to say it is sometime in mid-January.”
So there you have it. Three weeks from now. No jaw-dropping surprise there, but thanks for the confirmation anyway. And congratulations, gents, on going from lockout to law court; for managing to flush millions escalating to billions of dollars down the loo, throwing likely half a dozen franchises into jeopardy and further alienating a fan base that’s fed up to the teeth with the whole mercenary lot.
Nothing much has changed lately. Hard-headed owners accustomed to getting their way are keen to bring the union, and its adversarial advocate Donald Fehr, firmly to heel. The players, weaned on entitlement and not risking a cent in costs, seem blind to just how good they actually have it.
But at least we’re fast approaching the no-return pressure point. That in itself is a blessed relief. The most frustrating part of this entire nonsensical enterprise for anyone who still cares — and that number, make no mistake, dwindles appreciably by the day — is in not knowing. Maybe. Maybe not. Yes, they will. No, they won’t.
If the games do actually go on this season, the buildings should be, without exception, empty for all openers in protest. It’ll never happen, of course. The majority of fans will flock back with an immediate, slavish devotion. But it’s a nice dream, all the same.
What is becoming clear in an impasse that continues to get muddier is that the lure of the European alternative for players is fading, fast. NHLers are beginning to trickle back to the comforts of home, hockey or no hockey. Soon, it could be a flood. In a Globe and Mail article this week, Kyle Turris of the Ottawa Senators spoke of life in Finland as if it were being marooned on some distant planet in a far-off galaxy (Taking someone else’s job and then griping about it is always guaranteed to foster good will). He has, naturally, been back-pedalling faster than Marc Andre Bergeron with Milan Lucic bearing down on him ever since.
For those of you still paying attention, Daly at least threw out a three-letter lifeline Wednesday when, asked for a simple reply as to whether there would be a season or not, said: “Yes.”
“That’s good news,” PA second-in-command Steve Fehr responded when informed of the comment. “I’m glad to hear that. I certainly hope he’s right. That’s the players’ goal, that’s what we want to try and do.
“Hopefully, we’ll get back together and negotiate out the remaining issues as soon as possible.”
No official talks are currently scheduled, but invariably in these nasty labour negotiations, both sides need to reach the absolute edge of the precipice before deciding to pull back; not to jump. For drama, for effect. The lateness of such solutions only serves to makes us all feel like a bunch of saps, as if we’ve been played like an accordion; nothing more unwitting pawns in a tawdry melodrama that was scripted out long ago.
Are they really ready to gamble away what’s left of $3.3 billion in chips this season? Standing high atop the Strip in Glitter Gulch, Evander Kane, wildly misguided though his judgment may have been to post that twitter picture, was at least in a more appropriate place to do it.
On Wednesday, Bill Daly promised that we’re fast approaching plug-pulling time. Let’s hope.
Mid-January or bust?
Good. And if the worst does come to pass, given what they’ve put everyone through these past four months, good riddance, too.
George Johnson is the Herald’s sports columnist. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow George Johnson on Twitter/GeorgejohnsonCH
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