Toronto Mike

16 Months In Exile


Tonight, all thirty teams in the NHL will see action.  It's been sixteen long months since the Stanley Cup was won by the Tampa Bay Lightning.  Sixteen long, tumultuous months of nothing.

Looking back, it all seems so surreal.  The players were locked out, there was a great deal of hope in February followed by the cancellation of the season and another last gasp effort that came up empty.  Then, there was a deal with new rules and parity that hasn't been seen in many years.  The following entries demonstrate the roller coaster-like peaks and valleys of the past sixteen months.

  • Sigh (October 7, 2004) - "The NHL is a multi-billion dollar business that can't figure out how to divide all that money. They don't even seem to be trying. When was the last time the two sides spoke? When is their next meeting? Don't they care? This is a bunch of extremely wealthy people playing chicken at our expense."
  • The Big Tease (December 2, 2004) - "I read about this meeting between the NHLPA and NHL and I see a slight glimmer of hope. I see the possibility of hockey this season and a Stanley Cup champion crowned in 2005. I see my brothers and I gathered around friends drafting our playoff pool and I see James and I wearing our jerseys and celebrating loudly when Roberts/Sundin/McCabe/Nolan scores for Toronto. I see it all potentially unfolding before my eyes and I smile.  Then I shake my head and realize it's all just a big tease."
  • Last Chance (December 9, 2004) - "Mr. Goodenow, Mr. Bettman, I implore each of you to salvage this season. To cancel the Stanley Cup playoffs this spring would be to break the collective heart of a nation. Save the season and bring hockey back, please. I miss it."
  • I'm Cancelling The Season (December 24, 2004) - "Driving the snow lined streets of Toronto this afternoon, I started thinking about hockey. I realized it was Christmas Eve and the 2004/2005 NHL hockey season has yet to begin. With the NHL and NHLPA deeply entrenched in a pissing contest, everybody is looking at January 14th, 2005, the day the NHL board of governors are set to meet, as the day the season is likely cancelled. This hockey fan has no interest in waiting three weeks for the NHL to confirm the worst. I'm taking action today. I'm cancelling the entire 2004/2005 NHL season."
  • Repugnant Bettman (February 15, 2005) - "While I slept last night, the NHLPA agreed to accept a salary cap. This was a most significant concession on their part. The NHL offered to remove its demand for a link between league revenues and player costs, a most significant concession on their part. With this glorious, unexpected progress being made at the eleventh hour, the NHLPA offered to accept a cap at $52 million. Sounds good, doesn't it?  Bettman said no and talks broke down. The NHL won't accept a cap at $52 million but wants $40 million. They're going for broke on this one, even if it destroys the game I love."
  • An Open Letter To Gary Bettman (February 16, 2005) - "Today you cancelled the 2004-2005 NHL hockey season. As a result, I will be deprived of one of my passions. I won't be celebrating a Maple Leaf goal, feeling that tingle the morning of a Maple Leaf playoff game and exchanging high fives with James and my brothers following a big win. For the first time in a decade we won't be drafting a playoff pool, seeing an always exciting game seven or discussing potential trades at the deadline. For only the second time in the history of the Stanley Cup and for the first time since 1919 that precious mug we dream about as children will go unawarded. We are left with nothing."
  • Hopes Up (February 18, 2005) - "The media is full of reports that there is a chance that 2004-05 regular season and playoffs could be saved. In fact, there is some speculation that a deal will be struck this weekend...Should this be a false alarm, I'm really going to be angry. My friend Nick Carter said it best. Bettman and Goodenow: Quit playing games with my heart."
  • Do You Believe In Miracles? (February 18, 2005) - "The NHL season is expected to be "un-canceled" Saturday in New York, according to The Hockey News.  A nation holds its collective breath. I have 99 reasons to keep the faith."
  • Premature Ecstatication (February 20, 2005) - "When the phone rang it felt like the dead of night so I asked Taryn to answer it because it had to be an emergency. It turned out it was only ten o'clock and it was my brother Steve calling to share the great news he saw reported on TSN. The players and league had reached an agreement and the season would be saved Saturday."
  • They're Back! (July 13, 2005) - "I saw this moment coming, and now that it's here I'm even happier than I thought I'd be. The NHL and NHL Players' Association have finally reached an agreement on a new six-year collective bargaining agreement. Assuming this deal gets ratified, the NHL will start back up again on July 21."

A wide range of emotions escaped my fingertips over the past sixteen months, and those ten entries are just a taste.  There was disappointment, anger, sadness, hope, more disappointment, more anger, indifference and finally elation.  Tonight, I'm picking up Steve, buying a pepperoni pizza and heading to Ryan's place to watch our Toronto Maple Leafs battle the Ottawa Senators in regular season NHL action.  I'll be wearing my #5 Bill Barilko jersey, my heart on my sleeve and a big smile.  Hockey is back and all is forgiven.

Go Leafs Go!

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