Technically the NHL is still locked out. The legal documents are still being drawn up. The owners expect to ratify the deal tomorrow at the Board of Governors meeting. The players will have an electronic vote over the interwebs to see if they approve of the new deal. The talk now is of training camps opening on Sunday, and the season starting on January 19th. It should be noted that the 19th is one day after Gary Bettman’s deadline to cancel the season. Oh well.
So the lockout has not officially ended, but it effectively has ended. But when we look back at this years from now, what will be the moment we look at as the moment the lock out ended?
It will be the moment when the Toronto Maple Leafs fired General Manager Brian Burke.
This is the dick move of all dick moves. They waited through the off season after the Leafs failed to make the post season for something like the seventh straight season. They waited through four months of lockout. Then, suddenly, just a few days before training camp opened on the insultingly shortened season they gave him the axe.
There are rumors going around that he got canned over Roberto Luongo. There was talk of a trade in the works and the speculation is that Burke did not want to pull the trigger, but Leafs ownership did. I’m of two minds on Luongo. First, as a Bruins fan, I love to see him lose. He choked like a chump in the cup finals against the Bruins and it was glorious to see. How dare you tell Tim Thomas how to play the puck! Tim Thomas might be a right wing nut job, but he already had a Vezina in his closet and was a shoe in for a second. Forget the fact that after your little bit of friendly advice he went on to win a Stanley Cup (at your expense) and a Conn Smythe (again, at your expense). What a jack ass!
Of course I am also a lifelong fan of the Lowell Lock Monsters and Luongo was, for a brief time, one of us. I tend to go easy on him for old times sake.
But given the way he has tended to lose his sanity during the playoffs, and how he still remains saddled with the can’t-win-the-big-game label (unfairly thanks partly to the first three rounds of his Cup run, but mostly due to that shiny gold medal he won in the Olympics), there is no way any serious GM would have pulled the trigger on any trade, unless The Iron Lung (that’s what we called him in Lowell… well, that’s what my brother, sister, sister’s ex, and I called him) were some sort of inexpensive throw in. Nope. Not going to take that deal, friends. Luongo has to win a Stanley Cup before I would consider dealing for him. Let the Canucks deal with him.
Regardless of the why or the how the Leafs fired Brian Burke, the fact is that suddenly those few of us who still follow the NHL are talking about something besides the lockout. Today is the day that we actually start moving on.
I will be damned if I give this asshole of a league a dime this year, but I suddenly am not bitching about the labor dispute and the work stoppage. I suddenly am wondering if Chris Bourque can make his dad’s old team. I’m suddenly wondering if Tyler Seguin can score 50 goals in 48 games.