‘Tis the season for optimism? Well, it’s anyone’s guess how the latest round of negotiations between the NHL and NHLPA will end up. But, Toronto Maple Leafs President and GM Brian Burke says the new approach seems to have yielded some positive results.
“The fact that they changed and shuffled the deck a little bit and appeared to have gotten some traction, I think everyone is hopeful it will continue,” Burke said.
Burke was on hand at SickKids hospital, delivering holiday presents along with other Leafs staff and alumni. It’s an annual tradition that typically involves current members of the Maple Leafs.
With the NHL lockout into it’s 82nd day, the event looks a whole lot different with legends Darryl Sittler and Wendel Clark on hand to spread the holiday cheer.
“The current players would be a lot more popular because the kids see them every day” said Sittler. ‘I’m like everybody else, it would be nice to see them playing. The main thing is to get the game back on the ice.”
Sittler was a VP of the players’ union during his career. Arguably, the issues during his playing days were more important with the average salary being exponentially less than what it is today. Regardless of actual semantics and numbers, Sittler is optimistic that a deal will happen soon.
“Like anything, you get your best deal when you get down to the critical point. I’m sure you’re going to want at least a 40-game schedule and you’re running out of time. I’d hate like heck and I don’t think anyone wants to see a whole season not played. I think they’ll get a deal done.”
Given the latest scope of the talks, optimism and pessimism will fluctuate based on the smallest shred of news or a noteworthy tweet from anyone in the hockey world. A deal will be done when it’s done. Visiting children in a hospital who have to be away from home during holidays, will make the most pressing issues seem remote.
“No kid chooses to be in a hospital, especially during Christmas time” says Burke. “To be here and see kids light up when a Wendel Clark or a Darryl Sittler hands them a present, I get a real kick out of that.”
With a lot of these children being hockey fans, a season would sure be a good gift right now.