Dryden isn't scared. He welcomes the melding of East and West, the creation of a truly international sport crammed with spectacular players who can skate, score and, when necessary, drive up the rates for the NHL's dental plan. "This is a better game than it was before," he says. "Don Cherry may well be right, that a number of people may want to say exactly what he's been saying, but I think a great majority of people enjoy the game as it is played today with these new players, more than they did before.
"Lots of other feelings may complicate what we see with our eyeballs, but it's there. You can't ignore it. This is becoming a better game."
Those other feelings run deep. Ask Jacques Demers, the outspoken coach of the Montreal Canadiens, if he likes what's happening, and he raises his voice and starts waving his arms like a politician. "If the Europeans get to the point that they take over our game in our country.... Wow! I wouldn't like to see that happen," he says. "This is our Canadian sport. In the United States it's baseball or football or basketball. In Canada this is all we've got! It's our game. We're known for it. I don't want to lose that. It's important!"
Demers doesn't favor quotas, but he deplores the open-arms policy toward third- and fourth-line-caliber players who are leaving Europe to come to the NHL. "The Jaromir Jagrs are welcome. The Pavel Bures are welcome. But if you have a Canadian player who is just about equal in talent to a European player, I want to see the Canadian. You know what I mean?"
Quinn knows, but he's not buying it. "We in the NHL hope to say that our players are the best in the world," he says. "The jobs are open."
Canada's loss will be hockey's gain. Billy O'Reilly, you're on your own.
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