US$100,000 per year. There's a lesson in that.
That's the difference between the Oilers standing pat at the trade deadline and Ryan Smyth making a tearful farewell in the hallway of Edmonton's airport.
Two parties letting obstinacy and pride prevent them from making one last small concession. Smyth could have shrugged and said, "Close enough." But he didn't. Oilers GM Kevin Lowe could have conceded and said, "The difference isn't even 1/4 of the league minimum salary. Don't spend it all in one place, Smytty." But he didn't.
Calgarians must be bitter about this.
I say there's a lesson here because we've heard almost nothing about Plan B for a few weeks now. Yesterday, the Penguins declined an opportunity to exercise a one-year extension on their lease at Mellon Arena. They'd lose much of their negotiating leverage if they did, so that makes sense from a business perspective. For most of February, however, the word from County Executive Dan Onorato, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, and/or Governor of Philadelphia Ed Rendell (but almost never from Penguins management) has been, "blah blah agree on principles, blah blah little details, blah blah closer every day."
The stakes are obviously much higher in Pittsburgh. For Smyth, it's just the difference between a third jersey designed by Todd McFarlane, and a third jersey designed by an eighth grader during study hall. Here, were talking about 41 tax-revenue-generating home games a year; national and international events that wouldn't dare tolerate the Igloo's poor acoustics, outdated infrastructure, and inhospitable corridors; and the stigma of being a City That Lost A Major Sports Franchise. (Hello, Cleveland!)
I've said all along that the arena issue has become a referendum on the City of Pittsburgh's desire to rise again. I'd hate to see that all come apart because of something small that only the stubborn would trip over.