let John MacLean carve the pumpkin.
Coincidence? Maybe not. Sources tell me that the league-wide night off was the result of a direct order from commissioner Gary Bettman, who wanted to make sure everyone would be available to attend his annual Halloween party.
In fact, those same sources were there that night and provided me with a complete transcript of how the evening unfolded.
Scene: An opulent home in Manhattan. The party is just getting underway, and various NHL personalities are helping to put the finishing touches on the decorations. Colin Campbell is hanging black and orange streamers, Ken Holland is carving a pumpkin, and John Ferguson Jr. is hanging stockings over the fireplace.
There's a knock at the door, which is answered by a man in a Napoleon costume.
Gary Bettman: Hi! Come on in!
Deputy commissioner Bill Daly enters, wearing a banana costume with the number two painted on the back..
Daly: Hi Gary. How's the party going this year?
Bettman: So far, so good. It's a decent turnout, and everyone seems to be having fun.
Daly: What about the costumes?
Bettman: Hit and miss. The Sedins just switched jerseys and came as each other. But Mark Recchi's zombie outfit is getting more realistic every year, and Jarome Iginla looks great walking around with a Kings jersey and a calendar turned to March, 2011.
Daly: Who's the guy sitting on your couch in the elaborate Grim Reaper costume?
Bettman: Oh, that's Donald Fehr.
Daly: I see. And that necklace made of skulls is…
Bettman: Various MLB owners, apparently.
Daly: Wow. I'm surprised you even invited him.
Bettman: I didn't. He's been sitting there like that since August.
Fehr points a bony finger at Bettman, then takes a bite out of one of the skulls.
Bettman and Daly: (shudder)
They're interrupted by Peter Chiarelli, wearing a black toque and bandit's mask.
Chiarelli: Um, did you guys know that John Ferguson Jr. is hiding eggs in your front yard?
Daly: Yeah, don't worry about it. What's with the burglar's outfit?
Chiarelli: Hold on a second.
Chiarelli reaches over and grabs a handful of candy from the bag of an unsuspecting Brian Burke.
Chiarelli: Sorry, you were saying?
Daly: Never mind. That reminds me, Gary, how's the rest of the candy distribution going?
Bettman: Not so good. Ted Leonsis keeps telling everyone they're doing it wrong. Glenn Sather gave the first kid who showed up twice as much candy as he deserved. And Lou Lamoriello gave all his candy to Ilya Kovalchuk and now doesn't have any left over for anyone else.
Bettman: Also, let's just say that giving out lollipops to James Wisniewski was a bad idea.
They're interrupted by Brian Burke, dressed as mad scientist.
Bettman: Hi Brian. Enjoying the party?
Burke: Well, I just found out the Peter Chiarelli stole all my candy. But I'm just going to pretend that I'm OK with that, and that everything went according to plan. You all believe me, don't you?
Bettman: Of course we do.
Burke: By the way, great job on the decorations out front. The blood-splattered walls, the bodies sprawled every where, the anguished shrieks that echo out from all corners…
Bettman: Uh, we didn't decorate the front of the house.
Burke: Oh. Then that would mean…
Bettman: Oh no…
A figure riding a motorcycle smashes through Bettman's plate-glass window and skids to a stop in his living room.
Chris Pronger: Boo-yah!
Bettman stares at Pronger's outfit: a torn straightjacket, dented welder's mask, and spiked leather shoulder pads with what appear to be eyeballs stuck on the tips.
Bettman: Hi Chris. Nice costume.
Bettman: Never mind. Help yourself to the buffet.
Pronger: Ooh, crab cakes!
Daly: Rough night, eh Gary?
Bettman: Well, put it this way. Nobody seems to have enough candy. Half the guest list is currently being loaded into ambulances thanks to Chris Pronger. Donald Fehr just managed to convince the paramedics to go on strike. And John Ferguson Jr. appears to be handing out homemade Valentine's cards.
Bettman: You know what this means, don't you Bill?
Daly: I sure do, Gary.
Bettman: Tonight's party has been easily the most successful thing I've accomplished in my 17 years as commissioner!
Daly: And they said these parties can't be scary.