Breaking Sports

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Changing the NHL Game

from the nyt, Sunday edition, (reg. req.), How do you resuscitate a sport that nobody misses very much?
After years of merely fussing and tinkering with the hockey rulebook, the N.H.L. leadership now says it is ready to undertake a similarly radical revision, in hopes of discouraging the defensive bump-and-grab style of play that, together with the sofa-sized pads now worn by the netminders, has been stifling goal production.
Other front-office types are banking on high-definition television, which is said to make hockey far more watchable on the small screen - though the league will first have to find a network willing to carry the games. ESPN, for example, has discovered that replacement programming has drawn twice as many viewers as hockey games had.
The league is also talking about new uniforms - form-fitting Spider-Man suits, according to a report by Sports Illustrated. And it's only a matter of time before someone resurrects the notion, first floated by Michael Eisner back in 1993 when Walt Disney got into the hockey business with the Mighty Ducks, of equipping the players with transparent Jetson-style space helmets.

If there's ice, there is Hockey

Doug Beardsley, a professor of English at the University of Victoria, wrote this fantastic article which will appear in the New York Times print edition on Sunday. The article concentrates on how Canadians and hockey go hand-in-hand.
note: if you want to avoid registering just to read an article in some newspapers, you might want to try bugmenot.

from the nyt (reg. req.), Then there is hockey, the legal mayhem we invented. I've long felt that the game represents the dark or demonic side of the collective Canadian psyche, our alter ego. The line between passion and violence on ice is a thin red line. Deep in the collective unconscious, the game is a metaphor for our desperate need to survive in the frozen landscape that is our country. We skate to keep our blood circulating; we skate through winter, we skate to stay alive. As the journalist Rex Murphy put it, "If you can survive the winter, you can survive anything." The game should be played only in places cold enough to generate ice and snow. When we hear hockey on the radio, we re-create the game in our imaginations, and, in doing so, we re-create ourselves as individuals, and as a people. Even when we watch it on television, or attend an N.H.L. game, we become one with the players on the ice; we feel an intrinsic part of the game, our game.

Why is Beliveau Smiling

Jean Beliveau, recently put many of his hockey treasures on auction and has made close to $800,000 from the sale of those items.

from the montreal gazette, At least three of the most precious pieces of Jean Beliveau's memorabilia are staying in Montreal, in the caring hands of a new collector who knows hockey history when he buys it.
A month-long Internet auction of 195 of the Canadiens legend's souvenirs ended at 6 a.m. yesterday, nine hours past its scheduled finish, to finally raise a staggering $799,285.63 U.S. - nearly $1 million Canadian.
That was nearly double the expectations of Beliveau and Classic Collectibles, the South Shore hockey-exclusive auction house that for a decade has sold memorabilia of many of the game's greatest names.

Mushin Mohammad to the Bears

ESPN is reporting Mushin Mohammad has agreed in principle to a contract with the Chicago Bears.

Bruins Owner Jacobs Talks

from buffalo news, Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs is optimistic that the National Hockey League will eventually return in some form, but he predicts players will make less money and the league will look drastically different from the one fans watched before the league's season-killing labor dispute.
The chairman of Buffalo-based Delaware North Cos. said NHL owners had no choice but to take a strong stance against players whose salaries skyrocketed off-course in the 1990s. The new NHL might include inferior players at first, but he believes world-class performers would eventually return under a revamped economic system.
"If it's competitive and attractive it will suffice," Jacobs said earlier this week by telephone. "If you're not getting the absolute best players in the world - which we may not be - we may have to live with something less than that. Sooner or later, when you pay the most, you'll wind up getting the best players in the world. But they will not see the kind of money that they saw. There's no possibility of that happening again."

Gordie Howe Lane

from tsn, His name is plastered all over the NHL record books, the Stanley Cup and now on a street sign in his hometown.
The city of Saskatoon and the entire province of Saskatchewan honoured their most darling son Friday night, naming the street in front of the city's largest arena Mr. Hockey Gordie Howe Lane.
Howe, now 76, was in town for the naming ceremony which took place at centre ice before the Saskatoon Blades' Western Hockey League game against Prince Albert Raiders.
"It makes you feel good," Howe said in an interview after the event. "When you drive around cities you see presidents names on there and now it's me.
"I like the cute way they announced it, that I've been running over people for a long time, now people get a chance to run over me."
Hockey fans in the province say the gesture is a fitting tribute to one of the most prolific hockey players to ever play the game.
"This is absolutely the right thing," said Saskatchewan Premier Lorne Calvert.
"A lot of us in this province grew up with him as our model - with him being the guy you wanted to emulate."

What are the Refs Doing

from the london free press, If he were to lose a filling or need a back strain looked into, Don Van Massenhoven will be well looked after. But if he wanted to buy a cup of coffee from his professional income, no dice. Like the rest of the 80-man National Hockey League officiating staff, he's on his own. When NHL hockey stopped five months ago, so did their paycheques. Now, with the entire season gone, they're glad they didn't sit around awaiting a settlement. From carpentry to car sales, teaching a class or sitting in one, the refs and linesmen jumped into other lines of work.

Is Baseball Next

from pittsburgh live, Pirates CEO and managing general partner Kevin McClatchy praised NHL owners Friday for their solidarity during the league's lockout which resulted in the cancellation of that season Feb. 16.
With baseball's current collective bargaining agreement set to expire following the 2006 season, McClatchy said he would "love'' baseball's owners to stand solid when it comes to negotiations.
"They've stuck together in difficult times,'' McClatchy said. "It would be nice if we would see that in baseball."
"The game has to be fixed," he said. "I spoke up about that and said some things about my fellow owners that did get a lot of attention. I stand by everything I said. We've got to get this thing under control.
"I guarantee you, we are going to fight very, very hard to get the system changed."
However, McClatchy acknowledged that it's unlikely that baseball owners will stick together as well as the NHL owners have.
"I don't think we'll ever see it to the degree they see it," he said. "We're going to need some solidarity. It doesn't have to be 100 percent."

Friday, February 25, 2005

Ducks Sold

Associated Press
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) - The Walt Disney Co. agreed to sell the Anaheim Mighty Ducks to billionaire Henry Samueli and his wife Susan.
The deal, announced Friday by Samueli, is subject to approval by the NHL. Samueli's company operates Arrowhead Pond, where the Mighty Ducks play.
''The Mighty Ducks have become a wonderful asset to this community, with a terrific following, a history of winning and a strong nucleus of outstanding young prospects and talented veterans,'' Samueli said. ''Our acquisition of the team assures that the Mighty Ducks will remain in the hands of local ownership committed to keeping the team in Orange County and putting a consistent winner on the ice.''
Disney paid $50 million US for the Ducks to join the NHL as an expansion franchise in 1992. Samueli's offer reportedly was in the $50 to $60 million range.
Although the Ducks were Western Conference champions and went to the Stanley Cup final during the 2002-2003 season, Disney has had them on the market for years.
''We are confident that Henry and Susan Samueli will bring continued success to the Ducks and we will remain among the biggest fans of the team going forward,'' Disney chief executive Michael Eisner said.

TSN also has a story about the sale.

Your Thoughts on NHL Junior Entry Draft

The only buzz going around these days is what will the NHL decide to do with the junior entry draft.
I have heard a weighted draft based on the final standings of the 2003-04 season, a non-weighted draft with all 30 teams having an equal chance for the #1 pick, and finally having no draft at all this year which will throw the NHL into a legal mess.
Your thoughts and ideas are welcomed in the comment section of this post.

PSA (public service announcement) for the Day

They guys at nonhlstrike have asked me to let you know about a hockey rally they are planning. This is a grassroots effort so any help you can provide would be appreciated.

ESPN - Broadcast Miscues

from usatoday, When you have as many tentacles as ESPN does, you are not going to be able to control all of them at times.
In the past week, the media giant was slapped by some of those tentacles. Fortunately, ESPN officials are not ducking the miscues.
• On ESPN's SportsCenter last Friday, E.J Hradek of ESPN the Magazine said an NHL labor agreement was imminent as representatives of the league and its players union headed to a meeting Saturday. No deal was made to reverse Commissioner Gary Bettman's decision to cancel the season three days earlier.
• Wednesday afternoon, a scroll attributed to The Miami Herald's Web site ran on ESPN for about five minutes saying that Miami Heat star center Shaquille O'Neal would miss the remainder of the NBA season. The Web site turned out to be a fake, and ESPN withdrew the report.
• Wednesday night, several minutes after the Philadelphia 76ers sent an e-mail to the media at 11:38 p.m. ET, announcing their acquisition of Chris Webber in a trade with the Sacramento Kings, ESPN's Stephen A. Smith said on SportsCenter that "sources tell me" the Webber trade will be announced shortly.
In five days, ESPN had telecast misinformation twice and had appeared to have not adhered to its recent policy of not taking credit for news items that originated with other news organizations or teams.

What to put on the Cup

from sportsnet, Thanks to the NHL lockout, the Cup won't be awarded this season and that begs this question: What, if anything, should be inscribed on the Cup for the 2004-05 season?
Here are some suggestions for what should be engraved on the Cup and why:
Free Stanley: There's an argument to be made that Brian O'Neill and Scotty Morrison should not be the Cup's trustees. Both get NHL pensions and there is an appearance of a conflict of interest here to say the least.
Gary vs. Bob: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Executive Director Bob Goodenow will always be remembered for not getting a deal done.
NHL, RIP: When the NHL resumes play, it's fairly certain the NHL we all knew and loved will have changed. What remains to be seen is how.
Hard Cup vs. Marketplace: The NHL wanted a hard salary cap and the NHL Players' Association wanted the marketplace to set salaries.

NHL Players Moving On

from the globe and mail (sub. req.), The global market for pro hockey players keeps expanding while the embattled National Hockey League remains out of action.
Expect even more than the current 385-plus NHL-brand players to commit to overseas teams for next season, maintains Denver-based agent Kurt Overhardt while sorting through the debris of a cancelled NHL season.
"They've got to move on with their lives," Overhardt said. "The NHL wants cost certainty, but they've created market uncertainty. There's serious talk of a super league over there [Europe] and our guys want to play."
Some overseas teams, especially Russian, may demand to tie up players for an entire season, with no out-clauses if the NHL resumes play next fall or winter. Other teams can sweeten the pot with tax-based incentives.

Brian Burke on Radio Last Night

Burke was on CKNW, a radio station in Vancouver last night.
This interview is a must listen but you have to go thru a few hoops but again well worth the effort.
  • go to CKNW first
  • select Thu. Feb. 24
  • select 10pm, hit Go
  • WMP will open and scroll to timeline 15:45 in WMP

Bits & Pieces

Tidbits you may or may not have an interest in.
  • The NFL Network will be covering the NFL Scouting Combine Saturday through Tuesday from noon-2pm.
  • ESPNU debuts next week and will televise college basketball games that don't make it on ESPN or ESPN2, plus college sports such as volleyball, wrestling, baseball and softball.
  • Word is that Tom Arnold's contract with Fox Sports Net, which pays him $1.1 million a year and expires in April, will not be renewed.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Dollars Lost in Philly

PHILADELPHIA (AP) The canceled NHL season might be painful to the city’s fans, but it shouldn’t cause severe pain to the regional economy, a new report concluded.
The estimate by Philadelphia’s Commerce Department puts losses at $4.4 million for a full Philadelphia Flyers season. Of that, $3.3 million comes from the amusement tax on ticket sales.
City Revenue Commissioner Nancy Kammerdeiner said the overall loss is a small piece of the city’s $3.4 billion 2005 budget.
But the cancellation would cost Comcast-Spectacor, which owns the Flyers and the Wachovia Spectrum, roughly $15 million in lost revenues, president Peter A. Luukko said.
The city’s hospitality industry expects to suffer roughly $1 million in losses, said Sarah Hines, a spokeswoman for the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau.

A Little Self-Promotion

On the right sidebar I have added my other blogs. Kukla's was started in late October, 2004 and The Mans Room has been around a month but I changed the layout of it today and re-launched the site.
I would appreciate if you could take a couple of minutes and check them out. If you have any questions or would like to recommend a feature, please feel free to email me.
Breaking Sports is basically just starting out, so look for additional changes in the coming days.

Layoffs Start

from tsn, The Montreal Canadiens laid off an unspecified number of employees on Thursday, more than a week after the NHL season was cancelled due to the lockout.
Team spokesman Dominick Saillant would not disclose how many of the team's 140 full-time employees were let go. Communications co-ordinator Frederic Daigle was among those laid off.
"It's a sad day for the Canadiens organization," team president Pierre Boivin said in a statement. "We were forced to let go some loyal employees due to an ongoing labour dispute.

AS Grim as it Gets

from slam, The NHL labour dispute - and comedy of errors that made up the cancellation soap opera - will live in hockey infamy forever.
The long-term damage to the fan base hasn't even been calculated yet, but we can safely say these are the darkest days the league has ever seen.
And it's seen its share of blackouts in its colourful 87-year history.
From sad to silly to tragic, here's a look back at some of the great game's growing on.

NHL & NHLPA Meetings, What will be Discussed

from slam, "(Tuesday's meeting) is open to alternate governors as well, which most of the general managers fall under," Carolina Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford told the Canadian Press yesterday. "I would expect people would have different questions relating to their own situations."
Bettman will also have to give the board some idea of future plans and an exit strategy, such as whether the league has a strong enough case to impose its own collective bargaining agreement next year with replacement players.
That touchy subject (impasse) will also come up a meeting of about 100 players in Toronto on Tuesday, after a union-sponsored dinner the night before.
First, however, the players will want an explanation of what happened in New York last Saturday.
Executive director Bob Goodenow's leadership appeared in trouble before that meeting as Gretzky and Lemieux looked poised to usurp his influence on the talks, but with the breakdown and matters back to Square 1, he's still in control.

Hiring Bettman was the Biggest Mistake

from, Moreover, no one was holding a gun to their head when they signed the player contracts that they signed. The last collective agreement was initially seen as a great victory for the owners, but they systematically poked holes in it by using signing bonuses and front-loaded contracts to get around it. They now want a salary cap because they have no self control. They won't agree to revenue sharing, because the rich teams don't want the rest of the league to be able to match their spending (incidentally, I rejoice every year that the New York Overpaid Rangers miss the playoffs).
At the same time, the players have hardly been blameless. Nearly half the locked out players are playing in Europe or in minor pro leagues, taking jobs away from people who will never make the NHL or whose NHL playing days are over. If the owners go looking for replacement players next season, they will likely find many takers. This will be because some people can't resist fulfilling their dreams of playing in the NHL, even as a scab. But, more importantly, by pushing out other players, the players' association hasn't exactly demonstrated a model of solidarity.
But, whatever mistakes the players' union made, the owners made mistakes that were ten times worse. Hiring Bettman, who didn't know a butt end from his own butt end when he became Commissioner, was the biggest one of all.

The Hockey News, Pride Killed the NHL

from thn, Pride turned what already was a world-class horror movie into a snuff film. It stopped Gary Bettman from calling Bob Goodenow when it mattered most, and it stopped Bob Goodenow from calling Gary Bettman at the same point, revealing both as the wrong men in the wrong roles at the wrong time. It is what great men like Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux put aside in hopes of protecting jobs, people and dreams. And it is what black-hearted bottom-liners in Boston and Chicago clung to as the final reel of film came snapping off the projector.
Money is what most of us have designated as the root cause of this collective descent into madness, but money is just pride's manifestation as legal tender.
Clearly, this isn't just about greenbacks anymore. This is a manhood-measuring match spun irretrievably out of control.
Why would the NHLPA come to the table last Saturday -- fully aware the league already had demonstrated its contempt for the season as nothing more than a bargaining chip -- without some kind of proposal in hand? Why would the league -- fully aware it already had a more significant victory than almost any other pro sports organization in history could claim - not extend an olive branch that allowed its players to salvage a sliver of dignity?
P-R-I-D-E, that's why. If the players only want to be paid “what they're worth” and the owners only want to pay out “what they can afford,” then pride is the currency Goodenow and Bettman can't convert to each other's satisfaction.

More on the Cuthbert Firing

from slam, What he never saw coming until he answered his front door Tuesday afternoon was a courier handing him an envelope informing him that his 21 years at the CBC had come to an end.
There was no phone call, no handshake, no thanks for the memories.
A cold and classless ending for one of the warm and truly admirable people in the Canadian broadcasting industry.
"At CBC, they constantly remind you that no one is irreplaceable," Cuthbert said. "But I never expected this. This hurts. This hurts a lot.
"The problem I have is, I don't even know who made the decision.
"All I know is I looked down the line and was made to feel like I was a fairly important part of the team."

NHL in Houston

from the houston chronicle, There was a time when an NHL team in Houston made about as much sense as ice fishing gear on the shelves at Academy.
There was a time when, for all the hockey fans in this town — and there are many — the game was too dysfunctional and cost-prohibitive for even the most ambitious of dreamers.
But such is one ancillary benefit of hockey's darkest hour. It could lead to a bright new day for someone who realizes the NHL isn't falling to pieces but rather trying to put together some kind of winning product.

Holik - Bettman has Won

from the ny daily news, Holik wonders what it will take for the league to stop trying to pummel its players. "I don't like using the term 'On our knees,' because I don't like being in that position and I don't like living my life like that," Holik said yesterday. "But we gave in on the salary cap, the biggest issue. It seems to me that once we've done that, once we've agreed on the philosophy, we should be able to work out other things."
He just can't accept the fact that a new CBA has yet to be hammered out even after the players conceded the one issue they said they never would. And that talks have yet to resume since breaking off Saturday night.
"Never in his tenure as commissioner, as far as I know, was arbitration or free agency as big an issue as the salary cap," Holik said of Bettman. "But now, it seems like we got the biggest hurdle out of the way and it only made it harder.

NHL Future

Kara Yorio from the Sporting News give her views on how the lockout will change the NHL:
  • Retiring players
  • The draft
  • Juniors, Euro, minor and colege players
  • The game itself
  • Impasse
  • No news is bad news

NHL- The Fallout

Kara Yorio from the Sporting News give her views on how the lockout will change the NHL:
  • Retiring players
  • The draft
  • Juniors, Euro, minor and colege players
  • The game itself
  • Impasse
  • No news is bad news

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Pucks & Lawyers

from the toronto star, Arthur Rosenfeld, a lawyer with a penchant for playing squash and golf and reading fiction, is poised to become the most important man in hockey.
For the past four-plus years, Rosenfeld, an Allentown, Pa., native who once cheered Bobby Clarke's Philadelphia Flyers, has helped to steer disputes between companies and their employees through the halls of the National Labor Relations Board in Washington.
Assuming the National Hockey League and its union don't mend their differences this summer, the 60-year-old Rosenfeld, who describes his job as that of a prosecutor, promises to play a pivotal role in coming months in the clash between the NHL and its players union.

Randy Moss an Oakland Raider

Moss traded to the Raiders, More information coming.

update 5pm, from req.), "The Vikings have agreed to trade Randy Moss to the Oakland Raiders for starting linebacker Napoleon Harris, the seventh overall pick in the upcoming draft and a 2005 late-round pick . Trades can be worked out although not announced until next month, and Moss' agent, Dante DiTrapano, told the Pioneer Press on Wednesday that the deal is done.

"Nothing is official until March 2," DiTrapano said. "But don’t be surprised if Randy Moss is wearing the Silver and Black this upcoming season.""

ESPN - Can They Do it Again

ESPN News is reporting Shaq is out for the year after suffering a torn ligament in his knee last night. ESPN claims the story is coming from the Miami Herald.
The Miami Herald is claiming that report is false. Does EJ Hradek cover the NBA for ESPN now?

update 4:06pm, looks like someone hacked or created a bogus link to the Miami Herald.

update 6:42pm, the link to the bogus Miami Herald is now dead. Someone from the Herald must have taken some action on it.

Fans Forgotten

from the orion-online, Some children begin playing sports when they are as young as 2 years old. Fathers teach their sons to hit a large red ball with a large yellow plastic bat; mothers help their daughters put on shin guards and lace up cleats.
Children devote themselves to sports for the love of the game, and sometimes it isn't even about winning. It's for that euphoric feeling of a 60-yard run for a touchdown, a nothing-but-net three-pointer or a home run. Most players get their satisfaction from the cheer of a crowd, being hoisted onto their teammates' shoulders or a pat on the back from the toughest coach.
But not the players of the NHL.
The hockey season ended early Feb. 16 because of a salary cap dispute. This is the first time ever that an entire season has been canceled in professional sports in the United States. There have been many strikes and lockouts, but things are usually settled in time to save at least half a season.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has been at the heart of this whole ordeal, practically screaming himself blue in the face to please the players. But there just wasn't enough money available to pay what the players unrealistically demanded. Bettman addressed the fans at a press conference in New York.
"When I stood before you last September, I said NHL teams will not play again until our economic problems had been solved. As I stand before you today, it is my sad duty to announce that because the solution has not yet been attained, it is no longer practical to conduct even an abbreviated season," Bettman said. "Accordingly, I have no choice but to announce the formal cancellation of play for 2004--2005."

Half a Billion Lost in Ad and TV Revenue

from (sub. req.), Faced with a half-billion dollar loss from advertising revenue and TV contracts after canceling its season last week, the National Hockey League must now grapple with an erosion of confidence from fans and sponsors that threaten its future.
Marketers had already shifted ad dollars away from the NHL to other sports back in September. Now, two corporate partners who asked not to be identified told Advertising Age last week they will reconsider their sponsorships with the league.
"There was a lot of internal discussion here, even before the lockout, about whether enough of an audience was there to justify what we've done with the league," said a marketing officer from one of the companies. "I'm sure those discussions will be revived."
Said an executive with the second marketer: "I think the worry now is whether they will even have a 2005-2006 season come October."
The NHL has 20 corporate partners, including Ford Motor Co. of Canada and LaBatt's beer, whose advertising appears only in Canada; Anheuser-Busch and Southwest Airlines, whose sponsorships are U.S.-exclusive; and Nike, Coca-Cola and MasterCard, whose sponsorships cover both countries.
While some are reviewing their options, others remain confident the league will return.

Canada Feeling the Lose

from the sfgate, The almighty dollar is starting to disappear, and the absence of the NHL appears to shoulder most of the blame. Statistics Canada predicts cancellation of the season could result in a $170 million drop in spending by Canadian consumers. The firm announced an unexpected loss of 5,700 jobs last month is being attributed to faltering business in restaurants and bars that rely on hockey to draw customers.
Gambling has taken a hit. The Western Canada Lottery Corp. is a nonprofit organization authorized to conduct and operate gaming activities for three provinces and three territories. Betting on the NHL is legal with Sport Select, which expects to lose $25 million from the canceled season. Action on the NHL comprises 36 percent of Sport Select sales.
Beer consumption, maybe the most recognized stereotype of the Canadian leisure lifestyle, is down. Way down. Beer sales fell 13.9 percent in October, the traditional opening month of the NHL regular season. After rebounding modestly in November, they plunged another 9.2 percent in December.

Both Sides Still Jabbing

from the nytimes(sub. req.), Bettman said ESPN should not have reported on Saturday that a lockout settlement was imminent when representatives of the owners and players were negotiating in New York.
The report spread optimism across the hockey world until talks broke down in the late afternoon.
Bettman was asked whether such a criticism against his broadcast partner might damage chances of ESPN's renewing its option to carry N.H.L. games next season.
"The truth is the truth," Bettman said in a telephone interview. "The truth is they reported something that was not accurate without talking to us."
Saskin said that the union had been led to believe that the league would make a new proposal and that Trevor Linden, the president of the union, had been told by two team owners that the league was prepared to make a better offer. Saskin said he would not reveal the names of the owners because Bettman could fine them as much as $1 million for comments under an order of silence.
Pat Brisson, a prominent agent, said late last week that three owners had told him the same thing.
"Did he name the owners?" Bettman said. "Unless Mr. Brisson has names, I am not going to comment on an anonymous report.'

Fuzzy Picture for NHL

from the nytimes(sub. req.), The collapse in the value of the N.H.L.'s TV rights has been a fascinating yarn that has no real companion in major league sports.
Mark Shapiro, an executive vice president of ESPN, threw off his gloves and criticized the N.H.L.'s rules, lack of scoring, resistance to letting players wear microphones and resistance to allowing arenas to be equipped with the overhead SkyCam. "Everybody, like us, should be less focused on when they're coming back, but more on why nobody seems to care," Shapiro said.
"Right now," Shapiro said last week, "we're not really sure how to value the league. We have to assess the damage, as do they, and only until you do that and consider your options can you put a true value on what it's worth."

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Miracle on Ice, A Canadian Perspective

Another visitor of Breaking Sports submits his hockey article. The passion of the hockey fans is simply amazing.

I remember the first time I was allowed into a bar: I was 11 years old and with my parents. The bar was connected to a hockey rink in Niagara Falls, NY where my pee wee tournament had just wrapped up. It was Saturday Night, normally Hockey Night in Canada time but not on this night, February 22nd. My team had come all the way from far-off Ottawa (on a seemingly interminable bus ride for an 11 year old) to win the tournament and parents and kids alike were jovial.
I wasn't the only kid in this particular bar. Like kids sneaking downstairs out of bed when the parents are having a party, my teammates and I and the other children of parents who had traveled for the tourney knew we were in a place we didn't belong. Look, someone said, they have three TVs, just like the department stores. This was pre-SportsBar era, so one of them was just sitting on a table, another on the bar itself. All three were clogged with throngs of patrons. As we were short, and the arrangement improvised, we couldn't really actually see the game except for the occasional glimpse.
What I remember then was the sounds emanating from both the TV and their relationship to the noise of the people in the bar, and the conversations of our parents. We were amazed not by the hockey but by where we were physically and why we'd been allowed in-- we knew this was Olympic hockey, but in Canada we'd been conditioned to believe that Olympic hockey was generally dumb because of the unfair advantage the Eastern Bloc had to declare their players "amateur" while he best of the West were all ineligible due to their pro status as NHLers.
But we were really amazed by our parents visible astonishment: they couldn't believe what they were seeing, and as hockey fans they were lucky enough to be in New York to see it happen. Of course no one hated a CCCP jersey more than a Canadian hockey fan. I distinctly remember the bar exploding and my dad laughing and shaking his head in disbelief. Was this following the controversial second goal?
And I remember the goodwill in those hands that patted us on the shoulders, or knuckled us with noogies, or ruffled our hair as we stood at the front there. The future of American hockey looked bright in the eyes of those parents that day. And when one draws a line between that game and the World Cup victory in September 1996 (damn you, Mike Richter!), you can't really say their hopes went unfulfilled. The U.S. is a world-class hockey power now, and that's largely the fulfillment of dreams first forged in the minds of American kids watching that improbable tournament in Lake Placid in 1980.

Thom York
Portland, OR

Both Sides Preparing for the Worst

from usatoday and Gary Thorne, The hockey season is canceled again as the owners' lockout of the players continues into round 3. Last weekend's media frenzy and Saturday meeting with no agreement has hardened the positions. It was an intriguing and important 48 hours that will substantially affect the ultimate result. For the moment, the owners are licking their chops. While the perfunctory hand-wringing and sad faces are predominant in the press, the owners believe they have bashed the players association big-time. Perception is vital now.

Cuthbert Released by CBC

Many of the Detroit area fans know Chris as the play by play man on the late game on Hockey Night in Canada. Many assumed he would replace Bob Cole as the lead announcer when Bob retired.

from cbc, With no hockey in sight, CBC terminated the contract of sports commentator Chris Cuthbert on Tuesday.
The news of Cuthbert leaving the network came as a shock to staffers in the TV Sports department.
Cuthbert, a CBC employee for 21 years, has been one of the network's top sports commentators, known for his steady delivery and versatility.
In a meeting called on Tuesday afternoon, CBC executives said there just wasn't enough work for Cuthbert, stemming from last week's cancellation of the NHL season.
"It's a regrettable decision, " said Nancy Lee, executive director of CBC Sports. "Chris has an extremely good reputation and he's a consummate professional. But it's important to remember that 30 people have been affected by hockey."

Gretzky on Team 590

Wayne said everyone got excited on Friday night, got to his hotel and told Mario we could go home since a deal had been agreed upon.
He was hoping something could have happened on Saturday. Hoping hockey could resurrect itself from the dead. He did not want to go to the meeting, but started thinking about the players, fans, NHL staffs and hoped he could be a part of making it happen.
Wayne said quite frankly he is embarrassed as should be everyone who was in the negotiating room on Saturday. He was told maybe there was some way to move off the figures proposed by both sides, he passed it on to the NHL and they all said lets get together and talk about it.
The NHL said in the meeting they could not move off of the $42.5 figure so talks on Saturday were all about other issues, no cap figure ever discussed. Talk about entry level salary and arbitration in the meeting. Wayne said he was not comfortable talking about that, so he asked the players can we talk about a cap figure and unfortunately, the talks never went that far. Wayne said the players were trying to clear up all the other issues before talking cap numbers.
Wayne said the game got canceled on Wednesday, the commissioner was not going to pick up the phone and all of the sudden say ok, we can increase the cap number.
Gretzky says common sense tells him negotiations will be tough to come by in the next few months. Not sure when they will talk again. People are thinking how can this be over because of a $6.5 million dollar difference. He says there are many more issues on the table and he and Mario were not expecting that.
Does not have an answer on how to handle Phoenix fans on this lockout. They have nothing to sell now, but the past hasn't been great for them either. They were very excited to play this year, new arena, nothing to sell.
Does not see how this is going to end, just encourages both sides to continue talking. Someone asked him what side he is on and he said the side of hockey.
Wayne said he spent the whole weekend excited about the possible agreement that he has not had a chance to decide if he wants to get involved with Canada in the upcoming world tourney. Will probably make a decision this week.

CSI Hockey - How the Owners Destroyed the NHL

Political Affairs Magazine is of course a politically slanted blog. I thought it might give us a different prospective on the game.

There's nothing left but the autopsy and it doesn't take William Peterson - or even David Caruso - to decipher who killed the National Hockey League. The season is cancelled. The accusations are flying. But the most deafening sound is silence. There is no outcry in the streets. There has been no Million Hockey Fan March. 77% of Canadians [CANADIANS!] said in a poll they could care less. Substitute shows on ESPN2 are twice as popular as last year's NHL games, which garnered a miserable 0.2 rating, just below the Black Israelites and anything with Tucker Carlson. "It's not a good sign when your replacement programming is outperforming the NHL," said one ESPN executive. The sport - in short - is a corpse.

The Hockey News

THN broke the story about a deal being struck with the NHL and NHLPA last Friday. Now they offer an explanation.

First, an apology:
In case you missed it, on the night of Friday, Feb. 18, we reported on our website the expected return of NHL hockey for 2004-05.
Under the headline, “Season Saved Saturday?”, we stated: “The NHL season is expected to be ‘un-canceled’ Saturday in New York.”
We went on to report a player close to the talks who asked to remain anonymous said the two sides had agreed to a deal in principle that features a $45-million salary cap.
By Saturday night, we were the subject of scorn from some corners of the hockey world for the erroneous story.
We stand up and take full responsibility for the error. We’ve identified our mistakes and have learned from them.

Times have Changed

Most of us know 25 years ago today, the USA Olympic Hockey Team defeated the Soviets in the greatest upset in team sports history.
I remember the game was tape delayed in Detroit, and started just about this time of day. I am sitting in my living room waiting for the game to start, and as a lead in to the game, ABC gave the local stations a 30-second spot. Well, in Detroit, our #1 news guy at the time, Bill Bonds comes on and says something like this, "The USA has defeated the Soviet Union, highlights after the game." My buddy and I looked at each other in amazement that Bill had given us the outcome before the tape delay of the game had even started. We had avoided all radio and TV broadcasts that day just to make sure we didn't hear the score of the game.

Bigwig Belligerence

Russ Conway, one of the most respected hockey writers around, gave his opinion a few days ago.
from the eagletribune, OK, geniuses, now what do you do?
If there was ever a mess created by so-called "leaders" of a major league sport, the brain trust of the National Hockey League and its players union forever have found a place in infamy.
Their prolonged contract dispute has proven, for the world to see, the type of damage that intelligent morons can do when they are inflated with power.
Both co-pilots in pro hockey's oscillating crash, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Players Association Executive Director Bob Goodenow, took a sport that affected the lives -- and a great many careers -- of good people and nose-dived it into the ground.

NHL OK's Involvement in WHC

TSN has learned the National Hockey League will permit all club management personnel to participate in the IIHF World Hockey Championships in Austria this spring.
That means, for example, if Wayne Gretzky wants to come back as Executive Director of Team Canada, he is free to do so, as are any NHL general managers or coaches.
There had been some thought that the National Hockey League would prevent management people under contract from working alongside players at the World Championships because of the lockout, but the league has decided not to make an issue of it.

Breaking Sports Visitor Post

Casey Woods accepts my offer to let visitors post their comment on the CBA and state of the NHL:

With the NHL toiling in obscurity they couldn't have picked a better time to shut it all down in order to reinvent itself. Think about it: Hockey fans are a devoted bunch. They'll be back eventually. And the NHL doesn't need to worry alienating most of the the American population because the majority of them don't realize that the NHL exists anyway.

Why are we in this situation? If revenues had continued to grow at the same rate as they were growing in the early 90s then we'd probably be talking about the trade deadline and not NHL armageddon. If the play on the ice was still the fast flowing game of the Gretzky era Oilers then I'm confident that the NHL would be in fine shape. Unfortunately, the NHL has turned into a clutch-and-grab game played by faceless 3rd line players who grind for 60 minutes to 2-2 ties. It's getting really hard to watch.

I think that this is going to get a lot uglier before it gets resolved. Who will prevail in the end? I think the owners are in a better position to wait out the players. Let's just hope that they can come up with a system that allows a level playing field so that all fans can begin each season with the hope that this could be their year for a Stanley Cup run.

Casey Woods

Your View on the CBA and the NHL

Here is your chance to post your view on the CBA and the state of the NHL. If you so desire, please send me an email (found on the right sidebar) with your view of this whole situation. I will post it unedited within an individual post. Please include a short title for your "rant" along with a "submitted by" name. I will nto post your email unless you request that I do so. I am totally surprised by the sheer numbers of people viewing Breaking Sports, so here is your chance to be heard.
Also, the total of national media and a few local media outlets that have contacted me is growing daily. I have submitted your email addresses to them and you may be contacted by some of the writers and columnists shortly.

Leipold - Nashville Owner Speaks

from the tennessean, ''My wish is that we get the linkage back,'' Nashville owner Craig Leipold said. ''So no matter what happens (following the lockout), we'll have revenue sharing, which we've never had, and we'll have cost certainty, which we've never had.
''That's a system that will enable Nashville to have a competitive team on a consistent basis and to make money. That's why we should be in business.''

Cap Never discussed - Wayne

from ny post, The ultimate record-holder wants to set the record straight. Who among us has more of a right to do that than Wayne Gretzky?
"People out there think I'm mad at one side or the other, or that I blame one side or the other for what happened in the meeting, but that isn't the case at all," The Great One told The Post by phone last night in explaining his unsuccessful attempt here on Saturday to help broker a deal between the NHL and NHLPA.
"Right now, I'm just completely disappointed that we're in this situation and that we've been unable to come up with the solution that will get the game back on the ice. It's just not healthy for our game or anyone in it, from players to owners to ushers to vendors to all the people who work in the team and league offices. It's terrible."
"So when the meeting began, I took Trevor and Vincent aside and asked how they thought we could bridge the gap between $42.5M and [the PA's last proposal of] $49M to make it work," Gretzky said, referring to PA president Trevor Linden and VP Vincent Damphousse. "They told me they weren't prepared to talk about a hard cap number until the other issues like arbitration, qualifiers and entry level were done.

ESPN & the NHL

from the ny times(sub. req.), Mark Shapiro, an executive vice president of ESPN, threw off his gloves and criticized the N.H.L.'s rules, lack of scoring, resistance to letting players wear microphones and resistance to allowing arenas to be equipped with the overhead SkyCam. "Everybody, like us, should be less focused on when they're coming back, but more on why nobody seems to care," Shapiro said.
"Right now," Shapiro said last week, "we're not really sure how to value the league. We have to assess the damage, as do they, and only until you do that and consider your options can you put a true value on what it's worth."

Monday, February 21, 2005

NHLPA Statement

TORONTO (February 21, 2005): In response to various media inquiries, National Hockey League Players’ Association Executive Director Bob Goodenow issued the following statement:

“Earlier this evening Gary Bettman gave an interview to a New York radio station during which he made a number of allegations that are absolutely untrue and will only serve to increase the P.R. distraction that the League has already created.

Regarding Gary’s portrayal of the events of last week, I will make the following 4 points:

1. Gary claims he heard that we wanted to have a meeting and talk to them. That is totally false – the League cancelled the season Wednesday, and on Thursday night, Gary and Bill Daly separately called Trevor Linden after 11 p.m. EST and invited Trevor and the NHLPA to come to New York for a meeting.

2. Friday morning, when arrangements for the League-requested meeting were being coordinated, Bill advised Trevor that Gary would not be attending on behalf of the League. As a result, I also did not attend.

3. There was never a suggestion by the NHLPA that we were making an offer. Our presence in New York only occurred because of the League’s request to meet.

4. As for Gary’s comments that we came to New York with the purpose of conducting a media campaign, that’s just erroneous and the facts prove this to be the case. When Trevor, Vincent Damphousse and Ted Saskin met with the media at the St.RegisHotel they actually met in a room that had been reserved and fully set up by the League for their own media conference. The room was left vacant when the League attendees slipped out of the hotel after they decided not to address the media after the conclusion of the meeting they called. The hotel then offered us the use of this room to accommodate the media stranded outside on the sidewalk.

It is unfortunate that Gary Bettman would publicly engage in this type of false characterization of events that he himself set in motion last Thursday.”

Bettman - It Was All a Pack of Lies

from tsn, National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman said today that he thinks he was "set up" by the NHLPA last weekend, along with Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux. In an appearnace on WFAN in New York on Monday, Bettman blamed the players' union for unfairly creating the impression that a deal to save the season would be struck at Saturday's CBA negotiating session.
"I think this was a set up," Bettman told Mike Francesa. "I think this was done intentionally to try and cause the type of reaction we saw all weekend. I think they were trying to position us into an offer they knew I couldn't accept - either because they wanted me to make a mistake that I couldn't get through my board (of directors), or so we would ultimately agree to something we couldn't afford."

Bettman Interview

WFAN in NYC had Bettman on this afternoon. If you would like to listen to the interview, go to the homepage and click the link under Mike and the Mad Dog.

TSN - NHL May Say No to Gretzky in World Tourney

from tsn, Even the Great One couldn't bridge the gap between NHL players and owners after he was asked to get involved.
Because of it, one might naturally assume he'd be available to help Hockey Canada again at a major international tournament.
But with the cancelled season, a source has told TSN the NHL will not allow anyone in the league or employees to take part in the Worlds.
So it seems unlikely that Gretzky, who managed Canada to Olympic and World Cup gold, will be involved this time.
It had been rumoured that Gretzky would manage Team Canada at April's World Hockey Championship but his position with the Phoenix Coyotes would be a seen as a conflict of interest since he would be working closely with NHL players currently involved in hockey's labour dispute.
An announcement is expected later this week.

Director of the NHL - Gretzky

from the ny post, Since Bettman usurped that title of commissioner, it needs a Director of the NHL, and Gretzky would be the obvious choice, conservative enough to suit any sensible owner, Great enough to impress any sensible player, and about the only man who could put a legitimate face on the league again.
This season wouldn't be lost if the two sides had agreed to subordinate themselves to a higher authority charged with operating for the good of The Game.

NHLPA Sabotaged a Deal

from slam, League VP Bill Daly has accused the NHL Players' Association of sabotaging a last-ditch shot at netting a new collective bargaining agreement. Daly told the Sun in an e-mail yesterday the league went to the table Saturday aiming to hammer out key issues in an effort to get a new CBA in place, but was stonewalled by the union's unwillingness to negotiate. "I fear the union may have had a different agenda with their press release and the leaks (of a deal) Friday night," said Daly from New York. "They wanted us back at the table and didn't even bring a new proposal."

Bettman's History

from slam, Should National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman be fired now that he has driven the league to the brink of extinction? Not if you listen to the owners. Bettman has done a wonderful job, they say. With that in mind, let's look at what has happened in the NHL since Feb. 1, 1993 the date Bettman became commissioner.
There have been three labour stoppages -- a strike by the on-ice officials and two lockouts of the players.
The Winnipeg Jets moved to Phoenix where, for more than seven years they tried (unsuccessfully) to draw fans to an atrocious facility. They got to play in their new arena for four months before Bettman shut down the league.
Bettman encouraged and heartily endorsed for chairman of the league's board of governors Bruce McNall, a man who subsequently went to jail for fraud.

NHLPA Disorganized

from the ny post, Though it is clear that militants from Florida, Nashville, Edmonton and Boston led the movement to undermine Wayne Gretzky's attempts to lobby small-market clubs to accept a $45M cap, The Great One himself has told confidants that he left the meeting far more miffed at the union than upset with the league.
At the same time, we've learned that Mario Lemieux has told friends that the NHLPA appeared completely disorganized on Saturday.
While the perception has been created that Gretzky and Lemieux were recruited by ownership to help mediate the conflict — which is certainly how it was presented to me — it's now known that No. 99 and No. 66 were asked to intercede by the players' side.
Indeed, I've now been told by a trustworthy individual that Gretzky was all but begged to intervene by Coyote player rep Shane Doan while Lemieux was initially invited to the come-as-you-are party by Calgary player rep Jarome Iginla.

Hradek and Brooks

For the Detroit area NHL fans, EJ Hradek and Larry Brooks are scheduled to discuss the NHL on WXYT 1270am in Detroit. Hradek around 8:30-8:45am and Brooks around 9am this morning.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Ron MaClean

Most of us know Ron MaClean from Hockey Night in Canada. I haven't heard much from Ron and just found this article. It is dated Feb. 17th, but it still holds true and is a suggested read.
from cbc, Rudyard Kipling said, "If you don't get what you want in this life, either you really didn't want it or you tried to get it at a reduced price." The players had caved the instant they went for a cap. Following that clear victory, the owners saw the carnage of a lost season as small price to pay in exchange for the total knockout versus Bob Goodenow. To be fair, Bob's made his bed by doing a wonderful job. But his repeated wins along the way only fortified the owners' desire to get him in these negotiations.

Talks on Hold

from tsn, Jarome Iginla sighed at the other end of the phone.
Devastation doesn't come close to describing how the Calgary Flames superstar felt after hearing how bad Saturday's NHL labour talks had gone.
"It's beyond that," he said. "It's such a sad situation for hockey. It's way past anger and frustration. It's like a nightmare that won't end."
At least this chapter of the nightmare is finally over. After Saturday's failed talks ensured there won't be a 2004-05 season, it's time for both sides to sit back and regroup.

A Request

I have received a few emails today from a couple of legit NHL columnists and writers. Basically they wrote that they have been trying to reach me but I had not posted an email address until last night.
These writers want to do a story on how fans followed the CBA negotiations on a blog. They may want to correspond with a few of you who have used a "name" while making comments on Breaking Sports.
If you want to participate, please send me an email (my email address can be found on the right hand sidebar) with the name you used while making comments on Breaking Sports. I will then forward your email address on to the writers who have shown an interest in doing a blogger point of view story..

What Happens Next

Rumors suggest there still may be another proposal coming in the next few days; not to save this season but to assure the 20005/06 NHL season starts on time. It does make sense, but does anyone think the NHL and NHLPA can actually sit down and negotiate in good faithand find some common ground?
I have one question that I have yet to see answered. It was widely reported yesterday that the NHL was preparing for a press conference at or around 6pm on Saturday. What happened to force the NHL to scrap that plan?

NHL - A Mickey Mouse Operation

from the ny post, It turns out that Gary Bettman and the coalition of small-market and hardline clowns who have seized control of the league decided to embarrass Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux on their way to smashing the PA.
This — more than cancellation of any season — will forever be the ultimate and indelible stain of Bettman's legacy. This — more than any labor disruption — will put an end to the NHL for now and forever as a respected and respectable enterprise.
They might as well burn the uniforms. They might as well throw away the keys to the rinks. As currently led, the NHL is a Mickey Mouse operation. If what happened yesterday at the St. Regis Hotel is allowed to stand, no sponsor, no network, no fan will ever again make an emotional or financial investment in the league.
here may have been confusion within the union this week as to an end-game strategy, but there will be no confusion now as to the identity of the enemy. Believe it. The NHLPA will emerge from this stronger and more united than ever, no matter the identity of its executive leader.
There will be no capitulation this summer. There will be one focus now — to destroy the NHL, even if it costs the players more millions to do so. They've got their cause again.

Bettman Shooting for Bargaining Impasse

from slam, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has battled for a hard salary cap for one over-riding reason.
He knows that if he can get it, NHL franchise values will rise dramatically.
With the National Football League's union in disarray, a salary cap was imposed and over the subsequent five years, franchise values almost tripled.
Bettman sold a number of investors -- not hockey people in most cases -- on the concept of buying an NHL franchise that would soon experience a similar rise in value. It would do so, he said, because he would get a salary cap.
The NHLPA, however, said it was strongly opposed to a salary cap and would never accede on that point.
Therefore, there was only one way Bettman could attain his ideal. He had to get the National Labor Relations Board in the United States to get a bargaining impasse declared and thereby earn the right to impose the cap.

Why Can't They Get it Done

from tsn, So why can't these guys make a deal? Because there are still significant differences on each side. They're just not there. They have two completely different views of the world.
The reality is that we are now in a situation that involves a very brief window of opportunity to continue negotiations and get something done for next season. I'm not particularly optimistic about that, but both sides have to know that once the window closes, the gloves will come off and Goodenow and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman will be on the mat.
It's all about solidarity - for both sides. Unless there is an impasse declared, when it becomes solely about player solidarity, and whether or not fans will accept replacement players.
So will they take advantage of the window remaining open? I'm not very optimistic about that. I'm sure there are some hard-line owners who are going to say, "Well, we already lost the season. We wanted to do a deal with the players, but they didn't want to do one with us, so let's just go for what we wanted in the first place - a hard cap with a low number and linkage." And there's going to be some players on the other side who figure they've already lost an entire year, so why make a compromise that costs more of their money? Those players would rather go to the wall and see if the owners will crack.