Saturday, July 30, 2005

Sidney and beyond!

Follow the NHL Entry Draft festivities here, the link to the NHL Draft page. Updated pick by pick!

Draft Day Decisions

The event is about a month behind schedule and won't be the usual bit of theatre that brings together fans, players, media and owners. But in a few hours the NHL Entry draft will be under way and the future of a new class of NHLers will begin to unfold.

Originally billed as the Sidney show, young Mr. Crosby is now relegated to cheerleader as his fate was decided one week ago with the drop of a ping pong ball. Of course there is always the room for surprise, the folks in Pittsburgh could have temporary lapse of judgment and blurt out the wrong name. But one assumes that Craig Patrick has been spelling S-I-D-N-E-Y C-R-O-S-B-Y for seven days and nights now, we have a vision of a spelling bee held daily in Mario Lemieux's kitchen to make sure there are no screw ups.

So with Sidney Pittsburgh bound, the draft becomes the Brian Burke Show. Burke who has been "entertaining" offers for a week now will fish or cut bait right after Sidney dons his Penguin uni. There are many options for the new Ducks GM to take, he could make a selection, make a trade for a pick later on or engineer a block buster deal that will once again surprise the assembled media. Burke has a bit of a history with the NHL draft and surprises so anything is possible.

The draft is expected to be deep one with many players ready to make that next step along their career path. It all gets under way Saturday morning at Noon (EST) 9 AM (PST) on TSN as the draft order starts with Pittsburgh and continues on for seven more rounds. With that first pick by the Penguins we'll finally be able to say that Hockey's back!

14 Good years

"And there are winners, and there are losers, but that ain't no big deal" John Mellencamp. Pink Houses 1983.

Perhaps that song was running through Bob Goodenow's head the other day as he gave his farewell address to the NHLPA and the press. Goodenow stepped aside as president of the Players Association, less than a week after stating that he was in for the long haul.

With a day to process the development the sports media have taken a rather conciliatory and warm and fuzzy look at his stewardship of the NHLPA and perhaps that's not too far off the mark. While Goodenow certainly did not win this last battle with the NHL and in the end it appears that the players rose up as one and shot down his plans for staying course, he has over the years lifted his organization up to previously unattainable gains. Damien Cox of the Star, has done an excellent job of tracing Goodenow's influence in the game.

When he came on board as NHLPA president the association was a bit of a mess after the Alan Eagleson years, of course Goodenow himself had a lot to do with the Eagle's ouster but in the end that does not seem to have been a bad thing. Eagleson had treated the association as more of fiefdom, where he dictated the rules and the players tagged along and not in a very rewarding fashion financially we might add.

The Goodenow regime of fourteen of fifteen years in the corner office has seen his membership make far more money than many of them may ever have imagined. The previous two contract sessions were very much in the players favour and the ancillary revenues generated by the Players association all combined to make the NHLPA membership a rather wealthy group for the most part.

The pendulum swung back the other way a few weeks ago and perhaps it was greed that resulted in that, the players misjudged the resolve of the owners group as did Goodenow. The softening of their stance in February emboldened Gary Bettman and the owners to stay their course and from that point on the battle was lost. The players in the end had no more stomach for a lengthy battle and while Goodenow felt that they would eventually win in reality they had already lost. At that point the union leader had lost the membership and the decision of two days ago was already cast.

In the end the players accepted the salary restructuring and lost a year of salary too boot, that unfortunately for Bob Goodenow will be the legacy of the great hockey war. But as pointed out in many of the articles the last few days that might be a poor interpretation, the accomplishments of the NHLPA in reshaping the game of hockey in the last fifteen years both good and bad are directly attributed to Bob Goodenow. But to trash his lengthy influence based on one negotiation that did not go the players way is wrong. It's just too bad we all had to suffer such a lengthy rite of passage.

As the music stops playing he may have on last song on his mind

"I fight authority and authority always wins,
I been doing it since I was a young kid and I come out grinnin',
I fight authority, Authority always wins"
Authority Song-John Mellencamp 1983

Friday, July 29, 2005

Hell freezes over! Leafs reduce ticket prices.

So does this mean we can now throw out the cliche of the arrogant and greedy Maple Leaf management?

In an announcement steeped in accounting gobbledy gook, put out of the Air Canada Centre executive suites the Maple Leafs have announced that the NHL team would reduce its ticket prices by 5%.

The lower end and upper level seats will drop two dollars from 37 to 35, the lower level and higher priced seats from 182 to 173. The Leafs apparently are doing this despite the presence of "significant expenses" incurred with the new NHL salary system. Though they declined to outline those "significant expenses". After all they don't want to change completely, complete and open disclosure just isn't the Maple Leaf way, not from the days of Conn Smythe and Harold Ballard and surely not in this corporate era of Maple Leaf Hockey.

Guess we'll just have to put the ole cliche aside but within hands reach.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Trolling for a deal on American TV

While the Canadian end of the broadcast schedule seems to be firming up nicely (see note about Hughson going to HNIC) the American broadcast universe is a tad unsettled.

NBC has the rights to the old ABC/FOX package of weekly games that usually run half a season but the cable option for the NHL has yet to be decided.

The latest news out of New York has the NHL working on a couple of options to try and attract a deal for the new and improved league. The players that Gary Bettman is apparently in discussions with include, Spike TV, the USA Network, ESPN 2 and OLN, The Outdoor Life Network. Spike which bills itself as TV for men might be an interesting choice what with it's wrestling spectacular and of course Striperella, but one wonders about it's possible reach. The USA Network used to be the Cable partner of choice back in the mid eighties I vaguely remember Al Trautwig hosting the NHL games on USA which seemed to always feature the Rangers I think.

ESPN 2 is a bit of a surprise as the mother network basically told the NHL to hit the road back in June when things looked dark and darker regarding a CBA between players and owners. But one assumes that even the Deuce could make some use of the NHL to help fill in those hours between dog shows and poker tournaments.

By far the most unusual option is the OLN, once know as the Fishing and hunting channel OLN has developed a bit of a reputation for niche sporting activities having hosted the recent tour de France and the odd soccer match from time to time. In the States OLN is owned by the powerful Comcast cable chain, so it may not be that wild an idea after all. Comcast could use the platform of OLN to build a rival to ESPN in sports programming. The NHL may be the building block required to chip away at ESPN's dominance.

All of a sudden one wonders if the folks at ESPN may have been a little hasty in their dismissal of the NHL option, for Gary Bettman sometimes you have to be a little lucky to be successful. In the matter of American TV rights, Bettman may have just received a lucky break to salvage a battered reputation. And while the prospect of sharing tv time with the likes of celebrity bull riding and little known car races might seem like a loss in the short term, if it gets in on the ground floor of a challenge to ESPN's sport dominance, the NHL may find itself one day in the right place at the right time. The question for now is, will anybody be watching in that short term?

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Hughson at the mic

Hockey fans in Canada can look forward to those Saturday night double headers once again, Hockey Night in Canada has chosen Jim Hughson to step in and handle the play by play duties on the second game each Saturday night.

Hughson who also works at Rogers Sportsnet on Canuck's broadcasts will be taking over the slot that came open with the involuntary departure of Chris Cuthbert from the CBC. Cuthbert of course landed on his feet quite nicely over at TSN, a network that will make use of his skills in both football and hockey.

The Hughson appointment seems to be the first intelligent thing the CBC has done in months as the network suffered under the weight of some questionable decisions of late. From the backlash to the Cuthbert dismissal, to a complete disaster in the curling world, the CBC brand on sports has taken a rather rough ride of late.

As if to highlight the return of the national game to the national network, the CBC also announced that the popular Hockey Day in Canada feature (axed by network twits this year) will return with triple header of hockey on January 7. Last years celebration of hockey was successfully staged by TSN without the need of the professionals, so the CBC has a lot of catching up to do on that issue.

The CBC also announced that the Coach shall be unedited on Coach's corner this year, the much discussed and mocked seven secon delay no longer a part of the between period rants by Don Cherry.

But lest one thing it's all goodness and light at the CBC, don't forget all these changes may be for naught, the CBC and it's union are at present involved in contract negotiations, with the union receiving a sizable mandate for strike action. It would be rather ironic that after surviving over a year without hockey, the network would be unable to show a game due to labour troubles. If the pickets stay down and the plan stays the same, the first night of double headers will be October 8th.

10 days or less

Dave Nonis has been given the word that the Bertuzzi situation will be addressed within the next ten days. The rookie Canuck GM would appreciate a speedy process as he tries to piece together a line up for his start as Canuck architect.

Bertuzzi who was involved in the Steve Moore attack when we last had playoff hockey, has been informed that his fate will be known shortly and it can't happen a moment too soon for Nonis. In addition to trying to decide what's best for the Canucks regarding Bertuzzi's future in Vancouver Nonis also has to try and accommodate team captain Markus Naslund.

There have been rumblings out of Vancouver that Naslund may be weary of wearing the Canuck colours and may choose to find gainful employment elsewhere, a prospect that will have many Canuck fans a tad concerned. The Bertuzzi situation is a totally different dynamic, while the majority of Canuck fans have been steadfast in their support for him, there are some commentators who think that perhaps moving him to the Eastern Conference might be decision that would be best for all concerned. With a new style schedule that weighs against frequent travel east and west, the chance to play East of the Mississippi may be a welcome change for Bertuzzi who will want to get back to playing hockey and not answering questions about that infamous night.

For Nonis all this uncertainty is not easing him gently into the office once held by Brian Burke. Vancouver fans are still annoyed with the Canuck management for firing the popular Irishman, who became a huge figure in the Vancouver scene. Already having accepted a hard trail to hike offered up by the Canucks, Nonis must surely hope that he can at least keep a few of the popular Canuck players around to help ease the new regime into place.

Jaromir's nikoli vesely

The new world of salary caps is not something sitting well with Jaromir Jagr. The player currently in the stable of the New York Rangers is weighing his options and pondering a return to Europe rather than play under the new system just negotiated.

Jaromir apparently is toying with the idea of playing once again for Avangard Omsk in Russia, where he played for part of the lock out season last year. As 2005-06 approaches, Jagr is contemplating the 3.2 million dollar pay cut that he would take under the new pay scale.

Jagr was scheduled to make 11 million dollars this year under the old system, now with cost certainty in place Jagr's salary would only check in at 7.8 million. The loss of the pocket change has put Jaromir in a rather poor frame of mind regarding a return to the Garden and other NHL barns.

The Rangers for their part aren't suggesting that they will be Jaromir less squad this year, they of course are assisted by the fact that the Capitals are still on the hook for part of Jagr's salary so don't expect them to make his departure an easy thing if he tries to break his contract.

Burke looks for a deal

With a number two spot in the entry draft available, Brian Burke is already receiving calls and thinking of options to possibly make a deal. The new Anaheim GM is relatively happy with the young prospects currently locked up by the Ducks, so he's looking for more immediate help via a trade of players for the pick.

Burke who spent his unemployed off season at his former Vancouver home might be thinking of moving down a tad and still pick up a valuable prospect. One player Burke probably got a fair look at was Gilbert Brule who played for the Vancouver Giants of the WHL, Burke could move down to the fifth or sixth spot and still have a shot at someone like Brule.

Regardless of what decision he comes up with, it's pretty well a foregone conclusion that the 2nd pick will be more closely watched than the first overall selection. Unless the Penguins have a huge brain cramp on Saturday, Sidney Crosby should be pulling on a Black and Gold sweater for the folks in Pittsburgh. After that it's the Burke show and the always entertaining hockey exec will surely keep us on the edge of our seats right from the early stages of the draft.

Draft Day Decisions

As the NHL entry draft for 2005 gets closer, we'll keep track of the information we find for our HockeyNation followers. Click the links below for detailed information on Draft Day.

The NHL's Draft site
CANOE's Draft links
The Score's Draft preview
TSN' Draft Day site
Sportsnet's Draft day site
Hockey Night In Canada's Draft page

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Sanity rears its head at the NHL offices

With a media backlash threatening to sink the happy launch of the new NHL, Gary Bettman and his crew of marketing geniuses finally gave in and have decided that showcasing the Sidney Sweepstakes may actually be an ok idea.

Originally the plan for the Lottery draft (that bouncing ping pong ball of fate) was to be a closed event. HockeyNation had visions of a darkened room, the proceedings led by a High Priest named Gary and featuring hooded GM's chanting in an unknown language. Upon the sacrifice of small animals and retrieval of a ping pong ball, young prospect Crosby would be offered up for indentured slavery to a maniacally smiling GM.

Realizing that this would not be a positive image for a sports league, they have now chosen instead to hold a televised form of the lottery draft on Friday afternoon at 4pm EST 1pm PST . All thirty GM's will be in attendance, someone will be tasked to record each drop of a ping pong ball and the results will be broadcast to possibly millions of Canadian homes in a half hour special broadcast exclusively via TSN. Of course this just proves that Canadians may watch anything to do with hockey, so we anticipate Dave Hodge to be tasked with the reading of the NHL roster list in his own prime time special some time before training camp!

It's a small reversal of the week of mis-steps so far by the NHL who seem intent on blowing the window of opportunity to rekindle interest in their absent product line. The decision to show the lottery draft is a wise choice, even if the event itself seems a tad boring, the excitement of hyping the possible franchise player that Crosby may be is something the league really can't afford to throw away!

The medium is the message and the message is you're toast!

The US media machine has decided all is lost for professional hockey and ye shall abandon all hope now. Erin Hicks of the Sun papers, tracks the impressions of the American press and it's not a pretty picture for Gary Bettman and his cost certainty endeavors.

The tone of the article is basically that the US media has decided that hockey is a lost cause and not worthy of any further attention. With ESPN terminating their agreement earlier back in June and the league becoming a barter programming fill in for NBC this year, the media footprint should be rather small for the start up of operations. And the NHL should not be waiting for the good news stories in the US media, because they're not coming.

Hicks article serves as a bit of a warning for the NHL that the road ahead is going to be a rather rocky one in the USA, the Canadian road is paved and shouldn't offer too many potholes along the way. But the American path is one of cracks and hazards in every direction. Bettman and the rest of the American owners had best not be depending on the US media to cut them any slack, they seem to have already passed their judgment and it's not one that will find much favor at the NHL offices.

Having spent 301 days at war with their players, one wonders how long the war with the media will carry on for. It's a no win situation for the NHL, they had better hope that the players quickly become the main attraction. Of course that strategy runs the risk of a JR or a Chelios saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.

But the league is going to need some positive spin soon, right now the press is bad and getting worse, not the kind of image that says we're back and better than ever!

Monday, July 18, 2005

It's back to work and there's a lot of it to do!

With both the NHL owners and the NHLPA expected to ratify their template for success later this week, it's now time for the General Managers and player agents to start to earn their pay.

This week is going to be a rather busy one for all concerned, with league meetings on competition planned for Tuesday, as the league whittles down all those wild recommendations we've been hearing about. The players will cast their votes aye or nay on Thursday as electronic balloting will determine if they will accept the deal put together by Gary and Bob, barring a massive power failure or computer meltdown it's expected they will vote to accept the terms and get ready to go back to the rink.

Sidney Crosby will find out who will control his immediate future this week, the much anticipated draft lottery will take place Friday, held in apparent secrecy we shall wait for the white smoke to come out of the NHL offices in New York before we learn where young Sidney will call home, that is unless the rights holder has a brain cramp and decides to trade the young phenom to another team, a highly unlikely scenario unless some GM is looking for early retirement.

GM's have already been holding study sessions on the new world of the CBA, the player agents will be heading for boot camp this week as they learn the details of the new agreement and how they can find a way to wring out every last penny for their clients.

Friday is the big day though, as mentioned above the Crosby announcement will be made and Gary Bettman will stride to a microphone to deliver Crosby's new address, Bettman will also tie up the weeks loose ends and set the stage for the entry draft to come at the end of the month in Ottawa. And he will give us an idea as to what rules will be changed after the Colin Campbell lectures of Tuesday.

All in all a lot of work for a bunch of guys that haven't had much to do the last 301 days or so, woe be the first guy to put in for an Overtime cheque!

Sunday, July 17, 2005

A marketing blunder right off the start?

The ink on the tentative deal isn't even dry yet and is it possible that the NHL has already made its first mis-step of the brand new era of pro hockey?

The various media outlets which spent the last year filling their broadcasts with filler material while the NHL did it's Rip Van Winkle act, figured that the time was at hand to return the NHL to the media spotlight. Numerous requests were made to the NHL offices to let the cameras record the draft lottery, better known as the Sidney Sweepstakes which apparently will take place sometime in the next ten days.

The draft itself is to take place in Ottawa apparently at the end of July and won't be the great televised spectacle that TSN and Sportsnet brought to us previously. This years scaled down roster stuffing sessions will take place in an Ottawa Hotel, no audience in the stands, no hoopla, no sense of anticipation. Instead it appears it will have all the excitement of a tax audit at Revenue Canada.

What is wrong with the folks at the NHL? They should have been busting their butts to make the entry draft a splashy return of the game. Sure there might be a few boos from the crowd when Gary B takes to the stage to announce the lucky players heading for training camp, but surely he is made of stern stuff and could take a few hits for the good of his game.

Instead after keeping hockey fans in the dark for 301 days, the NHL decides to keep them in the dark a few more days just for good measure. This is no way to rebuild your brand folks, the entry draft over the last few years has been one of the most anticipated of events on the Hockey schedule. Over the years it has become a major effort from the sports networks who turned it into a must see event for hockey fans, it presents a real chance to keep the fans hooked and talking hockey.

Well Gary the fans will be talking no doubt and the words won't be kind for the brainiacs of the NHL.

How do you like me now?

Well the good news for the NHL is that Canadians still seem to give a damn about their product and the game it represents. CBC One featured the return of NHL Hockey as it's question on Cross Country check up, and there was no shortage of commentary from the Canadian hockey fan. The question was "what will it take for you to come back to NHL hockey" and the replies were varied from coast to coast to coast.

Bernard St. Laurent, who is sitting in for the vacationing Rex Murphy interviewed Steven Brunt of the Globe and Mail, the legendary Jean Beliveau and former referee Bruce Hood to name a few, seeking out their comments on the state of the game and what beckons ahead. Over the course of the two hours, the callers set the pace as we took the pulse of this Hockey nation.

Phone calls from Newfoundland to British Columbia seemed to welcome back the players and their bosses without a great deal of acrimony. In fact rule changes, draft options and the fate of Todd Bertuzzi seemed to dominate the 120 minutes of Hockey talk.

You can check out the program here from the CBC Archive site, it's a fascinating examination of the importance of the game to Canadians and just how much it seems to matter above the 49th parallel.

The fans were passionate about their game and showed just how much they missed the sport over the last year. The good news for both the NHL and the players is that despite the horrid treatment they received in 2004-05, they still seem to care. They may not have forgiven both sides for their folly, but they seem ready to welcome them back into their homes.

It's still some uphill skating for some teams

With the new CBA soon to be ratified the 30 GM's will head off to Managers school to try and get a crash course on number crunching and prospect assessment. Well almost all of the GM's as Al Strachan points out one guy will be able to skip the lectures, pie charts and powerpoint presentations. New Jersey's Lou Lamoriello was in the loop from the beginning and was there when the new world was born. As the NHL blanketed all discussions in a veil of secrecy his lodge brothers at the Loyal Order of the Hockey Puck were as much in the dark as the players and player agents.

In Strachan's story, Lucky Lou can get busy searching for valuable soon to be free agents and discarding unwanted salaries. While his fellow GM's stumble there way through math class Lou will be putting the finishing touches on the Devils roster for 2005-06.

Strachan helps clear up some of the confusion for us regarding this next two or three weeks as the old NHL gives way to the new way of doing things. It's interesting to note that regardless of the changes the likes of the Rangers, Red Wings, Leafs and Black Hawks will continue to have large sums of money to spend, while the Islanders and similar size bankrolls will still have problems to deal with.

It may be a brave new world for the NHL, but some of the scenarios seem rather familiar after all.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Soon to be unfulfilled expectations?

With the NHL about to come back to a rink near you, one wonders what the chances are of this balloon taking flight. The folks at the WHA are standing by to take your orders!

Shamelessly ripping off another!

I discovered this little idea from the United Irelander blogsite, so I thought I would modify it for my own benefit.

Would you fine HockeyNation visitors kindly leave a note in the comment box below, just a quick snapshot of where all of the HockeyNation flybys may come from. Feel free to add a blurb about your hometown and to leave a link to your blog if you wish.

I figure the blog will see a wee bit of increased traffic in the next few days with the onset of labour peace, so I may as well launch the trial balloon while there is still some air to fly it.

I'll put a link to this entry near the top of my blog, so folks can quickly access your blogs should you choose to add them to the comments.

Be assured you shall receive no spam from moi, this is merely an exercise to see where everyone is from.

Mommy, Daddy? What did you do during the Great Hockey War?

Well while many hockey fans turned their attentions to other sports and interests over the last nine months or so, there was a decidedly different approach in Prince George BC. At the northern British Columbia hospital, officials are looking at some stats and they have found that the 301 day absence of the national sport did a lot for the national birth rate.

Prince George Regional hospital released their roster and it shows that the maternity ward of PGRH was busier than a penalty box at a Senators/Leafs playoff match up.

201 babies were born in Prince George from April 22 to June 16 of 2005, up quite a bit from the normal levels of 160 over a two month period. Now keep in mind that we're counting backwards here, so those numbers are just the start of the season babies. One wonders what kind of a boom will hit Prince George next March when all those playoff babies make their appearance!

Anyone remember where we left the pucks?

After 301 days and 82 mostly acrimonious meetings our leaders of the hockey world have finally brokered a peace treaty. General Gary and General Bob finally signed off on the terms of surrender and the members of each side will check their pulses and ratify the deal by next week.

There are still many issues to clear up for the average hockey fan, the final terms not to be officially announced until the raftification votes. But as you can see in the following links there's enough rumour and innuendo to keep us going for the next seven days.

Eric Duhatscheks' report on the deal
What will happen with Sidney?
Draft Day dynamics
Preparing for the salary cap.
Who has a contract and who is up for grabs.
The players reaction
A lower starting wage
casualties of War
The Wrath of Grapes
When the deal turned
Worry over the fan reaction
Collapse of the PA?
Now the GM's must earn some pay
Christmas in July!
A free agency free for all?
Fear at the CBC? Cherry's ready to roar again!
The rich will still be the rich!
Buy and sell days ahead for the NHL
League heads for a recovery period

Yet there are still some questions for us to ponder. What will the amateur draft look like? Will the Rangers be given enough bouncing balls to successfully claim young Sidney? How many of your favourite players will be changing uniforms as each team tries to fit things under the new salary cap? Which of our old warhorses will find that the new NHL has no place for their weary bones and quietly they shall go off to their sunsets? Will Bob Goodenow survive as leader of the Players Association with his rank and file taking some sizeable pay cuts and having lost an entire season of pay.

Then there are the rule changes that are supposed to be coming our way. Smaller goaltender equipment, Floating red lines, another bid to cut down on the clutch and grab, some added overtime and increased playoff participation to name a few of the trial balloons we have heard about in the last 301 days. We soon shall find out what is fact or fiction.

But for now, yesterday's announcement that hockey is almost back on the ice was greeted by Canadians like Victory in Europe day, the sports networks dedicated enough air time to the announcement to qualify as a mini series. Sports radio finally had a topic to keep the lines jammed all day long. For the Canadian sports media the return of the NHL was greeted with the joy of Christmas, for finally some advertising may begin to pick up there is a huge gap in revenues thanks to the absence of hockey from September to the all important June Stanley Cup ratings bonanza, if even half the viewers and listeners return in September they still will be far ahead of most of the other programming that had to be offered up to fill time.

In the States it may be a completely different story however, there the game is a mess media wise. ESPN dropped the game after waiting in vain for the NHL and NHLPA to get their act together, that leaves the NHL with a cobbled together coalition of local pay tv channels and some strange lend lease arrangement with NBC where the NHL may get some cash after all the expenses are paid off, that knocks the NHL down to second or third tier sports.

So while the NHL celebrates it's version of peace in our time, there is now much work to be done to return the game to some semblance of its past glory. 301 days went by without hockey, it will be interesting to see how long it takes for the game to bring recapture and build upon its fanbase!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

New CBA could be a positive development for Canadian Hockey

With the glacial like movements in the CBA between the NHL and NHLPA many hockey fans may wonder if they'll ever see hockey again. But one hockey observer says that once the I's are dotted and the T's crossed Canadian hockey may never be stronger.

Howard Bloom who publishes says that with the new agreement in place we may shortly see the return of Quebec City and Winnipeg. Bloom feels that with salary certainty now a definite part of the new NHL Canadian teams and cities will find it much easier to survive in the NHL

Bloom says that the league will have to re-evaluate it's current markets and cut loose those cities that just don't embrace hockey. Giving the old NHL cities a chance to bring the game back and let it thrive in a more secure financial environment.

He goes on to suggest that hockey was never going to work in the American Southeast and the sooner the NHL relocates those franchises to a place which appreciates the game the better. So HockeyNation fans in Quebec City and Winnipeg should best start saving up their money, season tickets at Le Colisee and the MTS Centre may go on sale sooner than you think!

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Everybody on the ice!

Al Strachan is at it again, the Toronto Sun columnist who equally can annoy NHL management and union reps has put forward some ideas from the league that will have hockey fans talking about the game at least.

Strachan citing an internal memo from the desk of Colin Campbell, says that the NHL intends to add more teams to the playoff pool next year, as 20 teams (up from 16) will be able to add some playoff revenue to their bottom line this season, if the players and owners ever get around to the finishing touches on their contract negotiations. Overtime may get a few minutes added to it, for if the teams have still not settled the matter, we may see three on three overtime to add to the excitement. After that it may come down to a shootout. All designed to detract from the defensive mindset and allow the skilled players to have more room to move. Strachan reports on many more rule changes planned and you can look them all up here.

Of course with word of the leak making it to the papers, the NHL went into damage control with Colin Campbell suggesting that nothing has been cast in stone yet and many are just suggestions that are being bounced around.

Regardless nothing will be officially announced until the NHL and NHLPA have an agreement to end the current lock out in place. After Gary Bettman reads out the terms of surrender then we'll find out just how much inside hockey Strachan had!

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Cart before the horse in Toronto?

Ah, finally! The first tangible sign that the NHL labour dispute is certainly at an end. The Toronto Maple Leafs are getting ready to make some money and hit on their season ticket holders for deposits for the upcoming season.

And as if to truly let their fans know that they're back in business, the Leafs won't say what the price for a pair of season tickets will be until later. While they claim there will not be any increase for the 2005-06 season, for now it's pony up folks and keep those cheques coming.

So much for the fans must be wooed back gently idea, the "small" deposit must be in the hands of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment by August 2nd. There may be no agreement, no schedule and no roster but there surely will be a bank deposit, by 5pm August 2nd MLSE will be taking money to the bank.

How much they get to keep there will be determined by the terms of the upcoming player agreement!

Strachan takes union members to task

Al Strachan wades into the dump on Goodenow debate, in his current article for the Sun newspapers. Strachan suggests that those doing the most complaining about the apparent rout of the union movement in the NHL should look in the mirror.

With Manny Legace, Jeremy Roenick and Sean Avery amongst others now leveling their barbs at their own leadership, Strachan suggests that they had every opportunity to say their peace during the heady days of negotiations and chose not to.

In a blistering attack on the nay sayers, Strachan points out that they seem to have a rather selective memory on the events of the last 365 days or so and only seem to remember that which serves them now.

It's an interesting take on the current blood feud taking place in the NHLPA and points out more than anything else how the lack of solidarity in the end spelled doom for a winning hand by the players union.

As Strachan points out, once the owners realized that the players weren't all onside with their own leadership it merely became a waiting game.

If you think about it, the whole thing came down to simple math. The owners only had to keep 30 fellow lodge members on side, the NHLPA had to work on over 650+ players, a much harder row to hoe.

With his harsh words for the chattering NHLers though, Strachan may find that future "personality pieces" may be hard to come by.

Headlines, we've got Headlines. The July sessions!

Wow, here's an idea! An archive of my HockeyNation headlines. What a concept. A little late in the month, but here's the July version. We shall endeavour to be a tad more comprehensive as the new season dawns!

July 29 Duck Hunting Season
July 28 The Goodbye Guy
July 27 Game On October 5
July 26 What is Stevie Y going to do?
July 22 Sidney skates to Pittsburgh!
July 21 Approval
July 20 Flames to be a test case?
July 19 NHL to Increase the rivalries
July 18 Time to roll up the sleeves
July 17 What should we do about Sidney?
July 16 And a silence shall descend
July 15 Fire them Both!
July 14 A New Ice Age Beckons
July 13 A Done Deal!
July 12 Colin Campbell spins the Strachan rule and format stories
July 10 Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who really should take the fall?
July 8 Sidney wishes to stay close to home!

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Hmm, best not put Avery in a foursome with Goodenow at the NHLPA golf tourney!

Well good news for the US Postal Service the Christmas card list for the Goodenow household is getting lighter and lighter by the day.

Earlier in the week it was Red Wing player rep Manny Legace expressing disappointment with the work of his union leader Bob Goodenow. Now comes word out of Hollywood that LA King Sean Avery is ripping Goodenow a new one with quite a bit of ferocity.

Claiming the players were brainwashed and burned a year for nothing, Avery left no rhetorical flourish unspoken as he went up one side of the Goodenow legend and down the other. Echoing the comments of a few others Avery stated that the owners beat us.

Goodenow has three years left on his six year contract, which many say will be up for discussion once the final draft agreement is taken care of. One suspects that a vote from Avery won't be in favour of keeping the NHLPA's leader in his chair any longer than it takes to make a line change.

He got his ducks in a row and took off`

Meet the new boss, not the same as the old boss! Mike Babcock officially told Brian Burke that he could take his one year contract and ............................. offer it to somebody else. After two years in the Duck Pond, Babcock is off to swim in search of other frozen waters and the migration may take him to shores of the St. Clair river.

While Brian Burke was offering up a less than warm endorsement of Babcock's coaching skills with his one year offer, the Red Wings were making plans to replace Dave Lewis behind the Detroit bench and all the signs point to Babcock being a better fit with the Wings.

No official word has been issued from Hockeytown USA, but many suspect it's only a matter of a couple of days before Babcock is introduced to the Detroit media.

Burke expressed surprise at the topic of Babcock going to the Wings, Burke claiming that the Red Wings had not contacted him regarding his former coach and would consider it a breach of etiquette had they contacted Babcock without sharing the details with him. Big Brian who is back in the saddle after a year of hibernation in North Vancouver, seems to have forgotten that it's a dog eat dog world in the land of the NHL GM, breaches of etiquette may be the least of his worries as the new and improved? NHL gets back on it's skates.

Sidney to stay close

The Swiss franc will not compete with the Canadian loonie nor the American Greenback for Sidney Crosby. Earlier this week Crosby's agents were in heady discussions with Lugano Hockey Club in Switzerland, as the Swiss hockey team tried to lure the Canadian teenager across the ocean for his professional debut.

With the NHL and NHLPA yet to actually sign the deal they supposedly have hammered out Crosby's agents are just covering their options on the off chance the NHL season gets trashed at the last moment.

For Crosby there is apparently only one league to play in and that's the NHL, which will no doubt come as a relief to the 30 General Managers hoping that the ole lottery ball spits out their team logo at the entry draft later this month. With each team apparently to be given an equal chance to witn the Sidney sweeps the idea of picking a player who is Swiss bound would be a rather questionable strategy.

Fortunately for our pre-occupied GM's worrying about the status of Sidney won't be as troublesome as initially thought, but one wonders just what kind of decision he would have to make if the Lugano folks upped the ante quite a bit.

Sidney may say no today, but if his agent gets the right numbers from Lugano he may find the idea of a trip to Europe quite a financially rewarding way to start ones hockey career!

Nothing but best wishes for Burns!

HockeyNation is saddened to hear that Pat Burns once again must do battle with Cancer. The New Jersey Devils coach will not be behind the bench once the NHL resumes play in September as he is scheduled to once again receive chemotherapy sessions in the next few weeks.

Burns fought and won a battle over colon cancer two years ago and now must take on another battle with an undisclosed form of cancer.

The tough ex cop from Hull will face this one too and we hope to see him back on the beat behind an NHL bench as soon as is at all possible. It doesn't seem very fair that he should have to face his foe once again, but he's never been a guy to back down from a scrap.

Burns goes into this one with our thoughts and prayers for a positive outcome!