Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Retro Modern in Vancouver

Vancouver joined the ranks of the latest fashion trendsetters as they unveiled their new look today, showing off new uniforms featuring old school colours, the city's name across the top of the chest and the current killer whale logo from past seasons. The shoulder patches feature the first year hockey rink logo, which is also placed prominently on the pants.

The uniforms were modeled at a GM Place unveiling party, as a number of the Canucks donned their new duds, Markus Naslund, Kevin Bieksa, Willie Mitchell, Mattias Ohlund and long time Canuck and crowd favourite Trevor Linden showed off the new look.

Made by Rebok, the new uniforms are made of lightweight material that is designed to remain lighter even during the heaviest work out on the ice.

Canuck fans can pre-order their new jersey's on line at the Canuck's team store.

Russian's look lost in the fog

It's not so much the humidity, it's the heat of the Canadian attack! The Canadian side of the Super series competition got their legs back in full motion for game number two and that proved to be a bad thing for their Russian hosts.

With some solid goal tending from Jonathan Bernier of the Lewiston Mainiacs the Canadians secured a 3-0 shutout on the fog shrouded ice of Ufa, the brand new rink which perhaps might wish to invest in a faster working ventilation system.

With a Canadian referee overseeing the match, the parade to the penalty box seemed to be a little less frequent as Canada faced only five short handed situations compared to the fourteen from game one.

The Russian squad seemed to have problems coping with the Canadian game plan, unable to secure the neutral zone and losing far too many battles in their own end and far too many face offs to motivate any kind of attack.

Frustration seemed to get the better of the Russians as they became more chippy as the game wore on, taking bad penalties of their own and getting away with a few blatant fouls that should have been called.

David Perron of the Lewiston Maineiacs, Kyle Turris of the Burnaby Express and Stefan Legein of the Niagara Falls IceDogs notched the goals for the Canadian side, which seemed to be in sync completely as early as the first period of play.

As the Canadians began to control the play, the famed discipline of the Russian's seemed to fall to the side as they got away from any sense of an organized attack and instead seemed to be confused as to how they should handle the Canadian game plan. The fog was rather symbolic for the Russian play on the day, for at times they seemed to be lost on the ice unsure of what their next move should be.

It's farewell to Ufa and on to Omsk for games three and four, where hopefully the air circulation will provide for a clearer view of the ice for players, fans and the television audience.

Canada begins defence of World Championship May 2nd

It will mark the first time that the World Hockey Championships are played in Canada, and on May 2nd in Halifax, Team Canada will step onto home ice to defend their title.

The International Ice Hockey Federation released its Championship schedule on Monday and the tournament will feature games played in both Halifax and Quebec City.

Halifax will be home base for Canada for seven games in the tournament including a quarter final if all goes well. Should disaster not strike Canada's hopes, they will then move on to Quebec City for the semi finals and if the Hockey Gods are cooperating, the gold medal game on May 18th.

Canada has been placed in Group B, sharing space with the USA, Latvia and Slovenia.

Canada's schedule looks like this, with all games played at the Metro Centre in Halifax.

May 2nd vs Slovenia
May 4th vs Latvia
May 6th vs USA

Three Qualification/Relegation games between May 8 and 13

And a Quarter final on May 14

The Semi finals move on to Quebec City on May 16

With the Gold Medal Game on May 18th

The Full IIHF 2008 World Championship schedule can be found here.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Super Series 2007 Archive

We'll stash all of our Super Series stories here for easy access.

August 27- Coming from behind to go out in front
August 27- Calling Paul Watson!
August 27- Canada overcomes two goal deficit to take game one
August 27- Super Series 2007 Results
August 27- Super Series Schedule
August 27- Super series set for puck drop

Coming from behind to go out in front

Team Canada made their first statement of the Super Series on Monday, no game is over until the final whistle and patience will pay off over sixty minutes.
The Canadians fell behind in the first period by a score of 2-0 and then turned the game around completely in the following forty minutes. Despite a number of short handed situations through the game, the Canadians managed to not only stay in the first game of the eight game series, but reclaim it and take the 4-2 victory away from the Russians in front of their boitsterous home crowd in Ufa.

It's a solid start for the Canadians, who managed to get over any nerves after twenty minutes and knuckled down to the job at hand.

Game Summary from Hockey Canada.

Some of the reviews of the day's action from Ufa.

Globe and Mail- Canada edges Russia 4-2 to open Super Series
CBC- Canada wins Super Series opener Canada scores four straight to take Super Series opener Super start for Canada

Calling Paul Watson!

If the famed environmentalist Paul Watson is looking for a new cause, there are apparently a number of furry animals somewhere in the Russian heartland looking for someone to take up their cause.

The Super Series between the Junior teams of Canada and Russia got underway on Monday, and with the completion of game one, a successful one for Team Canada came the obligatory most valuable player of the game awards.

Team Canada's Karl Alzner was the debut recipient of the award for achievement in game one, and as can be seen in the hat modelled above, there will be no doubt several animals in the Russian wilderness feeling a little bit colder these days.

It's a stylish not so little thing that the Russians are handing out to the deserving, a chapeau that surely knocks the ole Daniel Boone coonskin cap or Beaver tail chapeau of the Canadian trappers down by more than a few hat sizes!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Canada overcomes two goal deficit to take game one

Penalty killing will clearly be an important part of Canada’s game in the Super Series.

The Canadian team had to play through eleven short handed situations, including a couple of five on three situations in game one of their eight game series against Russia.
As seems to be the case in Internationally officiated games, any form of contact can suddenly send you to the box, particularly anything to do with the hockey stick. Canada played almost one third of the game down a man on the ice, but still managed to not only weather the storm, but to turn the flow of the game around and move the game into the Russian end of the ice.

Game one saw Canada fall behind two to nothing before storming back to score four unanswered goals on the way to a 4-2 opening night victory. Ilya Kablukov and Alexander Ryabev paced the Russians to the early lead before Canada could mount its comeback and eventual victory.

Steve Mason loomed large in the Canadian net, bouncing back after a goal which he no doubt wish he could have back. From that point on, Mason shut the door to the Russians who thanks to those man advantage situations had no shortage of opportunities to work the puck in the Canadian end.

Strong Canadian fore checking would however counter the Russian attack, frustrating the Russians and slowing down their movement of the puck out of their end of the rink. Goaltending once again seems to be a troublesome aspect for Russian hockey, while the bulk of the blame can’t be laid at the skates of the Russian goaltender, when the Russians needed a key save to slow down Canada’s momentum it wasn’t there. However, the simple fact is that once Canada came back from the early Russian goals, they increased the pressure on the Russians, who couldn’t answer back despite the many man advantage situations presented.

Brent Sutter’s squad showed a fair amount of character in this opening game, shaking off any first game jitters and regrouping after falling behind by two goals, they managed to overcome the wide gulf in penalties (only five Russian penalties were called) and were able to stay to their game plan. Despite the frequent visits to the penalty box, the Canadians kept up their physical play, especially in the Russian end of the rink, which served to interrupt the Russians before they could carry the puck deep.

Canadian goal scorers included Stefan Legein, Kyle Turis, Brad Marchand and Sam Gagner.
Tonights game will be re-played on TSN and on the networks broadband connection at midnight.

Game number two takes place on Wednesday from UFA with another early broadcast call for Canadians of 9 am ET and 6 am on the west coast.

Super Series 2007 Results

Results from the eight game super series between the Canadian and Russian Junior Hockey teams.

Aug. 27- Canada 4 @ Russia 2 from Ufa
Aug. 29- Canada 3 @ Russia 0 from Ufa
Aug. 31- Canada 6 @ Russia 2 from Omsk
Sept. 1- Canada 4 @ Russia 2 from Omsk

Sept. 4- Russia 1 @ Canada 8 from Winnipeg
Sept. 5- Russia 1 @ Canada 4 from Saskatoon
Sept. 7- Russia 4 @ Canada 4 from Red Deer
Sept. 9- Russia 1 @ Canada 6 from Vancouver

Super Series Schedule

Eight games to rekindle the passions of hockey fans in Canada and Russia.

From Russia:

Monday, August 27- Canada at Russia-Ufa (9 am ET, 6 am PT) TSN
Wednesday, August 29- Canada at Russia-Ufa (9 am ET, 6 am PT) Sportsnet
Friday, August 31- Canada at Russia-Omsk ( 8 am ET, 5 am PT) Sportsnet
Saturday, September 1- Canada at Russia-Omsk ( 6 am ET, 3 am PT) TSN

From Canada:

Tuesday, September 4- Russia at Canada-Winnipeg (8 pm ET, 5 pm PT) TSN
Wednesday, September 5- Russia at Canada-Saskatoon (8 pm ET, 5 pm PT) TSN
Friday, September 7- Russia at Canada-Red Deer ( 10 pt ET, 7 pm PT) Sportsnet
Sunday, September 9- Russia at Canada-Vancouver (8 pm ET, 5 pm PT) Sportsnet

Super series set for puck drop

They're trying with all their might to recreate the same kind of "Us against Them" theme to the Super Series 2007.

But it's just not catching on in the same way.

Back in 72 it was a different era, the names weren't familiar, the styles quite alien.

Now Russian players make up any number of positions on NHL or Junior A teams, we've marvelled at some of their skills and berated those that dogged it as their contracts came up for renewal.

Still any time Canada plays Russia the thoughts turn to hopefully exciting, end to end hockey, a combination of the Russian flash with the physical Canadian play. Lately however, the skill sets of the players from both nations is such, that the style of play is almost identical whichever uniform you may be watching.

For Canadian fans the start of the Super Series comes with an early morning wake up call Monday, Game one opens up the eight game series at 6 am pacific 9 am in Eastern Canada. The first of four matches from Russia.

The series is being split between the two main English sports networks in Canada, TSN will carry the first, fourth, fifth and sixth games; Sportsnet will have the second, third, seventh and eighth. French Canada will have all games broadcast over RDS.

The TV schedule for all eight games can be found here.

Below some of the preview material we've been reading about the series.

Globe and Mail- High expectations for Canada-Russia junior series
Globe and Mail- Series 'wasn't always an easy sell'
Globe and Mail- Mason gets start for Canada
Globe and Mail- Lucic looks to be a giant for Canada
Globe and Mail- Juniors take their knocks early
Globe and Mail- Canada heats up in muggy Moscow
Globe and Mail- One more junior hockey milestone for Brent Sutter
Globe and Mail- Esposito out of Canadian lineup for Super Series
Globe and Mail- Super Series set to begin
Canoe- Russia salutes Summit Series
Canoe- TV teamwork for Canada-Russia
. Sutter names Lucic Team Canada captain Defenceman Doughty puts new spin on old move Sutter gets tough with Canada’s Super Series players Junior summit series likely to rekindle memories of 1972 Summit Series snub motivates OHL star
CBC Sports- Mason tabbed as starting goalie for Super Series
CBC Sports- Canada names Lucic captain for Super Series
CBC Sports- Esposito out of Canadian lineup for Super Series
CBC Sports- Hockey Canada unveils Super Series sites
CBC Sports- Super Series
TSN- TSN main website
ROGERS SPORTSNET- Sportsnet Hockey Page

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Will Gary roll the dice on Vegas?

They’re building a sports arena behind the Bally's and Paris hotel-casinos on the Las Vegas Strip with the hope of bringing in an NBA or NHL franchise or possibly both in time for 2010.

Harrah’s Entertainment, the proposed builder of the new arena says the arena complex will be part of Harrah’s master plan for Las Vegas, which will link its nine properties in the Las Vegas area to the 20,000 sports venue.

It's the second hockey rink project announced for Las Vegas in recent times, though the announcement that the big money casino boys are moving in might very well spell the end of the civic plans to construct a rink in downtown Las Vegas.

Harrah’s is partnering with AEG which owns the LA Galaxy (and by extension we guess David Beckham) as well as the Staples Centre in Los Angeles.

Timothy Leiweke, the president and chief executive of AEG says that the group is continuing to have discussions with potential owners and are optimistic about their chances of bringing a pro franchise to the gambling Mecca in time for the arenas grand opening in 2010.

It’s not the first time that Las Vegas has been mentioned as a potential NHL franchise host, two months or so ago Hollywood film maker Jerry Bruckheimer of CSI fame, expressed his interest in placing an NHL team in Vegas. At the time Bruckheimer had held informal talks with NHL officials about his dream, with the NHL suggesting a time frame of some four to five years.

If the Harrah’s/AEG group have their way, that timetable is going to move up pretty fast.

It will be interesting to watch as the various groups sit down to place their bets, and which one will be there at the end of the night.

Darren Rovell of CNBC makes a few valid points about the prospects of the NBA taking a gamble on Las Vegas while in the midst of the biggest gambling scandal in its recent history and he wonders aloud about the business acumen of an organization that is trying to land a franchise from the NHL when its popularity is as low as its been in the US in years.

There’s no tangible proof that pro sports will be a success in the city that is built on diversions, but the thinking is that the first one in will reap the most reward. Then again it's a town that has always been built on dreamers.

As Kenny Rogers might say “You've got to know when to hold them, know when to fold them, know when to walk away and know when to run. You never count your money when you're sitting at the table, there’ll be time enough for counting, when the dealing’s done”

Las Vegas Review Journal- Group plans sports arena

Predator deal in peril?

The local consortium that apparently wishes to purchase the Nashville Predators are already making a few demands on the Nashville civic government, but as timing would have it they don't actually have anybody to talk to at the moment.

The Tennessean newspaper is reporting that the group has put off its lease change proposals (demands?) until a new Civic government is elected and put in place next month.

The controversial requests included some financial backing from the City of Nashville to keep the Predators part of the Music city scene.

The Tennessean reported the following conditions as part of the plan for local ownership to operate a team in Nashville.

The local coalition's initial proposals for changes in the lease between Metro and the Predators were made public last week and included the following, according to Freeman:

• About $3 million from the city that would be used to help minimize past losses;

• Full responsibility for incentives to improve financial performance of the arena;

• A guarantee from the city of an average 14,000 in paid attendance per game each season so the club does not lose its substantial NHL revenue-sharing rights, in exchange for eliminating any right for the team to ever leave Nashville.

The idea of attendance guarantees and cash injections isn't sitting too well with a few of the local politicians.

Nashville councillor Michael Craddock doesn't have anything against the Predators and feels that they are an important asset for the city to have but he's decidedly not inclined to start funding the NHL franchise just for the sake of having a home team to root for.

"That's one of those quality of life venues that great cities are about, so we need to keep them here, but not on the back of the taxpayers."

Considering the nature of the potential ownerships requests, it would seem that there is a wide bit of water to cover before the two sides are rowing at he same time.

The latest twist in the Preds saga comes as the Preds prepare to head for training camp, a team unwanted by their current owner Craig Leipold and now to be used as a bargaining chip by the crew that wants to purchase them.

It makes you wonder if perhaps Gary Bettman might like to keep Jim Balsillies' number handy, he at least has cash and few demands, other than the chance to take the team where it will be a guaranteed success and won't need a nickle of support from local government.

The latest suitors seem to have little of one and are rather heavy on the other.

NHL destined for the deuce?

The Globe and Mail's William Houston is exploring the possibility that the NHL may soon return to that bastion of sport in the USA, the ESPN networks.

Houston reported that suggests that preliminary discussions have been taking place that could see the NHL return to ESPN 2 in time for the 2008-09 season.

Whether that means that NBC is preparing to drop its latest NHL experiment remains to be seen, the network is on board for the 2007-08 season, but hasn't committed beyond that.

For the NHL access to ESPN is very much a desired thing, since the spat that saw the two entities part company, the games exposure on the sports Goliath has been reduced significantly and the problems of coverage through the Versus method have been documented quite nicely over the last year.

Considering the troubles that basketball seem to be heading towards soon with their gambling referee and the potential black eye that could provide, a move to ESPN could help the league regain some of the territory it lost over the last few years.

NHL appears to have U.S. television options
From Tuesday's Globe and Mail
August 20, 2007 at 9:28 PM EDT

When NBC announced its 2007-08 NHL schedule last week, no mention was made of its option for the season to follow.

Some might have viewed that as a sign NBC is preparing to end its relationship with the league. reported recently the NHL has been in discussions with ESPN about placing games on ESPN2 in 2008-09, which led to speculation NBC is pulling out.

That's not how NBC sees it.

Sources close to the network say it plans to exercise its option for 2008-09. It does not view its profit-sharing partnership with the NHL as a failure. Some money (not much) has been made, apparently.

Regular-season ratings (percentage of U.S. households tuned in) have been low: 0.9 in 2005-06 and 1.0 in 2006-07. But ABC's average of 1.1 for its final season, 2003-04, wasn't much better.
What's more, NBC had the disadvantage of beginning its NHL telecasts at a time when U.S. interest in the league had hit rock bottom after the cancelled 2004-05 season.

As for the network's poor numbers for the past two Stanley Cup final series, they can be explained easily: Edmonton Oilers-Carolina Hurricanes in 2006 and Anaheim Ducks-Ottawa Senators in 2007 – small-market matchups that inspired little interest in the United States.
But what if it were the NHL, and not NBC, that was considering cancellation of the 08-09 option?

What if ESPN, which balked at a $60-million (U.S.) annual rights fee in 2005, agreed to pay the NHL $30-million? Each of the 30 clubs would pick up $1-million a year, more than what is being earned in the NBC deal.

There could be other compelling reasons for the league choosing ESPN and ESPN2 over NBC.
Although the NHL would lose carriage on a main broadcasting network by opting for ESPN over NBC, it would renew its relationship with the most powerful sports channel in North America.
Exposure on ESPN's SportsCenter, which dropped 28 per cent after 2005, would increase. And the constant scrutiny of the NHL's paltry U.S. ratings would largely disappear. Cable audience figures do not receive as much attention in the U.S. media as those of broadcasters.

Everything is speculative that this point.

ESPN may have interest. NBC isn't planning an exit strategy quite yet.

Still, the NHL appears to have options. Its U.S. television situation may not be as dire as some believe.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The NHL as a financial haven?

Somebody call Jim Cramer over at Mad Money and see what he thinks, will he give it a boo yah or just a boo!

But for the moment it seems that buying an NHL franchise is the in thing to do.

It's hard to figure out how a league with little television exposure in the United States and suffering some box office slowdowns in the southern territories can suddenly be the hot financial item, but in the space of a couple of months NHL franchises have become in demand items.

David Naylor of the Globe and Mail tracks the latest developments which recently saw both the money losing Nashville Predators and Tampa Bay Lightning find new owners and fetch a rather handsome price on the way to the transfer office.

Edmonton turns down a billionaire and his exotic offer of hundreds of millions of dollars to buy the hometown Oilers and Jim Balsillie still wants to spend some of his personal fortune on an NHL dream for Hamilton, if only Gary Bettman would let him.

In a month where the stock market has skyrocketed and plummeted all in one week, there still is apparently a will to buy up hockey teams in far off places and try to make a go of it.

All of which should be good news for Gary Bettman who somehow has managed to have his stable of franchises almost double in value, all the while going by almost completely un-noticed by the major media outlets of the US.

Some might say this is astute business accumen or others might suggest that it's a bubble economy of NHL franchises that may leave their new owners holding their bank accounts a little closer to their vest in the future.

The NHL suddenly a hot commodity
From Saturday's Globe and Mail
August 17, 2007 at 8:51 PM EDT

The Nashville Predators and Tampa Bay Lightning have been around for a combined total of 22 NHL seasons.

And in all but one of those, they've lost money — the lone exception being Tampa's Stanley Cup winning season of 2004.

Yet it appears both teams may soon change hands with price tags in the neighbourhood of $200-million dollars (all figures U.S.). Those deals include some added value through such things as real estate, public concessions and arena entertainment rights, but there's no getting past the fact NHL franchise values have soared since the end of the 2004-05 lockout.
Just ask Edmonton pharmacy tycoon Daryl Katz who was rebuffed in his $185-million offer to buy the Edmonton Oilers last week.

Said one banker who has completed several NHL franchise transactions: "It boggles the mind that the smallest market in the NHL just turned down such a huge price."

So what's pushing values so high despite the NHL's apparent downward trend in popularity in the United States and the fact that salary expenditures this coming season are equal those of the final season before the lockout?

The answer seems to be that, while NHL teams remain money-losing ventures in many cities, investors are attracted to businesses where they can at least project what those losses will be.
In other words, "cost certainty" — the buzz term of the 2004-05 lockout — apparently has a lot of value to both to those looking to buy into hockey as well as those cashing out.

"The league was highly volatile and [the owners] proved the lesson that the pressure to win on the ice or on the field can drive the business into very significant losses," said Randy Vataha, president of Game Plan LLC, a Boston-based company that brokers the sale of sports franchises.

"What the salary cap does is give you a chance to be successful on the ice and to be financially successful. It doesn't make [market] disparities go away. But at least now in a place like Nashville, if you can get your average ticket sales and price close to the average of the league, then you have a chance of having a business that works.

"There's no perfect world, but it's all based on cost certainty. Now that you have that, the franchise values have doubled from what they were before the lockout."

This despite the fact a good number of NHL teams will spend more on salaries this season than they did in the year preceding the lockout, without any significant new revenue stream. In fact, the most significant revenue growth for the NHL since the lockout may be the rise in the Canadian dollar, which has greatly enhanced the standing of Canadian teams while pushing the salary cap higher.

While investors apparently see the NHL's current economic model as a stable foundation for long-term growth, Vataha cautions it alone doesn't turn weak hockey markets into strong ones.
"One of the dangers of a cap [as a percentage of overall revenue] is that it doesn't always solve your problems," he said. "If 20 teams raise their revenues and 10 don't, then those 20 teams will be pulling the cap up. It's up to you and your market to stay up with the trend, but the thing can't spin out of control like in the past."

The biggest gamble by new NHL investors is whether or not hockey can regain more of a profile in the United States, which, among other things, might help it attract more lucrative television contracts.

While hockey was perceived to be on its way up the hierarchy of professional sports in the United States a decade ago, it's become less prominent in part by moving its cable position from ESPN to Versus.

"The current [television] situation is not good, but it really can't get any worse," said Chuck Greenberg, a Pittsburgh attorney who has been involved in deals involving Mario Lemieux with the Penguins and Bernie Kosar with the Florida Panthers. "I think there's an upside in terms of a television agreement."

That sense of buying in at a low is another ingredient that seems to be fuelling interest.
"Hockey was the first sport ever to cancel an entire season," Vataha said. "I think everybody knew what a severe and drastic measure that was. And the consequences of that will have a fairly significant time frame as the league regains its footing. That's what a lot of buyers see right now: The numbers are down, but we didn't play for a year. It was right out of sight.

"I think a lot of people buying franchises believe the owners have built a foundation and now it's up to them to build on it. And now is the time to purchase a team because if they do rebuild it, franchise values are going to be $400-million."

Another factor that may be driving franchise value is good old supply and demand. From 1991 to 2001, there were 18 expansion franchises hatched in the four major-league sports: an average of almost two a year. Since then, however, only the NFL's Houston Texans and NBA's Charlotte Bobcats have been added. And, right now, hockey is a veritable bargain compared to baseball, basketball and football, where the top NFL franchise values are approaching a billion dollars.

"The number of pro sports franchises [in North America] is not getting bigger, but the number of people who can afford them is," Greenberg said. "It's supply and demand and that's helped raise franchise values in the NHL."

Is it possible NHL franchise value escalation may be partly due to teams exaggerating losses going into the lockout in order to gain leverage against the players? Apparently not.
"We look at a lot of numbers from a lot of teams and we have not found people exaggerating losses," Vataha said.

With reports from Brian Milner and Allan Maki

Pollock’s passing gains notice world wide

His reputation was legendary and stretched far beyond the hockey hot beds of Canada, the USA and Europe, to show his impact on the game the passing of Sam Pollock has been major hockey news from New York to Taiwan.

The one time General Manager and architect of Stanley Cup champions in Montreal, passed away August 15 at the age of 81. He leaves behind a legacy of hockey success that we suspect may never again be achieved.
Pollock was the creative genius behind the Montreal Candiens of their halcyon days in the sixties, an era when a Stanley Cup parade most likely could be found going down Ste. Catherine Street on any given May afternoon year after year.

Pollock was the GM of Les Habitants from 1964-1978 and during that period saw his Montreal Canadiens lift Lord Stanley’s mug nine times out of his fourteen years in Montreal. And while success was certainly a word that could be associated with Pollock, an astute judge of talent would be another description for the iconic GM.

Pollock oversaw a Montreal Canadiens squad that year after year seemed to find the best of the available talent and somehow fit them for a Montreal uniform, whether it was through drafting or trading Pollock kept the Habs as the most talent loaded franchise for over a decade.

His departure from Montreal in a power struggle with upper Canadiens management (known as the Grundman years) marked a period of decline for Montreal, a relief for the rest of the league which routinely had become used to ceding the Stanley Cup to the Habs at the start of the season and just compete for the right to lose to them in the Stanley Cup finals.

It was under the tutelage of Pollock that a young coach named Scotty Bowman would soon launch his own astounding NHL career winning four of his five Stanley Cups with Montreal with Pollock as his GM.

It wouldn’t be until another Pollock student Serge Savard appeared in the upper offices that Montreal would return to Stanley Cup glory.

Pollock was the architect of the dynasty years for Montreal, a time when all was right for the Rouge, Blanc et Bleu, an era that probably won’t be repeated to that degree of success ever again. Pollock benefited from being in the right place at the right time and in an era when it was relatively easy to unearth the hidden gems to wear the Montreal uniform. Numerous expansions and draft changes over the years have changed that era forever. But if ever a team needed an astute judge of talent it is the modern era, Pollock may have been challenged by the modern NHL and its talent needs but somehow you have a feeling he would still be sending out championship caliber teams well into a new century.

Below some of the avalanche of reports on the passing of one of hockey’s greatest executives.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Third time is no charm for Katz

The Edmonton Oilers are not for sale!

That seems to be the message that the current ownership group would like to get out there, as they once again turned down Edmonton billionaire Daryl Katz.

The owner of the Katz Group conglomerate which runs the Rexall drug store chain, had reportedly tossed 185 million dollars into the pot in his bid to purchase the Oilers. It marked the third time that he had made a bid for the franchise adding some thirty five million dollars to the pot from his last effort.

Cal Nichols, chairman of the thirty three member group of owners said that the shareholders had “voted resoundingly to reject this offer.” They feel that hockey in Edmonton is best served by an ownership group which they feel is best suited to steer Edmonton’s NHL future.

They look at Katz’s frequent attempts to buy the team as a bit of a circus that has been causing “collateral damage” to their bid to keep the Oilers competitive.

There are those around Edmonton however that see this as just another temporary setback for the drug store czar, who flush with cash will eventually come up with the right numbers to get enough of the 33 share holders to sell.

While the current board may like to see the circus come to an end, in reality it may only be the intermission! rebuffed, Oilers not for sale

A Bolt out of the Blue

Yet another NHL franchise is about to change hands. This time Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie was nowhere to be seen, but another high profile, if slightly less moneyed Canadian was.

Doug McLean, most recently of the Columbus Blue Jackets has found the secret to full employment, when you’ve been fired, go out and buy a business of your own.

In McLean’s case, he’s involved in a consortium to purchase the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The talks with MacLean's Absolute Hockey Enterprises had been taking place for six weeks or so, though the team was never formally placed on the market.

Whatever discussions took place, Detroit Pistons owner Bill Davidson who bought the Lightning three years ago, must have liked the way the numbers lined up.

Especially after reports came out that the club has lost more than US$70 million under current ownership, and that the only season the club made money was during its championship run of 2004.

MacLean introduced two of his co-owners today, Jeff Sherrin, a Coral Springs real estate developer, and Oren Koules, a Los Angeles TV and movie producer who once played minor league hockey. They will be the apparent face for the additional eight or nine principal owners who will now take ownerships of the Lightning.

MacLean said that there were no plans to change any of the management structure of the Lightning nor to move the team.

It’s interesting that no purchase price has been mentioned as of yet and even more telling perhaps is the fact that Davidson apparently never made mention of his interest in selling to Jim Balsillie, who most recently was spurned by the NHL over the sale of the Nashville Predators.

A quote from Davidson is relayed in the Globe and Mail that may not warm Balsillie’s heart, "But one thing he always said, even to (NHL commissioner) Gary Bettman years ago, is 'I'll know when the time is right. But the one thing I want to promise you is if and when the time comes, we're going to sell it to the right people.”

It would seem that in this case Balsillie “wasn’t the right people”, not even apparently meriting a courtesy call for interest.

For Balsillie’s scorecard, that’s now three teams down and 27 to go in his bid to gain a team for Hamilton.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Headlines of August

August 31- The search continues
August 30- Hold us closer tiny dancer!
August 29- NHLPA membership to hear investigator's report
August 28- Waiting for Forsberg
August 27- Canada wins Super Series opener
August 26- Mason gets the start for Canada
August 25- Lucic looks to be a giant for Canada
August 24- Juniors take their knocks early
August 23- Blue Jackets finalize deal with Peca
August 22- Juniors keep history on their minds
August 21- New deal for Linden
August 20- Beliveau, Bowman among mourners at Pollock service
August 19- New era begins... but it'll cost you
August 18- Viking gets its rink back
August 17- On Tocchet, NHL not likely to put its reputation on the line
August 16- Naslund reaches out to old pal Forsberg
August 15- The legendary Sam Pollock, 81 passes away
August 14- Leaf forward Bell gets six-month prison sentence
August 13- Ricci hangs up the blades
August 12- Jason York would like to go home
August 11-Tocchet shouldn't be allowed back behind bench
August 10-Simpson to join Hockey Night in Canada
August 9-NHL back to spending big
August 8-Agent: Eric, Jordan Staal offered plea deals
August 7- No Oil for sale
August 6- Yes he will, no he won't, maybe he will, maybe he won't
August 5-We are losing control of our national game to the U.S.
August 4-Scotty thinks it over again
August 3-The trooper takes five
August 2-Ducks part with Penner
August 1-Avery gets a raise

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Cats won’t pack!

Hold up on the moving vans and put away those change of address cards. The Nashville Predators may not be going anywhere, anytime soon.

The Cats, who were once considered a sure thing to be moving to Ontario, suddenly have become the favourite pets of some local investors in the Nashville area. The group was reported to be closing in on the final details on Tuesday that would see them keep the Predators as a fixture in the Music City.

They have reportedly signed a letter of intent to purchase the nine-year franchise from owner Craig Leipold for between $175-million (all figures U.S.) and $190-million.

It marks a reduction in the mad money that Ontario investor Jim Balsillie had promised Leipold, at one point the Canadian hockey fanatic had offered up to 240 million for the unwanted kitties, only to see his passion and his pocketbook spurned by higher forces in the NHL. Balsillie it seems has run afoul of the league office, as this is the second consecutive bid that he has tendered for an NHL franchise, only to see a string of conditions or backroom manoeuvring come along to dash his dream of bringing a second NHL franchise to the lucrative Southern Ontario market.

Hamilton hockey fans had rushed to secure a place on the season ticket rolls, just in case Balsillie’s gambit paid off, but once again Canada’s steel city finds itself spurned by the league. Trapped in a no mans land between Toronto and Buffalo that it seems will never relinquish its hold on the hockey fans of Ontario’s golden horseshoe.

It’s not surprising that the Balsillie bid ended the way it seems to have gone. The heat between his group and the NHL led by Gary Bettman seemed to get hotter with each passing day and each successive step by Balsillie to secure the team.

Though it’s a puzzling thing when a league is willing to throw away millions of dollars and turn away a market that not only would be successful but has a deep seated passion for the game.

Instead, the strategy of moving teams to distant and at times rather uninterested American cities will continue.

What remains to be seen is, if Balsillie will try again when the next basket case franchise comes up for bid.

Perhaps he might want to wait until Gary Bettman has moved on to his next adventure, for it seems that as long as Bettman is calling the shots, Balsillie will continue to be shot down.

Below find some of the background on the machinations in place to keep the Preds Nashville bound.

Predators look set to stay put
Local group preparing letter to purchase Predators
Nashville group moves to buy Predators
Local group to move today on Predators deal