Thursday, December 16, 2004

Love in the Long Canadian Nite

Brett Hull, star forward for the Phoenix Coyotes was on the "Weekend Update" segment of "Saturday Nite Live" and was asked by co-anchor Amy Poehler, as a Canadian, what he thought about the recent landmark ruling by Canada's Supreme Court that gay marriage was constitutional.

"That's what happens in Canada when there's no hockey," Hull said. "Guys have more time to hang out, talk about their feelings, next thing you know they're in love with each other.

"I've got nothing against it," he added, "but I'd rather be playing hockey."

Doesn't look like Brett will get his wish.

No dog in this fight: Hull laughs it up on 'SNL' [AP]

Monday, December 06, 2004

Hockey Blog up for Sports Blog of Year

Off Wing Opinion one of the best hockey blogs that we follow is up for a 2004 Weblog Award as best "Sports Blog." Voting goes until Dec. 12th. The system allows one vote per day. Off Wing is currently 4th and we'll chip in and do what we can to advance the puck heads. It also looks like someone should get a game misconduct for trying to rig the voting for "Best Overall Blog."

Chicanery At The Polls

Monday, October 04, 2004

NHL Lockout-Does Anybody Care?

The NHL owners and Gary Bettman have locked out the players possibly killing the 2004-2005 season and the public and fans greeted it appropriately. They yawned! If the powers to be decide to stick to their $1.3 million/player the season is to all intents and purposes is over. The fans are wrapped up in the Baseball playoffs and World Series which will take the season to early November. Pro football and college football are starting to go full steam and they will reach a climax in January with the bowl championship and Super Bowl. Then there is basketball. Both the pros and colleges will dribble all the way to the March Madness and the Pro championship which will climax in June. Where does that leave the NHL? Obviously it wont bother the Ranger fans. Our team usually quits around January so they are fit for the various golf tourneys that invite athletes from other sports. So the NHL is in a box. Many players are signing up in Europe. Canadian players who normally play for American city teams and enroll their kids in the American schools are enrolling them in Canadian schools. The players will not budge. Bettman will lead the owners into oblivion. There is no pressure from the fans to settle this thing and with the exception of Larry Brooks of the NY Post there is very little comment from the press. Larry is taking the players position and he is correct. After the owners cut the players salaries 28% are they going to cut their pay by 28%? Cut ticket prices by 28%? Cut concessions by 28%? Its going to be a long sport season but the NHL is not going to be part of it. Does anybody care?

Friday, August 06, 2004

ROAD TO OBLIVION – starring Gary Bettman

Road To Morocco
Back in the forties and fifties Paramount Studios came up with a series of movies called The Road to ... (series).

There were about six or seven and they never seemed to end. They starred Bing Crosby as the romantic singer, Bob Hope as the madcap comic and Dorothy Lamour as uh, well Dorothy Lamour. Bob Hope never got the girl (Dorothy), but always got the laughs mostly at his expense. They performed a series of gaffes that took about an hour and a half, but usually cleaned it all up in the last fifteen minutes.

But now we have the finale, the piece de resistance, The Road to Oblivion (NHL STYLE). Gary Bettman, the Commissar of the NHL has this great idea that the league should negotiate salaries with the players, basically eliminating the GM. Not a bad idea if you are a Ranger fan. They will structure the players by salary on all the teams and this will create parity and save the league. From what --  boredom?

Back in 1994 after the Rangers won the Cup the NHL was approaching the NBA in parity. The NHL by virtue of the New York exposure given to Ranger stars had the league on an all time high. Then the players struck and hockey returned to its original status challenging bowling for 10th place in the ratings.

This stoppage will be more disastrous for the league. This one would put hockey in minor leagues for years to come. At the end of Road to Morocco and what seemed like a happy ending with Bing, Bob, Dotty and a young starlet, Hope walks into a powder room (dynamite) thinking it a fresh-up room. He lights up a cigarette with the expected results. They are last seen in New York Harbor on a raft and in tatters. That sounds like the NHL with Gary Bettman playing the part of the powder room.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Captain on a Mission

People question sometimes what does a Captain bring or mean to a team. It most cases it is sort of an honorary thing. The guy who has been there the longest; loyal to the Manager; loyal to ownership. Lou Gehrig was always the definitive Captain. He led by example. What an example. Years later Cal Ripken, Jr. would emulate Gehrig in more ways than one. There have been great Captains, good Captains and just Captains. Mark Messier would bring a new dimension to Captaincy. Bravado! He not only led but when the chips were down he literally carried the team on his back and predicted future successes. To me they were the truly great Captains, Gehrig and Messier. There were good ones. Mel Ott, PeeWee Reese, Larry Bird, Cal Ripken Jr. and Willis Reed. Last night we saw another great Captain, Derek Jeter. Jeter is on a mission this year and he is bringing the Yankees along with him. Perhaps it is because the Yanks haven't won it all in two years. Maybe its because his buddy ARod is playing along side him and Derek wants him to know its Derek's team or maybe it is just because he is Derek Jeter. Anyone who saw last night's game and the play Derek made with a game saving catch that could have severely injured him could not have been more impressed. And while Jeter and the Yanks came back to win a game trailing by a run, two down, two strikes there was Garciaparra sitting on the bench the entire game, motionless. I might add Ortiz making a fool of himself along with Ramirez who thought he would be the hero. What a contrast. A team, the Yankees, and a player, Derek Jeter, refusing to lose and on a mission and The Dead Sox, smug, complacent and losers. I think its time to add Jeter to the Great Captain list and maybe his team to one of the greatest list. Lou, Mark meet Derek.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

SATHER DISSES LINDROS

Eric Lindros now knows how Brian Leetch and Adam Graves, two Ranger legends, felt and still feel after being dumped on the quiet, without a word from the exalted one-Glen Sather. Lindros will enter the free agency market tomorrow as the Rangers will not pick up Lindros' option for a fourth year. It is reported that Lindros has not heard from any Ranger official since the end of the season. There is nothing wrong with not offering a player an option year. But what is wrong is that the President, GM and former coach, Glen Sather, neither had the time, the inclination or the guts to tell Lindros that he was no longer wanted. The Exalted One didn't have the time to tell Brian Leetch, a seventeen year Ranger icon, that he was traded. He let Adam Graves, another Ranger great, flounder but never gave him the official word either. For those Ranger fans who booed Lindros let me remind them that in his first year 2001-2002 he was leading the Rangers to the top of the league until he came down with a concussion. In fact in his three years with the Rangers he averaged .82 points per game. More often that not he led the team in hits given and taken. Many times the opposition took liberties with Lindros with no retaliation from his teammates. This has been a Ranger liability for years. Did we address that in the draft. No, we got another goalie. Eric was the subject of much criticism from Sather during the year and never spent as much as a week with the same linemates. He never uttered a word and played the same, in your face, game whether 7 minutes or 20 minutes. I salute Eric Lindros and wish him well healthwise. A healthy Eric Lindros is a force to be reckoned with. I hope he signs in the Western conference. Eric, you will be missed. Good luck.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Draft Day Brings Chill to Ranger Fans

As a Ranger fan we often think it can't get worse, unfortunately it did yesterday at The Theater at the Garden. The fans (season ticket holders) booed when Dave Maloney, brother of assistant Gm Don Maloney, mentioned that the Rangers might take Al Montoya, goalie from Michigan. When it was officially announced the crowd booed lustily, chants of 'fire Sather' went up and at least one third of the crowd got up and left. While the Rangers need size,quickness and toughness they picked another goalie who by ESPN's admission played in front of a great Michigan defense. So Montoya joins Blackburn, who may never play another game for the Rangers; Lundqvist, who has another year in Sweden; Mike Dunham, and Jamie McClennan last years holdovers. But Sather is the story. Every time his face was shown on ESPN he got booed. It should be a great season with him not showing up for any games. Remember he was a no show at Mike Richter night. No big deal he has been a no show as President, GM and coach and is as arrogant as they come. In three years he has the Rangers worse now than when he showed up. But he has accomplished one thing. He now has Ranger fans speaking fondly of Neil Smith. While Jim Dolan thinks he is the smartest man in hockey and would never fire him, one more missed playoff will put Sather out and maybe even take Dolan with him if we are lucky.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Ranger Draft Day (Another Deep Freeze?)

First of all congratulations to the Tampa Bay Lightning and their fine young coach, John Tortorella, Ranger reject among other notables. So the Rangers go into draft day without a coach so the resident genius, Glen Sather, can style the team in his image and then criticize the coach for not making it work. The Rangers go into draft day with the 6th and 24th picks. The prize seems to be Alexander Ovechkin the Russian phenom. But there may be a surprise in store for those of us attending draft day at Madison Square Garden. A few years ago Neil Smith, then Ranger GM pulled off a blockbuster by nailing Pavel Brendl and Jamie Lundmark for an assortment of players and picks. Unfortunately that didn't work out as Brendl is floundering around the league and Lundmark plays infrequently despite the Ranger's futility. I believe that both will make it yet as both have too much talent. Brendl in goal scoring and Lundmark in playmaking. Which brings us to tomorrow's draft. The Rangers could put together a package of their two first round picks with defenseman Tom Poti and forward Jamie Lundmark, include some bucks and pry Ovechkin from the Capitals. As for the coach, the Rangers should look no further than Hartford and their own McGill and stay away from the name coaches. Sather has already lost some 'big name' coaches and still has eyes on Larry Robinson in New Jersey. No sale on that one. NJ will not let him go with Pat Burn's illness. So stay with the young guy, McGill, and get out of his way and let him coach. Sather also lost Martin to Florida as he signed with his good friend Mike Keenan. Now how many of you really believe that Keenan has a good friend? Wait til 'Iron Mike' imposes his will on his friend and watch that relationship go poop and Mike will take over as the coach. For Sather it could be a winner. Pull off the deal, stay with the young coach from Hartford and go back to Edmonton and watch the games on TV.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Ten Years of Agony

NY area TV is doing lots of ten year anniversary stories about the Rangers winning the Stanley Cup in 1994. Knowing how terrible the last ten years have been would Ranger fans trade that cup for some better teams over the last decade? The Rangers have been to the playoffs 3 times in the last 10 years. Before you answer consider all the lousy coaches, general managers and players that have been flushed through this organization over the last 10?

The answer: Yes, it was worth it. But, only for the last 10 years. Torture us with another 10 years of futility and organizational chaos and we will not be as sanguine in 2014. Never mind a cup curse brewing over the Rangers how about someone in authority doing some basic organizational incantations to remove this perennial playoff hex? Let's start by materializing a decent coach we can respect.

Monday, June 07, 2004

The Best of Times

For any true sports fan it doesn't get any better than a Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Finals. It doesn't matter if you know a hoot about hockey, tonight's game will be a compelling drama in three acts or more. Given the lack of goal scoring it will feel like sudden death from the opening face-off. Picked Tampa to win, but the heart is with Calgary. Not much else going on in the sports world tonight, so it's hockey's chance to show off its best. Too bad every game isn't a game seven-guess that kind of excitment has to be saved for the big sports bar in the sky.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Pick Jinx Sinks Lightning

Picking the Tampa Bay Lightning to win Lord Stanley's Cup was a sure fire way to to put the pundit hex on them. Game 1 is winding down, Calgary just scored to go up 4-1 and it's clear that we miscalculated this one. Forgot to measure the gravitational pull that the whole country of Canada is exerting as they collectively will the Cup to come home to Canada.

Lord Stanley's 2nd Law of Hockey: Force (Canada's collective will to win) = Mass (the Cup's historical significance) x Acceleration (years Cup has been away - squared)

Therefore the Lightning will need to strap-on a massive booster rocket in a hurry if the want to escape this gravitational force.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

ESPN Now Supports RSS Feeds

It is very nice of ESPN to provide a NHL feed given the "shrinkage" issue regarding hockey's popularity. College football and basketball interest probably surpasses hockey.

ESPN.com news
ESPN.com NFL News
ESPN.com NBA News
ESPN.com NHL News
ESPN.com MLB News

If you're not up to speed on RSS read this.

We can not escape the Danton Story the first thing that comes of the new NHL RSS feed is this: Judge denies bond for Blues' Danton.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Will Primo Primeau Playing Pull a Pack of People to Puck Watching?

The Flyers captain Keith Primeau is playing like a man with his hair on fire. Getting Primeau and All-Stars Jeremy Roenick and John LeClair from Philly (5th largest national market) into the finals might be the only shot the league has at matching last years low TV ratings. Even the hockey bloggers might snooze a little if it's a Calgary and Tampa Bay finals.

Last year's finals between the New Jersey Devils and Anaheim Mighty Ducks averaged a 2.9 rating. That was less than half the audience for last year's NBA Finals.

How popular is the NHL?

Here is one measure of the popularity of various sports - it counts the number of visitors to their associated web sites. Top Online Sports Sites:

Brand or Channel...Unique Audience(000)...Active Reach(%)
ESPN.................................4,336.......................3.87
eBay Sports.......................2,521.......................2.25
Yahoo! Sports.....................2,509.......................2.24
MLB.com...........................1,881.......................1.68
nascar.com........................1,517.......................1.36
NFL Internet Network............1,462.......................1.31
AOL Sports.........................1,288.......................1.15
SI.com................................1,082.......................0.97
NBA Internet Network.............1,056........................0.94
Sportsline.com.......................922.......................0.82

The eBay Sports website at number two is just sports memorabilia, not news. Seeing Yahoo!Sports at number three is surprising - never realized it was that popular. The NFL Internet Network is comprised of NFL.com and the websites of the league's 32 clubs. Sadly the NHL is not on this radar screen. The recent NHL TV deal with NBC also highlights this problem of trying to measure the potential audience for professional hockey when it has become overshadowed by so many other sports options.

Top Online Sports Sites [CenterForMediaResearch.com]

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

NHL Gets Minor League Deal from NBC

The NHL signed a deal with NBC on Wednesday for its TV rights, which guarantees it nothing - no upfront money. The league and the NBC will split advertising revenue. However, NBC gets to cover its expenses plus the money the network could have gotten for selling the bulk time to other programmers.

The Arena Football League got the same basic deal from NBC. This is just another sign that the NHL is quickly sinking to "minor league" status. Add a players strike to this and the NHL goes down to the AA Baseball level as far as fan interest.

The Bachelor featuring a 2nd string quarterback in search of love will have millions more viewers than NHL semi-final hockey.

NHL management and the players now need to get their act together regarding their contract. Then they need to start finding new ways to promote a great sport and compete for the attention of an audience that thas a large number of alternatives. Or else the sport of pro-hockey will continue downward in a "minor league" tailspin.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Flames vs Sharks

To say San Jose, Ca under appreciates the Sharks is an understatement. Here's what the local bay-area Tri-Valley Herald says of local enthusiasm for the Sharks:

THE SAN Jose Sharks have been camping out in the Bay Area's backyard for 13 years now, patiently waiting for some large-scale hugs and kisses from the region as a whole...

And the general mood around here regarding the Sharks playing in pro hockey's exalted Final Four? Oh. They are? How nice. How sweet. Too bad our Warriors can't do that in the NBA. We might even watch for a smidge, if we make it back from Nordstrom's in time...

...most Bay Areans wouldn't know a blue line from a Costco line. They wonder what the heck happened to Arturs Irbe. Icing? Sure, a salt rim and a lime slice with that margarita, too, if you would. And nobody dares talk about hockey on the radio around here...

Compare the blase California 'tude with the Flames who carry the weight of Canada around like a dead moose head on their shoulders. The Whitehorse Daily Star (Yukon) says:

The Calgary Flames are now officially Canada's team...now even Yukoners are jumping on the ever-growing Flames bandwagon, a territory which is usually reserved for Canucks and Oilers fans with a bunch of Leafs and Habs fans thrown in...

"Those damn Flames," said Whitehorse Mayor Ernie Bourassa. "They beat my Canucks. But I guess I'm cheering for them. You've got to hope for the Canadian team."

...There are already a few Calgary car flags and stickers traveling around Whitehorse and anyone wishing to purchase new merchandise now is out of luck. "We're sold out of all Flames memorabilia," said Brouwer, "We've sold all of our red jerseys with the black C. We only have one white jersey left"...
OK, fans, time to bone up on Sharks, eh? [Tri-Valley Herald]
Yukoners begrudgingly cheering for "those damn Flames" [Whitehourse Daily Star, Yukon]

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

The Strange Story

Sure hockey's 2nd season is in full swing, but the Danton/Frost story just keeps begging for our attention:

The Mike Danton saga gets stranger each day. In this weekend's twists, prosecutors confirmed the St. Louis Blues forward's agent, David Frost, was the intended victim in a murder-for-hire plot. Frost denied it, and helped Danton make a phone statement from jail to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in which he claimed he was emotionally and physically abused during his childhood by his estranged parents.

A professional hockey player accused of planning a murder. An agent who some believe held a Svengali-like influence and control over the player. A family accused of abuse. The story is slowly playing out like a scene from an Agatha Christie mystery, in which detective Hercule Poirot scans the room of gathered suspects and even the innocent -- whoever they end up being -- appear guilty.

Unraveling lives [startribune.com]

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Frost/Danton Fiasco

The real story behind this fiasco is that Frost promised Danton he would get him traded to the Rangers where he would be grossly overpaid and there would be no pressure to produce. And Danton would look good in a tux at the charitable events. Oh well, who said life is fair.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Sick man of Europe Rangers top coaching prospect?

Poor Joel Quenneville getting wasted in Prague. Sports Illustrated said:

PRAGUE, Czech Republic (AP) -- Former St. Louis Blues coach Joel Quenneville has received medical clearance to fly and will likely return to St. Louis Tuesday to recuperate after falling ill at the men's world hockey championship.

Quenneville was released from the hospital Saturday. He has turned over Team Canada to Mike Babcock of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, who had been assistant head coach.
Multiple sources say the New York Rangers, Ottawa Senators and Phoenix Coyotes are chasing Quenneville for coaching vacancies.

The bottomline is that Quenneville is a retread who never made it to his conference finals. The Rangers should look elsewhere.

Quenneville feeling better, likely returning to St. Louis Tuesday [SI]
Recuperating Quenneville will head home [STLtoday]

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Who'll coach the Rangers?

Al Morganti speculates about the answer to the question we all have been wondering about: who gets put in the barrel next? Rather, who'll coach the New York Rangers next season? Morganti says it could be Jacques Martin of the Ottawa Senators if he is fired or Joel Quenneville if he doesn't get picked up by the Colorado Avalanche.

Finished Seasons Leave Unfinished Business [ESPN]

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Killing Frost?

---
Mike DantonDid Mike Danton, the St. Louis Blues forward conspire to kill his agent, David Frost?

Danton, 23, was arrested last Friday morning (16-Apr-04) on charges he and Katie Wolfmeyer, a 19-year-old St. Louis college nursing student, conspired and used a telephone across state lines to set up a contract murder.

Danton, a native of Brampton, Ont., has been jailed in California pending his voluntary return to the St. Louis area for an appearance on the Illinois federal charges. Danton, who was once named Mike Jefferson has had a troubled life.

When we first heard this story it sounded just plain weird, because the reports did not identify the intended victim. Today reports started coming out saying David Frost was the target of the murder-for-hire. Frost has served as Danton's agent since Danton was 15. Now, we can start to understand a possible motive. Frost is no Jerry Mcguire, in fact he sounds like a hoodlum with a messiah complex.

The Toronto Sun says this about Frost:
People were afraid of him. They were afraid if they spoke out against him they would be the ones injured in the end. They were concerned if they said what they knew about how he operated, about the control he had over his kids, they would end up punished. I interviewed almost 100 people, many of them refusing to go on the record, about Frost...

David Frost who once was found guilty of assaulting a hockey player on his own bench, once suspended indefinitely for allegedly falsifying a document (he denies the charge) by the GTHL, once suspended indefinitely by the Ontario Hockey Association, and yet somehow was allowed to be certified as an agent by the National Hockey League Players' Association...
SECRET AGENT-Mike Danton entangled in David Frost's world [Toronto Sun]
Blues' Danton arrested in murder-for-hire plot [SI]

Parity vs. Disparity

No comparison, the NHL playoffs are compelling drama every night and the NBA playoffs suck. The NBA playoffs are as boring and one sided as a Harlem Globetrotters exhibition game. Not a single NBA road team has won one of the first thirteen playoff games. Hello, if you're on the road in the NBA I guess you just phone it in. Compare that to the all the NHL first round drama; especially the Calgary and Vancouver series. North of the border the hockey playoffs have captivated the public. Too bad only a few hockey cities in the U.S. are caught up in this great playoff season.

Ranger land is void of any excitment. The hardcore follow the AHL Calder Cup playoffs, where the Hartford Wolf Pack, the Ranger's (AAA) farm club, play the Portland Pirates. "On the Farm" Heather over at Hockeybird does a nice game one wrap-up. Portland won 3-1.

And The Pack Played On... [Hockeybird]

Friday, April 16, 2004

"Miss Smashville"

Maranda Starling, Miss Smashville
 
Interesting marketing going on in the hinterlands. From The Mountain Press:
Ms. Starling is a goal girl for the Nashville Predators...She entertains the crowd at Gaylord Entertainment Center during promotions that run between breaks in the hockey action...The Predators are marketing their hometown as Smashville, and Starling was recently voted by fans as "Miss Smashville."  ...


Her job isn't all fun and games, though. She recently had to pick an octopus off the ice that was thrown in celebration of a goal by a Detroit fan, a Red Wings tradition. Starling said Predators fans have even taken to tossing catfish onto the ice to show their spirit.

We will let the reader insert their own witty or insightful comment here about "Smashville."

Burg woman in on action in 'Smashville' [The Mountain Press]

more pictures at fans.predators.nhl.com:
Maranda Starling - OUR Predator's Ice Girl

Thursday, April 15, 2004

NHL Settles with Cecil Family

A sad story, but it will force the NHL to install netting to protect all the fans from errant pucks.

Brittanie Cecil

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The parents of a girl killed by a hockey puck received approximately $700,000 out of a $1.2 million a settlement [attorneys received 42%] reached with the National Hockey League and other groups, according to a copy of the settlement made public Wednesday.
...
She died two days after she was struck by a deflected shot from Blue Jackets center Espen Knutsen.
...
Cecil was the first fan ever killed at a National Hockey League game.

Financial Details In Hockey Death Settlement Released [Sports Law Blog]