Hockey Headlines

Thursday, 28 August 2014

The Hockey Show - Episode 103

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced hockey radio show, is officially one show from completing two years on the air at the conclusion of tonight's show! It's pretty amazing to think Beans and I have been on the air for nearly two years with our opinions and thoughts on the game of hockey, and we're already working on some cool stuff for Year Three. We have some solid guests being lined up, we have some cool contests, and we're going to have a pile of fun like we do every Thursday!

We'll point out the elephant in the room early in tonight's show. That mask belongs to former Las Vegas Wranglers goalie Marc Magliarditi, and there's a good chance a lot of that imagery would end up on a mask if and/or when Las Vegas gets an NHL team. We've debated the possibilities of expansion cities before on The Hockey Show, and we'll re-open the debate tonight as the rumors of NHL expansion swirled around Las Vegas. We'll talk about the new arena being built, the issues surrounding the area, how gambling fits into the equation, why hockey hasn't worked in Las Vegas long-term in the past, and why this idea of NHL expansion has more negatives than positives. We'll also toss a few more cities into the mix, and discuss how the NHL can resolve their unbalanced conferences problem.

Tonight on 3 Rounds Deep, Beans and I will look at players who need a bounce-back season this year. This could be a player who has joined a new team and needs to live up to a contract, or it could be a player who simply hasn't met the expectations that many placed upon him. This won't be a scientific study on players, but both Beans and I will give our opinions on three players each and why we think these six players need a big season this year.

Same rules apply as always for tonight's 3 Rounds Deep as we can't repeat picks made by the others, so we'll see how this plays out. Phone lines will be open at (204) 269-8636 (269-UMFM), and we'll hit Twitter and Facebook for everyone else to participate. If you want to toss some names in electronically, the Twitter and Facebook links are below where you can go 3 Rounds Deep!

Going 3 ROUNDS DEEP tonight: players who need to step up this season! You know what to do!

We'll also talk about the retro look for the St. Louis Blues and whether or not we like the uniforms, Devin Setoguchi signing with the Calgary Flames, Craig Anderson's extension and what it means for Robin Lehner, Shannon Szabados returning to Columbus to tandem with Friend of the Show Andrew Loewen, our annual NHL '94 tournament, and the idea of a union being formed for CHL players. In other words, we have good topics to discuss tonight, and we'll kick it off with some expansion chatter!

We're on the air at 5:30pm so tune in for some hockey fun! We're on 101.5 UMFM on your radio dial in the Winnipeg region or you can listen live between 5:30pm and 6:30pm CT on your web-enabled device at the UMFM webpage! We'll be available via phone at (204) 269-8636 (269-UMFM), so give us a call and play 3 Rounds Deep or share your thoughts on any of the topics we cover! You can tweet us anytime you like by hitting us up at @TeebzHBIC on Twitter. You can also post some stuff to Facebook if you use the "Like" feature, and I always have crazy stuff posted there that doesn't make it to the blog or show. It's time for Vegas chatter, baby, so join us tonight on UMFM and be a part of the action!

PODCAST: AUGUST 28, 2014: Episode 103

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Vegas, Baby... Maybe?

It's amazing how things can change in a matter of months. The NHL is starting to become a more stable entity in terms of franchise health - the Florida Panthers are still on shaky ground - and league revenues have never been better or higher based on all the NHL's numbers. More fans are pushing through the turnstiles, more people are buying merchandise, and the NHL has a fat contract north of the border that will help every team on its map. Things are great, right?

Tony Gallagher, a highly-respected journalist from the Vancouver Province, published a piece yesterday that stated that expansion is going to happen sooner than later, and that Las Vegas is a "done deal". He also wrote that Gary Bettman has been talking about the interest shown in expansion teams from various sources, and that the rhetoric has gone from something Bettman wouldn't even hear to Bettman bringing up the chatter. This about-face from the Commissioner seems to point to the obvious, especially if Gallagher's sources are saying Las Vegas is all but done in terms of receiving an expansion franchise.

However, I want to put the brakes on for a minute. The excitement over NHL expansion into two western cities - presumably Las Vegas and Seattle - should be stifled a little. Just a wee bit. There are significant risks that the NHL is taking in even bringing this topic up, and I want to toss out a few scenarios that should be discussed before expansion is even brought into question.

First, there is this little matter about the Florida Panthers. The Panthers' owner, Doug Cifu, stated just two weeks ago that staying in south Florida "is not sustainable" as the team records losses up to $30 million per year. If the Panthers were actual panthers in Florida, they would already be labeled as critically endangered by the IUCN Red List. Of course, the next step on the Red List is extinction, and the NHL's Panthers are facing that grim reality right now.

"The arena and the team have lost a significant amount of money year over year for the last 10-plus years and the current business model is not sustainable," Cifu told Fox Sports in early August. As per The Hockey News, the club has amassed approximately $250 million in debt and are stuck in their lease in Sunrise, Florida until 2028. Needless to say, the clock is ticking on the Panthers' existence in Florida as you read this.

If the NHL is looking to balance the conferences by adding teams, they could do it easily by relocating the Florida Panthers to a more hockey-inclined market. Say, for example, the Panthers moved to Seattle, the NHL would kill two birds with one stone as move into a state-of-the-art facility where there are already hockey fans and solve their unbalanced conferences problem. I'm not sure why this isn't being considered when you'd want to have all thirty teams financially viable and thriving before deciding to bring on a wave of expansion that guarantees nothing more than a pocket full of greenbacks for the current owners. Sure, there would be some money spent in getting out of their lease with the Broward County, but the county has already "hired a consultant who is looking into the possibility of allowing the Panthers out of their arena lease and the opportunity to relocate" as Dhiran Mahiban wrote on August 17, 2014 on NBC's Pro Hockey Talk.

However, we're faced with the comments from Gary Bettman who, on August 12, 2014, stated,
"There's a lot of interest. We're hearing from multiple groups in Seattle and in Vegas and Kansas City and Quebec City," Bettman said to the Tribune while scoping out Target Field in Minny for yet another trip to the well of outdoor games.

"We have not decided to engage in a formal expansion process but we listen to expressions of interest. It's not something we've seriously considered yet."
So how did we get to this point where Las Vegas is now a "done deal" if no one is seriously considering expansion? Seattle is an obvious choice with the new arena going up, the proximity to Vancouver, and the addition of another western team. Make no mistake that Seattle is on the NHL's radar for the near future. Quebec City, whose arena is currently being built, has the money and media resources to pour into an NHL franchise, and they have a little history with the game. Like Seattle, a state-of-the-art arena goes a long, long way in helping Quebec City's cause, so there are your two most favorable destinations for expansion if this topic is going to be in play. But should it be?

The closest team in terms of proximity to Las Vegas would be the Arizona Coyotes, and the last decade has seen money poured into saving them, cities nearly bankrupted because of them, and owners fleeing from Glendale as a wave of red ink chases them. Hockey in the desert has been nothing short of a soap opera when it comes to all the twists and turns in the Coyotes' story, and the view from Las Vegas probably won't be much better. In fact, you probably won't see much of Sin City at all.

Let's be honest with ourselves: people don't go to Vegas to watch sports unless it's UFC or boxing. They go to Vegas for the entertainment, the shows, the gambling, and the history, but sports ranks low on the reasons to go to Las Vegas. There are dozens of shows that happen on a daily basis that tourists are there to see, and the vast majority of these shows would probably bring better entertainment in the first decade of an expansion franchise's existence. If you weren't a hockey fan during the rapid expansion in the 1990s, the hockey was criminally bad. The neutral zone trap, the left wing lock, and playing for tie were all phrases tossed around as the NHL grew from twenty-one teams to thirty teams. The NHL should consider how scoring fell off the map during those expansion years. The hockey was crap!

The bigger issue is that the arena proposed by Anschutz Entertainment Group and MGM seems to be a beacon for hatred in the Las Vegas area. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported in November 2013 that the new arena was going to be built on the Las Vegas strip "without public money on 12 acres between New York-New York and Frank Sinatra Drive". The MGM-AEG Arena, as it's affectionately being called for now, broke ground on May 1, 2014, and should be ready by 2016. Commenters on that story have already said what a nightmare the intersections and roads are in that area on Friday and Saturday nights, so adding another 17,500 people to the area should help, right? Parking is also an issue in the area, so there will have to be major concessions made for hockey nights or fans will have to find other means of getting to the arena. One commenter cites the issues the city had with congestion and traffic when the NBA All-Star Game was played downtown in 2007. Can you imagine forty-one nights of that problem?

Speaking of the NBA All-Star Game, it should be noted that the reason the NBA played in downtown Las Vegas was because the NBA demanded and received a concession in that no sports wagering could be done on the All-Star Game. How does the NHL control gambling within its ranks? We already know the NHL does its best when it comes to controlling vices such as alcohol and drugs, but gambling is a little harder to control. It took a New Jersey State Police investigation, dubbed Operation Slapshot, for the NHL to recognize that gambling could be a problem in their society. And now they want to head into the hornet's nest?

I do want to say, in defence of everyone involved with the NHL, that not all NHL players gamble and that nothing may ever happen when it comes to players, coaches, staff, or any other NHL-employed person engaging in gambling on hockey. I believe that the vast majority of NHL employees are smart, responsible people who wouldn't endanger their employment, the league's reputation, or their own reputation with a "night on the town" where they drop a few bills on an NHL game.

In debating all this pro-Vegas/anti-Vegas chatter, reports broke today that the NHL actually hadn't come to any decision regarding any future expansion. Deputy NHL Commissioner Bill Daly wrote in an email on Wednesday to the National Post,
"We are in no different position today with respect to expansion than we were the last time we answered the same questions. There has been interest expressed, we have and will listen to the interest, but we haven't defined a process and certainly no decisions have been made."
Some may say that the NHL is simply spin-doctoring this story into nothing for a later announcement, but I actually believe Bill Daly on this one. Why? There are better offers on the table than Las Vegas, and the NHL isn't out of the woods when it comes to that other team in the desert. There are places that have interested potential owners with brand-new state-of-the-art arenas awaiting a main tenant, and yet all of the talk is instead about Las Vegas?

"What I can tell you, 100 percent, as of this morning, for sure? This isn't on the agenda right now," MLSE CEO Tim Leiweke told The Fan this morning. Based on his recent track record, I'm not sure how much stock I'd put in his word, but I'm leaning towards truth on this one. The NHL still has some work to do with current franchises becoming stable, money-earning entities in the NHL community, and tossing another desert-based franchise into the mix when there's no guarantee the Arizona Coyotes be in Glendale in five years is simply ludicrous. The NHL is close to having all thirty franchises on stable ground, but there's still work to be done.

The talk of NHL expansion always gets people excited and a little nostalgic, but we need to be a little more realistic when dealing with that excitement. However, the factors that go into an expansion franchise are both large and many, and there should be a massive amount of due diligence done before the word "expansion" is even uttered.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Stuck In The Nineties

Moxy Früvous, a Canadian band that featured Jian Ghomeshi, had a hit with "Stuck in the 90's", their satirical look at life for a number of people in the 1990s. They referenced Pat Buchanan, Abbie Hoffman, and allude to a few others in the song, but they missed out on one group: the St. Louis Blues. The Blues decided to update their look last night at their IceBreaker event, and it appears that the Blues will wear uniforms similar to what they wore when players like Pronger, MacInnis, and others wore from 1998 through to 2007.

We'll start with the home jersey in blue in terms of looking at TJ Oshie in the new uniform on the left and Chris Pronger on the right.
If you're looking closely, these new uniforms are nearly similar to the ones worn by the Blues in 1998. The new uniforms squared off the shoulder yoke and the striping is a little different, but we're looking at a near-perfect throwback right down to the colors used. Granted, the collar is different and the stripes are thicker, but that's due to the template being used by Reebok and the NHL now. However, if one were to glance at this new uniform, it has very few differences from what was worn in the late-1990s and the majority of the 2000s.

The road uniform, worn by Alex Pietrangelo on the left, also resembles what Chris Pronger wore for nearly a decade while he played in St. Louis.
Same as above, the shoulder yoke has been squared off, the striping is a little thicker, and the collar is different, but the Blues went straight back to 1998 in redesigning their look. You can say what you want about the small differences, but the Blues will throwback to an era in which they posted a franchise-best 114 points in 1999-2000 in earning the President's Trophy and a berth in the Western Conference Final.

Call me a fan of this look. I love the hem stripe being brought back, but I commend and celebrate the Blues' decision to bring back a hockey jersey from a team that people loved. The Blues were a force in the late-1990s in the Western Conference alongside names like the Detroit Red Wings, the Colorado Avalanche, and the Dallas Stars. They had the stars in players like Pronger, MacInnis, Pavol Demitra, and Pierre Turgeon and were coached by Joel Quenneville, but just came up short each year before falling off the pace of these teams.

The Blues will look sharp again next season. They haven't altered too much aside from yanking some piping from the design and widening stripes. If you want a team that is moving into being a consistently good-looking team, the St. Louis Blues have delivered in this new look.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 25 August 2014

"Lose Money To Make Money"

Charles Schulz was a pretty big hockey fan. He grew up in Minnesota where he developed his craft in drawing comic strips before striking gold with his most famous work known as Peanuts. Schulz often has Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Woodstock, and the rest of the gang on the ice in his comic strips and in his cartoons, and he continued to portray them in hockey and other sports after he moved to California in 1958.

His move to California saw him miss hockey in a large way, and the only rink in the county where he lived closed in the early-1960s. He was involved with California Seals as a season ticket holder when the NHL awarded a franchise to Barry Van Gerbig in 1966. The Seals, renamed as the Oakland Seals in December 1967, struggled out of the gate in terms of attendance, and were eventually purchased by Charles Finley, the owner of the Oakland Athletics. The team was renamed as the California Golden Seals on October 15, 1970, and Schulz would remain a season ticket holder until the team moved in 1976.

Schulz lent his talents to Finley as well as he came up with Sparky, the unofficial mascot of the California Golden Seals. Schulz also built an arena in Santa Rosa, California called the Redwood Empire Ice Arena that featured a snack bar called "The Warm Puppy" where he would often have lunch. Schulz and his son, Monte, would play pick-up games on Tuesdays in the arena, and Schulz founded Snoopy's Senior World Hockey Tournament in 1975 that is still going strong today.

I've always wondered why Charles Schulz never got involved in trying to keep the Seals in California or why he never got involved with the North Stars in Minnesota. He was a huge fan of the game, and clearly loved watching the Seals play in California. Nevertheless, Schulz kept his distance. This has always puzzled me when he could have had more of an impact.

Surprisingly, Schulz answered why he never pursued ownership of a hockey or baseball team in 1977! Schulz was interviewed in the Victoria Advocate on September 11, 1977, and he gave a very interesting answer!

He uses the term "insane" twice when it comes to owning a professional sport team which, to me, is quite fascinating. I appreciate that Schulz knew it took "a whole different kind of wealth" to own a team, but he literally calls every owner "insane" in terms of owning a franchise. He also astutely points out the financial risk in owning a team, making it clear that his calling was at the drawing board and not the board room table. So despite his love of the game, he wasn't going to foolishly buy into professional sports franchise ownership for any reason.

Sometimes, I have a greater appreciation for those who refused the bright lights of the game than those who risked it all. Let's not forget that Schulz is a member of the US Hockey Hall of Fame for his contributions to the game. In saying this, his contributions have done so much more for so many more people than perhaps what he could have done in owning a team.

"I'd be insane to get involved where you lose money to make money." Statements like that still ring true today.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Credit To The Aussies

I have to admit that the Australian Ice Hockey League flies under the radar here at HBIC. It's not to say that the ice hockey played in the Land Down Under isn't good, but it's simply not a high-profile league. In fact, Australia hasn't produced many hockey victories on the major international stage, but they are producing highlights. Yesterday's game between the Perth Thunder and the Melbourne Ice produced one such moment!

The Washington Capitals have the distinction of being the only NHL team to have drafted an Australian-born when they selected Nathan Walker in the third round of this year's NHL Entry Draft. While Nathan has yet to build his own highlight reel, the Capitals - already armed with goal celebrator Alex Ovechkin - may want to take a flyer on Ric Del Basso of the Perth Thunder.

With Melbourne and Perth knotted up and in the shootout, Del Basso had his number called by Perth coach Stan Scott. Del Basso isn't known for his scoring ability as he's netted just three goals in 65 AIHL games. However, shootouts produce heroes, and Del Basso will stand as a hero for at least one game. Huge thanks to Reddit's DarylHafsack for posting this!

I can't recommend this celebration be done anywhere else as it's a little dangerous, especially when one considers how much strain would be placed on one's neck, but that was a celebration for the ages. Considering Del Basso's lack of goals to celebrate in his career thus far, I'd say he deserves a little slack when it comes to this celebration.

Until next time, keep your sticks - or helmet? - on the ice!