Thursday, 17 January 2008

Housekeeping! You Want Towels?

In preparations for Hockey Blog In Canada's first anniversary, I've done some clean-up of this blog. Personally, there were a few things that were starting to annoy me, so I decided to drop what I was doing in regards to a few of the hockey stories I was working on in order to make these small, but effective, changes. There have been some additions to the blog as well, and I'd like to highlight those as well.

First, the menus to the right have changed for the better. Instead of having lists that seemingly go on forever, I've decided to incorporate drop-down lists. Personally, having a million links doesn't really sit well with me in terms of the design of the site, and this little piece of code fixes that problem. It's effective, it's easier to manage, and it looks much tidier.

As an added bonus, when you select a link, it now opens in a new window. I find this to be important in terms of the design as well. If you're looking to go elsewhere, you don't have to leave this page to view a different site. It makes for much easier navigation, especially if you're just window-shopping through sites.

Secondly, I've added a few sites that I had previously neglected to add and should have added. Bolts Blog has been added to the Hockey Blog List. These writers do a great job in covering the Tampa Bay Lightning, and I definitely recommend checking them out if you're interested in any happenings with the Lightning. Also added to the blog list is a blog written by ex-NHL goaltender Jamie McLennan. McLennan is currently playing in Japan with another former NHL player, Tyson Nash, and it appears they are having a blast. Check that one out! I also hooked up Scarlett Ice with a link because I try to follow the Senators as much as possible. I'm not a Sens fan per se, but they play entertaining hockey, and there's nothing wrong with that. Check out Sherry's chatter about the Senators there.

Under the Hockey-Related Websites, I've added a link to the NHLPA's site. The NHLPA, despite all the negative press it received during the lockout, has done some great work this season in starting initiatives and bringing to light some of its members. The site is a great place to learn a little more about the players in the NHL and what the NHLPA stands for as a whole.

Speaking of housekeeping, the NHL and IIHF are meeting again to iron out the wrinkles in the player transfer agreement between the organizations. Attending the meeting in New York City at the NHL offices were NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, IIHF president Rene Fasel, NHL Players' Association executive director Paul Kelly, NHLPA general counsel Ian Penny and federation officials from Sweden, Finland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Russia.

Russia has yet to agree to any sort of transfer, and the goal is to get everyone onboard. The current IIHF-NHL deal was a four-year agreement that began last season, but gave both sides the option to re-open it before Jan. 1, 2008. Both sides mutually agreed to re-open discussions.

Bill Daly was pleased with the discussions that occurred yesterday.

"It went well today," Daly told The Canadian Press on Wednesday night. "We went through our respective views of what was transpiring and the possible causes. We share the same concern with respect to too many young players coming to North America before they are ready to play in the NHL. We talked about possible ways to address it. We have conceived of a possible short-term interim framework to give us more time for us to evaluate what's going on in the market place.

"That framework is subject to all of the parties going back to their respective constituencies to discuss its merits."

The NHL and IIHF identified that the biggest problem was having players come to North America before they are NHL-ready. Since the NHL pays approximately US$200,000 per player to be transferred to North America, it is imperative that the NHL teams see a return on their investment.

However, the IIHF says only six European players signed last season currently play in the NHL out of the 59 contracts that were signed. Seven were returned to Europe and 46 are in the AHL or ECHL.

Both sides agreed that a player who is still under contract with an IIHF team and has not reached his 20th birthday must be first offered back to his team in Europe. The new proposal sees the age limit increased by two years.

This provision does not affect players who where selected in the first round of the NHL draft.

Personally, I believe that this is good step in rebuilding the relationship that the NHL and IIHF have. There are a lot of young European players that seemingly get a shot at the AHL, and then fall off the map. A good European player could mean thousands of dollars in revenue for the team that signs him in Europe. The money needed to bring him to North America only to have him play in the AHL is not worth the effort.

I commend the NHL, the NHLPA, and the IIHF in working towards strengthening the game worldwide with the re-examination of this agreement. Better development means better players, and that means there will be more exciting hockey worldwide. It seems there are simply no drawbacks to these discussions, and that's excellent for hockey.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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