Hockey Headlines

Friday, 4 September 2009

Friday Five: September

It's been a while since I did one of these, but with the Provincial Softball Tournament on tomorrow and my trip to Portland approaching rapidly, I want to get a few rants off my chest. The Friday Five returns for my takes on news that is dominating the headlines. Yes, you'll get to hear about the Coyotes, the NHLPA, and Dany Heatley. But you won't get the standard objective views. No, this will be me giving you exactly what I think. Let's get it started.

1. Is anyone tired of the Coyotes drama yet? Look, I appreciate how this is a delicate situation for all parties involved, but there seems to be two parties that have been forgotten in this entire mess: the Phoenix Coyotes, and the fans of the club.

The Coyotes can't sell tickets to anyone because no one is sure the team will even be in Phoenix. Because they can't sell tickets, they can't even try to nurture any sort of fanbase they have attempted to establish over the last few years. We're talking about a team that hasn't made the playoffs in the past six seasons, and has Matthew Lombardi - he of career-high 46 points - penciled in as their top centerman.

How many people are willing to shell out $100 for a ticket to one game if there is no guarantee that this team will be in Glendale next season? When the you hang the threat of moving a team away over a fanbase's head, you'll see those fans turn on you faster than an angry ex-wife in alimony proceedings. And it will nearly be impossible to repair that relationship without bags and bags of money.

For all intents and purposes, the Coyotes are dead, people. All you're looking at are its withering, undead remains lying on the side of the highway of big business. And to think that this once proud franchise were the high-flying Winnipeg Jets. Now, they're just roadkill.

2. With the NHL embroiled in the dismantling of the Coyotes, it seems only appropriate that the NHLPA has to go and screw a good thing up. I get that they are a little touchy over the privacy stuff after Ted Saskin was going through private emails. I get that they may not be all that appreciative of Paul Kelly's seemingly friendly relationship with the NHL and Gary Bettman. And I also understand the unhappiness with the escrow payments that are taking, in some cases, up to 25% of the take-home pay of players.

Here's the thing: Paul Kelly had nothing to do with the CBA that was negotiated. He was brought in after Bob Goodenow and Ted Saskin signed off on the document after they convinced the players that it will work to help them. Blaming him for the escrow is not only unfair, but completely ignorant of what happened.

Secondly, the relationship with the NHL and Bettman was working. Good players were being paid as such, and the mediocre players were being forced into playing a skilled game rather than a clutch-and-grab game. The NHL and the NHLPA pitched the CBA as a partnership - one in which both sides would benefit as long as the economic factors remained the same. Not once has the NHL lowered the salary cap since it was introduced. You can thank Paul Kelly for working with the NHL in achieving better salaries, increased profits, and more endorsement opportunities. If the CBA wasn't working, don't you think the players would have used the opt-out clause they had at their disposal?

Thirdly, privacy is a huge issue on all front right now, and the NHLPA is no different. However, the allegations against Kelly are, for now, unfounded and mere speculation until the NHLPA shows that they have conclusive evidence of Kelly reading through a transcript of a private players' meeting.

Several high-profile players have spoken out about Kelly's dismissal. Ted Lindsay, one of the founding members of the NHLPA, said, in regards to the meeting on Kelly's future, "That was the biggest scam job, execution, that I've ever seen in my life". Retired NHL star Jeremy Roenick also chimed in, saying "They had him sitting out drinking coffee until four in the morning while they pow-wowed. I think the disrespect to Paul was very evident".

I wasn't in the meetings, and a number of players have stated that they support the NHLPA and the team representatives at the meetings, but this story is completely devoid of details that would explain why this move was necessary. And that, in my mind, is the reason this entire ordeal stinks. Give me proof, and I'll give you credit. Until then, this dismissal seems questionable and unnecessary.

3. Daniel Alfredsson says that Dany Heatley won't be a distraction when the Ottawa Senators convene for training camp next week. I'd believe that if the fat elephant in the room wasn't wandering around wearing a Senators jersey sporting #15.

Alfredsson expects Heatley to address the team to clear the air, and then he feels that the issue will be over. The problem is, however, that the team is under a microscope as soon as Heatley skates on to the ice, and that won't end until he's playing for another team.

If the fans and/or media perceive him as not giving 100% on the ice, it will be a steady chorus of boos for Heatley that only the Maple Leafs seem to endure while in the nation's capitol. If he doesn't backcheck, he'll get booed. If he doesn't finish a check, he'll be booed. If he has a bad game and seemingly can't hit the broad side of a barn with his shot, he'll most certainly be booed. And it will take its toll. Don't think it won't.

So how does head coach Cory Clouston and captain Daniel Alfredsson deal with those problems? Because if Heatley doesn't want to be in Ottawa now, the fans can and will make it a lot more problematic for the disgruntled winger.

I don't envy GM Bryan Murray. The circus will be in town for approximately 200 days or less this season. And he might be forced to do something about it without getting value in return.

4. Travel for the Pacific Division is tough already, but it might get infinitely worse if politicians can't pull their heads from their rectums. The US Department of Transportation has decided that Air Canada's charter planes can no longer fly between US cities, meaning that roadtrips for this six Canadian teams just got a whole heck of a lot harder when traveling in US airspace.

Canadian Transport Minister John Baird has stated that US teams will be forced into the same predicament if the US Department of Transportation doesn't change its view towards the charter flights. It appears the issue lies with an eight-year-old exemption that allowed sports teams and celebrity charters to make stops in various US cities. Under existing rules, brought into effect in 2001 after the 9/11 tragedy, Canadian charters can make their stop, and then return to Canadian airspace.

"It's potentially a very significant impact," NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told Canwest News Services on Friday. "It's crazy and very destabilizing to our business. We're operating on a long-standing interpretation and for it to change overnight on the eve of our season is creating a huge problem for us."

Can you imagine the insanity this will cause other sports teams? The Toronto Raptors play every road game south of the border. MLS has extended roadtrips in the US for Toronto FC.

This is truly one of the stupidest things I have ever heard in the world of politics. Someone needs to give his or her head a serious shake. Sports teams rely on travel more than politicans do. Wake up and smell the roses, Washington.

5. It's time for teams to start checking out their off-ice personnel. We heard about the kordiamin in Alexei Cherepanov's bloodstream that may have contributed to his sudden death. Today, The Columbus Dispatch's Suzanne Hoholik dug up some info on Blue Jackets' doctors who were prescribing pain killers whose dosage would be "approved only to treat menstrual pain" to players who were recovering from injuries or surgeries.

While we think of doping as the use of performance-enhancing drugs, this, in my opinion, is also a form of doping. If steroids and HGH are illegal, so are drugs that prescribed illegally. Glenn Demott, the whistle-blower at Pfizer, "wrote in his complaint that the Blue Jackets physician's letter detailed standing orders on dosages of Bextra to players. Demott believed the letter should not be shown to other doctors because it could influence their prescribing habits".

I'm not blaming the players in this case. They were following the orders of doctors. However, I do have an issue with the Blue Jackets if they keep these physicians on staff. They did something unethical, and they should no longer be allowed to treat the players. If I ran the Jackets, these doctors would be on the unemployment line. But that's just me. And I don't like cheaters.

There are my rants for tonight. I'm going to be out on the diamonds all day tomorrow, defending our provincial championship title from a year ago. Have a great Saturday on this long weekend, and I'll be back with something tomorrow.

Until then, keep your sticks on the ice!

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