Sunday, July 25, 2004

Road Trip

Time to hit the highway for a couple of days, be back when I run out of Gas or money whichever comes first, put your money on the money!!!

Til then come on along for a ride, check out the great number of songs to help you roll on down the highway!

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Roadrunners make a run for the West

Edmontonians will have some hockey to watch this season even if the Oilers are behind a picket line or find themselves locked out of the Rexall Place. The Oilers have relocated their American Hockey League franchise from Toronto to Edmonton for the 2004-05 season.

The Roadrunners who moved to Toronto’s Ricoh centre last year after living the life of a dormant franchise found themselves orphans when they couldn’t negotiate a new deal with the Ricoh centre in Toronto, the Toronto partner floundered in financial troubles and the Oilers took over the running of the team, but chose not to share in the burden of the Ricoh centre. After searching for a suitable venue in the Toronto area, they gave up the quest and moved the team west.

The Runners will have to reimburse AHL teams for the extra travel required for the trek to Edmonton, but expect that with crowds of around 10,000 a night they’ll have no problems with that financial detail.

While they might have the town to themselves come this September the Oilers figure even if the NHL resumes on time this year the two teams will co-exist nicely. They will play on alternate nights and should they share similar dates the Runners will be the matinee performers. By moving the Roadrunners into Edmonton the Oilers also protect their territory from the newly reformed WHA.

The move to Edmonton may open up the Toronto market for the Baby Leafs who have been making noises about wanting to leave their St. John’s home. Conspiracy buffs have floated the idea that the contract troubles with the Runners were created so as to find a venue for the Baby Buds to play in, maybe that’s the plan but if there’s no NHL this year the folks at MLSE might prefer to run their AHL team out of the Air Canada centre. So don’t expect a leasing arrangement to be made just yet. The vacancy at the Ricoh could also play into the hands of the WHA’s Toros, who have yet to name their home rink. They apparently have held discussions with Skydome but a move to Ricoh might be a wiser move should they be able to swing it.

Regardless the incursion into Toronto territory by the Oilers has come to an end, no doubt much to the relief of the Leafs. When the Oilers and Habs parted ways on their Hamilton farm club last year the Oilers picked up the dormant Roadrunner franchise and stocked it in Toronto. This was a situation that never sat well with the Leafs.

With the re-location, the Oilers are banking on the love of hockey in Northern Alberta to help make the Roadrunners a success on the ice and at the box office. It may be sure bet for a town that put close to 60,000 folks into an outdoor stadium on a brutally cold afternoon. They certainly love their hockey in Edmonton, the Oilers are just making sure that there is enough of it.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Six new ways to say No thanks!

They came, they sat, they talked, they got up and they all left. That pretty well sums up the first bargaining session since May, as the NHL and the NHLPA got together in New York on Wednesday to try and make a little progress in their contract talks.

About the only thing they agreed on was that they’ll do it all over again on August 5th, neither side expressed much optimism that a settlement was close at hand. After four hours of discussion the players association said that they had reviewed the NHL’s six new proposals for contract movement and since all six contained the words salary cap, discussions were a non starter.

The two sides parted with management preparing a more detailed overview of their positions for the union to study prior to the August 5th meeting. However, the union quickly downplayed any idea that they would entertain any ideas involving holding down player salaries. The league on their part insists that “cost certainty” is the only vehicle that will ensure the leagues survival, thus a lock out at this point seems to be completely unavoidable.

As if to reinforce their concerns on league costs, the NHL teams today began issuing their lay off notices to staff members around the league. Pink slips are in the preparation stages, as each NHL team decides on a time frame of lay off. They will have to decide which employee is essential to the team and who will be cast aside should there be no hockey come September 15th. The league offices in New York, Toronto, Montreal and New Jersey expect that over 50% of their employees will be told to stay home after September 20th should there be no agreement in place.

The spike of potential unemployment figures may be the one thing that keeps the two sides bargaining through August. Not only will players and owners will feel the pinch, but everyone from office staff to scouts, ticket sellers to parking attendants and program sellers to concession workers, will have to find something else to do on game night. HockeyNation fans are hoping that come September 15th, the only unemployed folks in hockey are those ones handling the negotiations on this contract deal!

Papa Moose back in the Peg!

An old favourite is returning to the banks of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers as Randy Carlyle rejoins the Manitoba Moose as head coach of the Vancouver Canuck farm club. Carlyle who has been an assistant coach in Washington the past two years was re-introduced to the Winnipeg faithful on Tuesday afternoon.

Carlyle has spent a good portion of his hockey life, plying his trade in some capacity at Winnipeg arena. He of course is remembered for his steady play on the blue line of the Jets in their NHL days. Always a crowd favourite Carlyle had a long lasting relationship with the Jets fans as he amassed 647 points, including 148 goals in his 1,055 NHL games, a good portion of which were in the blue red and white of the Jets.

From his blue line days Carlyle went on to be the head coach of the Moose during their IHL days, he also spent time as the teams President and GM when they joined the AHL in the 2001 season.

In what will obviously prove to be a very popular move the Canucks have restored a measure of credibility to their number one farm club as the Moose prepare to move into their new downtown arena, the MTS Centre later this year. Carlyle who brings his strong work ethic to the bench again will help those young Canuck farm hands prepare to make the next step up the NHL.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

League and Players association to meet on Wednesday

It’ll be coffee, donuts and hopefully some meaningful conversations as the two far apart sides gather together in New York on Wednesday morning. At 10 am (EST), 7 (PST) Gary Bettman and Bob Goodenow will sit down open up their respective black books and proceed to iron out the details on a long term package. Their work could make for an agreement which will guarantee hockey through the first decade of the century. Then again by 10:05 Goodenow could be hollering taxi and we’ll all be picking our favourite WHA franchise to follow.

Wednesday will be the first time the two sides have had a discussion since May 25th and they gather in New York with an eye on that September 15th deadline for the current Collective agreement. The current deal in effect has been extended twice over its ten year life, while both sides put off the eventual need to go to the trenches. The drop dead date arrives one day after the World Cup of Hockey will have been awarded so that beaming smile you’ll see on the 14th may be the last hockey related smile we’ll be treated to for a while.

The Players association has thus far refused to buy into any salary cap situation, while the owners backed up by a 300 million dollar war chest are adamant that there won’t be any hockey unless they can guarantee some form of cost certainty. With as wide a gulf as this one suspects that the two sides will disagree on whether they want maple or chocolate dipped donuts with their coffee.

10 am Wednesday, the time for hockey fans to keep an ear open for sounds of hope or shrieks of dismay. The Bob and Gary show is hitting Broadway; we all anxiously await the reviews.

Surprise, its Healy leaving at CBC!

While everyone was focused on the Don Cherry Deathwatch at Hockey Night in Canada, we didn’t see the corporation slip Glen Healy the death card at the Mother Corp.

Healy announced today that for all intents and purposes his time with HNIC has come to an end, this after Healey refused to accept exclusivity terms with the CBC. Healey who was third on the CBC depth chart in analysts has also provided his services for TSN and Leafs TV over the years, a plan he had hoped to continue with in the up coming years. However, CBC officials saw things a little differently and suggested he curtail his work for outside agencies without benefit of an increase in income, a condition that Healey did not wish to accept.

While other CBC/HNIC announcers appear on other networks Healy is the only one who appears on a national broadcast, which somehow bothered the execs at Head Office. Harry Neale and Greg Millen who both have side deals with regional carriers of hockey games are also in negotiations but haven’t been confronted with the exclusivity clause in their talks.

With the popular Healy taking a hike, the pressure will be on to bring back Don Cherry who was on thin ice as early as one month ago, but is seemingly back on track for another year at the Coach’s Corner. While he hasn’t signed a contract yet, it’s expected that he will be brought back into the fold rather quickly now.

The Healy departure will create a rather large void in the HNIC product, though we might see even more of Kelly Hrudey next year, as Hrudey held down the fort in the second half of the double headers and has proven to be a very popular addition to the HNIC stable.

While there is still a slight chance that Healey will be brought back, one thing is certain we’ll probably have yet another goaltender handling the analyst duties. For whatever reason, it seems that only those that have toiled between the pipes can fit in before a camera. Too bad that Ken Dryden fellow went and got himself elected to Parliament and most likely elevated to Paul Martin’s cabinet. There was a dream job waiting for him at Hockey Night in Canada!

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Rolling the Dice on the WHA

With a Niagara Falls casino as the backdrop, the WHA began the slow march to credibility. Or did it? The fledgling league began to stock its collection of hopeful franchises on Saturday, by beginning two days of drafts designed to give each team a negotiating list to work with. Day One featured 30 rounds of free agent talent being selected and placed on wish lists.

Number one in the hearts of the Quebec Nordiks was Simon Gagne, who will go into the Hockey history books as the first player chosen to join the crusade. Of course there’s a small matter of a contract offer before Gagne might wish to relocate from Philadelphia.

7 actual cities were identified in the draft today, though some have yet to finalize anything resembling a deal with a rink. The Toronto franchise which will go by the name of the Toros continues to insist that they have a home, but regret that they can’t announce it yet, might make for a hard sale on the season ticket front that little bit of news. They also claim that Ted Nolan is pegged to coach the team, which would be an interesting choice if only someone would share the news with Nolan. So far in Toronto the scenario is all hat and no cattle.

Besides the center of the Canadian universe three other Canadian cities have been formally identified as home to the WHA, Halifax, Quebec and Hamilton apparently are ready to welcome the new league to their palaces of shinny. There may even be a fifth Canadian franchise added, as in Saturday’s draft there was a team called Founder’s franchise. A team which was busy picking players who seem to have had some connection to Vancouver, thus we must assume that the Founder is planning on calling the Pacific coast home. To get on the good side of the locals, Todd Bertuzzi was picked as the debut player for team Founder.

Dallas, Detroit and Florida rounded out the eight, as they too added free agents from the NHL and AHL to their negotiation lists and prepared to take to the ice in October.

Bobby Hull appeared at the Casino to open up the festivities and after about an hour moved on to other things on his schedule, leaving the dreamers, schemers and believers to carry on with the business of adding some flesh to the WHA fantasy. Before he departed, Hull leveled some criticism at the negative tone of the gathered media, who asked some pointed questions regarding the leagues less than tangible points thus far.

The league also has to worry about the negative perceptions about one of its co-founders, Alen Howell. He has a record littered with failed ventures; court troubles and a short term attention span, that has seen him bounce from one project to another.

Wishing these questions away is not going to make the great endeavour any closer to reality. For while the franchise holders were busy holding the fantasy draft, at the moment their teams have about as much tangible reality as the local office hockey pool. Indeed the local office pool seems to have a more secure funding structure than the new WHA, and like the WHA owners the fantasy draft picker may never have to actually sign a player to a contract.

The league continues on with its draft on Sunday, the real question will be where they go on Monday. It’s one thing to put together a wish list of players for everyone to read, the real tale will be if those names eventually get put into a program for game night.

In order to be taken seriously the league has to quickly address its arena issues, sign a few players and stake out a claim in its member cities. Otherwise Bobby Hull is going to be even more upset, for at the moment there are far more questions out there than answers.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Talk, Talk

It's been almost two months sit they've sat down for a chat. But with the clock ticking down to a cessation of NHL hockey in North American, both sides are preparing to give it another chance.
The two sides will meet face to face next Wednesday, with cost certainty once again the pivotal issue for both sides.  The NHLPA hoping that their recently compiled list of proposals will find success. Revenue sharing, a luxury tax and a one time rollback in wages and some changes to the entry system just a few of the ideas they are offering up for discussion.
The league on the other hand feels that the system to be put in place must "bear a rational relationshiph to revenues. Trotting out figures that show that 75% of all revenues go to player costs, leaaaving 25% to work on the day to day running for a hockey team.
They haven't talked in almost 2 months, what takes place on Wedensday will tell us all whether they are serious about re-opening those lines of communication.

Hockey returns to Quebec City

They're a few players short of a starting line up, they don't have much in the way of season tickets sold and even the name of the team is missing a few letters. But Pro Hockey is back in the capital of Quebec.
The WHA released a few details about their franchise in the hockey hotbed with a press conference to announce the name of the team, the NORDIKS, bringing back a treasured name in Hockey in Quebec.
Franchise holder Jean Paul Boily, showed off his new team with it's much remembered name and clour scheme. A polar bear on a Fleur de Lys blue background will be the logo of the latest franchise to confirm it's existence in the WHA.
The creative spelling of the old Nordiques name comes courtesy of a decision by the NHL to retain the rights to the original Nordiqes name. Even with the current spelling the NHL is warning the WHA that possible copywright infringements may be on the horizon here.
For the upstart league the repatriation of the Nordiques name for the hockey fans of Quebec City seems like the perfect PR maneouvre  to utliize to build interest in the league and it's local franchise. Will the NHL really take the new kids on the block to court, so as to hold onto a name that may never be used again in anger.      
Its another small step for the return of hockey to the Quebec capital, another step takes place this week withe the WHA draft, after that all that is left in Quebec City is to sell some tickets and fix some spelling!

Wednesday, July 14, 2004


It only took one phone call from Wayne Gretzky to set the world right for Vinny Lecavalier! He found himself excited and anxious to get to work, when Gretzky called with the news that Lecavalier had been selected to replace Steve Yzerman on Team Canada for the World Cup of Hockey.

But first there was a bit more phone work to do, in the form of a phone call to Tampa Bay team mate and long time friend Brad Richards to share the good news. Richards who was named to the team earlier in the spring is glad that Lecavalier was finally added to the roster. Richards noted that there was some disappointment at the time, with the Team Canada decision to not select the Tampa Bay star, leaving an awkward feeling to the whole announcement. A situation that at the time Richards and Martin St. Louis tried to downplay so as not to have their team mate dwell on things too much.

For their part Team Canada execs said that once it became clear that Yzerman was not going to be able to participate they only had one name in mind, Lecavalier. His continual progression through the playoffs this year only served to reinforce his name with the Team Canada brain trust and when the time came to find a replacement, Vinny was at the very top of the list.

Lecavalier will join Richards and fellow Bolt Martin St. Louis at the Team Canada training camp in August. With 26 skaters selected but only 20 on the day to day roster, someone will end up sitting out a game or two. If it’s Lecavalier he’s ok with the prospect, though to hear him and Richards talk they’ll be ready to make an impact on the World Cup much like they did in the Stanley Cup. Now that he’s made the roster, it might be near impossible to keep him off the starting line up.

Can you spare Andy a Dime?

This is not what the NHL needs at the moment! More negative press about the inner workings of the game. There’s been precious little feedback from the NHL head office about the damaging reports from North American media sources about irregularities between Andy Van Hellemond and the officials he supervised last year in the NHL.

Little was made of the announcement from NHL headquarters last Friday that the veteran official and most recent director of officiating was stepping down from his post. It was treated as just the passing of the torch in the league office, with no successor named at that time.

However, by the end of the weekend a different story began to emerge over the surprise departure of Van Hellemond. By Monday morning, numerous reports had come out regarding “loans” asked for by Van Hellemond of his subordinates during the NHL regular season. It made for a situation that must have made the current roster of NHL officials, a tad uneasy.

The Unasked questions were did those that chose not to “help out” find themselves blacklisted for the financially rewarding playoffs, would their personnel records be negatively affected by a decision not to provide a loan when requested? More importantly how much of this did the league office know about and what was their opinion on the situation? All in all the practice of requesting the loans seems to have been a bizarre situation, one which should have been addressed with a policy statement of some kind as soon as it became common knowledge.

With the revelations now coming to light, how many of those officials terminated by the NHL over the last four years, now have a possible legal argument for re-instatement. Is any decision on staffing rendered by Van Hellemond considered tainted now?

One such official Mark Faucette, is currently working an appeal of his dismissal to the NHL board. Will this awkward revelation have any impact on the handling of his appeal?

The integrity of the game surely must suffer from a scenario where the chief evaluator of officials is regularly requesting money from the same people he holds power over. It’s not quite a gambling style scandal, and various legal observers state that Van Hellemond did nothing wrong, but it’s certainly a damaging public relations situation that the NHL could have done without and will have to address.

With labour negotiations stalled and getting uglier by the day, the added baggage of a controversy over officials is not needed. The league office needs to address the situation quickly and decidedly; the image of a league in total disarray is not too far from bubbling over from the sports pages to the hard news and financial pages. The shareholders, in the name of franchise owners need to ask some hard questions of their front man Mr. Bettman.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Salivating for Sidney

The WHA’s Toronto Toros have yet to actually sign any documents officially joining the brave little band of dreamers. But that doesn’t stop their owner from having a few dreams of his own.

The most enticing one for hockey fans, is the wish of WHA president Peter Young to have junior phenom Sidney Crosby sign with the Toronto franchise of the fledgling league. Young says he’s been in constant contact with the junior star’s agent regarding the 16 year olds availability.

Crosby’s agent Pat Brisson however is pouring cold water on the idea as fast as the WHA folks can turn up the heat. Brisson has stated that there is virtually no chance of Crosby joining the WHA any time soon. Brisson also says its Sidney’s plan and his family’s wish to have him play the next year with Rimouski of the Quebec junior league.

For the Toro’s the idea of signing on Crosby is the same kind of possible PR win that the Winnipeg Jets achieved when they signed Bobby Hull, or the Indianapolis Racers received when a young pup named Gretzky made his pro debut.

Of course with the WHA it’s a still very much rumour over fact, as most of the teams consist of nothing more than a name and if their lucky a Post Office box. The latest on the Toro’s status is that they have a press conference planned for Tuesday where they will announce a rental deal with Skydome for the debut year of WHA II.

It’s been suggested that the Toro’s will also announce the name of their GM and possibly the head coach of the newborn franchise at the press conference. One name being bounced around a lot of late, as a possible coach is former Buffalo Sabre coach Ted Nolan.

While all signs point to it being unlikely that they will get Crosby’s name on a contract, it certainly would make Nolan’s job a lot easier to bear should he look down the bench and see the latest greatest ready to jump over the boards. And certainly would give the straw man of a league thus far, a bit more credibility. For until the various member teams start to sign some well known names to contracts, many will look at the WHA II as more fantasy than reality.

Russian to tend to the nets?

Will Jose Theodore have to break out the Russian/French/English dictionary for next year? If the latest from RDS in Quebec is true it may be the next big migration.

Russian elite teams have made some inquiries about the Habs goaltenders plans should the NHL scrap the 2004-05 season. One team going so far as to offer him 3 million dollars US for a year of work, with the escape provision in place should the NHL and NHLPA agree to terms while he’s on his working vacation.

For Theodore the work load wouldn’t be as onerous as an NHL season as well, Russian teams have a much shorter season than the NHL squads and spend a fair amount of time in practice and conditioning sessions.

Theodore is the second prominent signing rumour floated this week, Joe Thornton of the Bruins has reportedly signed a deal with Davos of the Swiss league should there be no hockey in North America this year. He and Theodore could just be the tip of the wave of NHLers taking advantage of the acrimonious relationship in the North American pro league.

For NHL refugees the European option offers up a chance to keep a paycheque, enjoy some travel, work at a more leisurely pace and keep their skills sharp. The real test will be if they want to come back should the current contract crisis finally be solved.

Vinny set to go, after Stevie Y says it’s No!

Vincent Lecavalier will join his Tampa Bay team mates with Team Canada, after Wayne Gretzky named him to the line up Sunday. Lecavalier will take the place of Steve Yzerman who informed Gretzky that he felt he would be unable to play in the late summer World Cup of Hockey tournament. Yzerman suffered a serious eye injury in the playoffs and told Gretzky he did not feel he would be able to get the proper training in before the tournament got underway.

Injuries told the story twice for Lecavalier, who jumps ahead of Philadelphia Flyer centre Keith Primeau, as Primeau is still trying to recover from a concussion suffered during the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The Team Canada training camp gets underway August 20th in Ottawa and so far Yzerman is the only cancellation, though there is still some concern over the status of defenseman Rob Blake. Blake has yet to recover fully from his injured shoulder of last season, should he not be able to go for Team Canada the call will go out for a replacement.

Waiting in the wings, cel phones in hand; are Scott Hannan, Jay Boumeester and Bryan McCabe. The three are the most likely candidates to get a call from Gretzky should Blake like Yzerman not feel 100%.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

If Wishes were Hockey Players!

The WHA has announced that seven current NHL players have been selected by its member teams. The players will appear as draft exemptions prior to the leagues draft, coming up July 17. On assumes that these are the seven most likely players that the new league feels they can lure over from the clutches of the NHL owners.

The players that suddenly find their free agent bargaining power increased include: Brett Hull, claimed by Dallas, Chris Chelios, coveted by the Detroit franchise, Martin St. Louis who has attracted the attention of the Florida owners group, Glen Murray who could end up a bluenoser, Hamilton likes the cut of Paul Kariya’s uniform, Mike Riberio can become extremely hated in Montreal should he wish to sign with the Quebec entry and Chris Phillips could hold down the blue line in the Skydome if the Toronto franchise has its way.

They are the first seven names selected in the new WHA and now wait to see if they will become this century’s version of Bobby Hull, Derek Sanderson and J C Tremblay. The interesting part of Wednesday’s announcement is the inclusion of Toronto and Hamilton to the happy band of would be hockey tycoons. The last word we had was that those two cities had yet to sign any agreements with their respective rinks, by far more of a rumour of a team than a factual entity.

With nine days to go until draft day for the WHA it will be interesting to see if the Hamilton and Toronto contingent take their place at the table when it comes time to stock the teams. Should they be there on draft day, the new league will have very much an Eastern Canadian feel to it’s make up, which if nothing else may guarantee some television interest in the two largest markets in a possibly hockey deprived country.

A Sign of the coming Apocalypse?

If they actually take to the ice in September, NHL stars had best be guarding their sticks closely. With the rumblings of a work stoppage becoming louder each day, officials at hockey stick manufacturer T. P. S. Hockey have issued lay off notices to production workers and office staff at their Wallaceburg, Ontario plant.

30 of the plants 135 employees are preparing to deal with no work and no prospect of it coming back. Plant officials say that when the plant ends its regular summer shutdown phase at the end of July, the unlucky 30 won’t be back.

With no orders arriving from NHL teams, the folks at TPS are expecting times to get tough. August is normally the plants busiest time of the year, as they gear up to provide thousands of pieces of their product to hopeful NHL training camp attendees. With this year up in the air so much, the company has decided not to bring in any raw materials to produce the stick. A situation that is certain to set in motion a domino effect, which will affect everyone from truck drivers to shipper/receivers.

There are approximately 120 NHL players that use the company’s one piece composite stick, with no hockey possibly on the horizon the normally expensive sticks will soon find themselves piling up on store shelves. For students of Economics the upcoming hostilities between the NHL and NHLPA may provide them with an easy to understand study of cause and effect economics.

Somewhere on some college campus, a young resourceful Economics student is putting the finishing touches on the specter of an economic collapse based upon the simple hockey stick.

Tickets, Tickets who wants tickets?

The Buffalo Sabres struggling to regain the affection of the folks in Western New York and Southern Ontario have decided to give back to the fans. In this instance the giveback will be in the season ticket prices charged for the upcoming season (should it actually take place)?

Hoping to increase the season ticket base upwards from the current level of 7,000 seat holders, the Sabres are also offering the opportunity to provide deposit of 50 dollars to hold your seats, a deposit that will be fully refundable should the season not be launched. With that plan in place the Sabres are hoping for an increase to 12,000 season ticket holders by the time the first puck drops.

The Sabres will reduce the price of some seats anywhere from 12-28% which could mean that some seats in the HSBC Centre will cost less than when the rink opened 8 years ago. But with every good intention must come a caveat and in this case it would seem that Leaf fans will be helping make up the difference.

The Sabres announced that in addition to the across the board price cutting will also come the suddenly fashionable Marquee pricing structure. Where the appearance of popular divisional rivals will result in higher ticket prices to those match ups. In the case of Buffalo there is no more popular divisional rival than the Toronto Maple Leafs. And those games falling on a weekend evening will cost higher than the lesser teams arriving in the middle of the week. It’s a strategy that many NHL teams are starting to use to take advantage of those instant sell out games and helping to lure customers into the rink when the lesser lights arrive.

In fact many Sabre fans get a bit upset when the legion of Maple Leaf fans make the crossing at the Falls to come cheer on the Leafs in their large numbers, turning a Buffalo home date into a Leaf home game at worst case to a neutral site contest at its most optimistic.

Perhaps by charging a higher rate for Leaf visits the Sabre fans will be able to recapture their own home rink. But if those Leaf Nation fans still come, its best to take as much of their money as fast as possible. After all they’re used to it in Toronto, at least they’ll get a feast of chicken wings for their troubles on the road!

Lacroix shakes things up in Mile High city

Colorado Avalanche GM Pierre Lacroix shuffled his coaching chairs today, demoting former head coach Tony Granato into an assistant's position to make room for the much sought after Joel Quenneville.

Always a GM that does the unexpected Lacroix once again surprised the league, the media and the Avalanche fan base with his decision today. Stating that he made a decision that was based on what was best for the team. The opportunity to do the Denver shuffle came about when Rick Tocchet informed Lacroix that he was stepping aside to devote more time to his family. With that opening in place, Lacroix got to work on his plan to rejuvenate the normally high flying Avalanche.

Had Tocchet not resigned, Lacroix says there probably would have not been any changes in Denver for the upcoming season, so sure was he that the Avalanche problems of this year were not the fault of the coaches but rather a matter to be addressed in the line up. But with an opening to deal with Lacroix started thinking a little deeper into where he wants the Avalanche to be. And thus began the quest for Quenneville.

The former Colorado assistant coach became available after the St. Louis Blues released him on February 24th. Having been rumoured to be in the running for jobs from New York to Ottawa, Quenneville was a hot commodity and was expected to land somewhere quickly.

According to Tony Granato when he learned that Quenneville was available he suggested to Lacroix that they pursue him and do whatever it took to get him on a contract. Lacroix must have taken him at his word but took his time getting there, for with today's announcement came a disclosure that they didn't approach him until Tuesday, which means that the entire process took less than 24 hours, now that's some skimpy due diligence! The press conference to introduce him featured his new boss on the stage with him and the old coach on a speaker phone cheerleading from afar, say what you will but the Avalanche make good if not stratelevisionison. With the surreal atmosphere skeptical media in mind, Quenneville spent a fair amount of time reassuring the Avalanche fans and media that his health concerns are no longer anything to worry about and that he was more than ready for the challenge ahead. Quenneville returns to a team he feels quite comfortable with, and feels will be a good mix for his coaching philosophy.

With a much more solid line up in Colorado, Quenneville will most likely find instant success with his new charges. Part of the downfall in St. Louis was a team that seemed unable to make the right trade at the right time and never addressed it's on ice shortcomings. In Denver, at least Quenneville will know that if there is a problem it will most likely be taken care of shortly after a request, no wonder he's anxious to get back to the Rocky Mountains. The Avalanche don't seem to work under the same blue print as many of the other NHL teams, for a coach who can get results from ordinary teams having a line up built to win is going to be a treat to work with.

As with any major change to a teams dynamic, the results will dictate the success or failure of the experiment. Quenneville again has walked into a lucky situation, with the Avalanche making an early exit this past playoff season all he has to do is get them back into the playoffs and towards the division final. With the line up put on the ice year after year in Colorado that should not be too large a challenge for him.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Does Thornton want a trade?

Stories are percolating in Boston that the Bruins captain and star centre Joe Thornton is asking management to move him out of the home of the minutemen. And like Paul Revere, Thornton may have made his final ride.

There is no official word from either Thornton or the Bruin’s management regarding the status of the Bruins’ star, though it is understood that Thornton is less than happy with the back up he received from the Bruin’s when the Boston media criticized his playoff performance.

Thornton is also reported to be concerned about the high number of free agents that Bruins have left unsigned, possibly signaling a rebuilding job is on the way. Something that Thornton may wish to not be involved with.

The Maple Leafs are the most frequently reported destination (at least in the Toronto papers) for Thornton, the word is that the Bruins may wish to receive some young defensemen should choose to part with Thornton, and that is one area that the Leafs may still be competitive in.

It could all be a bargaining ploy on the part of Thornton’s agent, angling to get a better deal for his star client. But it wouldn’t be the first time that a Boston star has found himself wishing to be away from Fleet Street. The other side of that coin of course is that the Bruin’s don’t take to being blackmailed very kindly. This standoff could get particularly ugly should it go on for any length of time.

Can Renney resuscitate the Rangers?

Tom Renney’s temporary gig on Broadway has been given an extended run. The Ranger assistant who took over the reins of the team late last season, will be given the opportunity to mould the young Ranger club into a contender.

President and GM Glen Sather, who turned the team over to Renney as the season was winding down, felt that Renney was the best choice for the job. It’s reported that Sather interviewed Joel Quennville, Paul Maurice, Ryan McGill and Bobby Francis before settling on Renney.

Not coming back will be Ted Green and Terry O’Reilly who have been given their walking papers, allowing Renney the chance to bring in coaches he may be more comfortable with.

Signaling the start of a rebuilding era for the Rangers, Sather lauded Renney’s ability to teach and his work ethic as the key attributes that helped him make his decision. The rebuilding task won’t be an easy one, the Rangers finished out of the playoffs for the seventh straight season and managed only a paltry 69 points last year as the team was purged of its stars and highly paid players. His job will also be watched under the glare of a New York media that loves its controversy, never fails to find the story and if it can’t find one isn’t against creating one. Into that storm will step the former head coach of the Vancouver Canucks and former vice president of Hockey Canada. Most importanlty though may be his time in the Western Junior league, since this Ranger team is going to be made up of many youngsters, a solid guiding hand is going to be required, perhaps that is the reason Renney was tagged today for the job.

He had a small glimpse of life in media circus with his time in Vancouver, but nothing can prepare you for the New York scene. Renney’s biggest adjustment may not be in trying to get an underperforming hockey club to find success; rather it may be buying the time in New York to get the job done!

Name on the dotted line, Hasek’s ready to defend the goal line

After a couple of weeks of uncertainty the Ottawa Senators have finally secured their goaltender position. The long rumored signing of Dominik Hasek took place at 10 am Ottawa time today, as the Senators introduced their latest goaltender to the assembled media.

Hasek signed for 2 million a season with an option for 3 million dollars in the next year, but it’s the bonuses that will give Hasek the chance to prove his worth the perennially underachieving Playoff senators. Should Ottawa make it to the Stanley Cup final and carry Lord Stanley’s drinking mug down Bank street in the parade, Dom will be going to the bank 4 million dollars richer. His incentive laden contract represents a major investment by the Senators, who struggled in the playoffs for the final time. With Patrick Lalime dealt off to St. Louis, the weight of the Capital’s playoff aspirations fall to the 39 year old Czech.

Jason Spezza handed over his number 39 sweater to the newest Senator shifting his potential goal scoring onto uniform number 19, last worn by Peter Schastlivy, and made infamous by the much despised and debated Alexei Yashin. Perhaps young Sens fans will once again be able to don the Red, white and black number 19 sweater with pride should Spezza turn out to be the player many feel he will be.

But today was all about the Dominator, who faced the Ottawa media with less of the bad boy attitude that we’ve seen in Detroit and Buffalo in years past. The main point of interest was Hasek’s groin, which was in such bad shape this past season that he only played in 14 games before calling it a season and taking his leave from the Motor City. Hasek and GM John Muckler both stated that they had no concerns about the goaltenders health and were convinced that he would regain his all star and Stanley Cup winning form. Hasek himself, dedicated his off season to getting back into prime shape to lead the Sens to the promised land!

His team mates are looking forward to seeing if the Dominator of today will be the Dominator of old. Should he be able to recapture that spectacular style of play that made him a favourite in Buffalo and for a short period in Detroit, then Ottawa fans will have something to look forward to in the next season. Should things not turn out so golden, the risk takers in the offices will find a public less than impressed with the crap shoot that a by then 40 year old goaltender might represent.

Win and everyone’s a Rhodes Scholar. Lose and it will be like taking your report card full of F’s home to Mom and Dad. An awful lot is riding on Dom and his wonky knee; time will come to tell if the Sens made the right choice in their spending spree!

Saturday, July 03, 2004

WHA works out some missing details, but leaves other questions unanswered

One team has a coach and an office, another features a General Manager, a name and a rink. So far, so good for some! For others it seems that no news is good news. Such is a day in the life of the WHA II. The Quebec franchise has announced that Martin Madden will become the debut General Manager for the fledgling team, with 30 years experience with pro and junior hockey it’s expected he’ll be able to stock the Quebec team with some quality players. Over in Detroit they have a name the Gladiators and a coach under contract, Moe Mantha who has extensive NHL experience as a player and managerial experience with the US national program is most likely to focus on American players for his new franchise, who will play their games in of all places the Pontiac Silverdome.

The league also moved back its draft date, with a flurry of free agents suddenly appearing on the hockey market the league decided that July 10 and 11 would be too soon, instead league GM’s will gather July 17 and 18 at a Casino in Niagara Falls to stock their teams. The new date also clears the league from competing for media attention with the Toronto Indy.

The optics of holding your organizational meeting at a gambling Mecca is better left for the deep thinkers, mind you since picking players can be perceived as a crap shoot, perhaps it’s not that out of place. If nothing else the owners may be able to finance their franchises with a lucky hit on the slots or a roll of the roulette wheels.

Once they tear themselves away from the gaming tables it will be down to work. On draft day the WHA franchise holders will select 30 NHL/AHL free agents and then on the 18th turn their attention to the Entry draft where another 30 entry free agents will be chosen. After that it’s up to each individual team to make the necessary financial arrangements to get their new stable up and running.

The mid point of July will be an interesting timeline for the new league. If it’s truly going to be ready for its 38 game season some forward movement in franchises, staffing and scheduling are going to need to be made. So far Detroit and Quebec seem to be the only two, of the seven or eight announced franchises that so have so much as a fax machine and a telephone line. For this league to be taken at all seriously there had better be some kind of concrete developments very shortly.

Friday, July 02, 2004

The GM's office

One wee bit of cleaning up to go, lets just say we've cleaned up that spilled beer and now its time for the vacumn cleaner to go to work on those chips and popcorn.

In this final bit of consolidation, we collect those wandering links that might be of use to armchair General Managers.

The trade deadline ticker

Who went where and when

At the Draft Table

Ovechkin Number 1
Junior Teams watch with interest
It's a steal
This just in, Leafs finally pick
Another goaltender of the future for the Canucks
The Canadian round up
All roads lead to Salmon Arm
The long shadow of 2003
Draft Day not as exciting as in the past
A One-Two Russian punch
Round by Round

Canada vs the World

We continue on with our tidying up, look here in the corner underneath all the pizza boxes, it's the world hockey championship links.

2004 World Championships

Preliminary Round

Game 1 - Team Canada 2, Austria 2
Game 2 - Team Canada 3, France 0
Game 3 - Team Canada 3, Switzerland 1

Qualifying Round

Game 1 - Team Canada 2, Latvia 0
Game 2 - Team Canada 6, Germany 1
Game 3 - Czech Rep. 6, Team Canada 2

Quarter Finals

Game - Team Canada 5, Finland 4

Semi Finals

Game - Team Canada 2, Slovakia 1


Game - Team Canada 5, Sweden 3
Team Canada wins Gold Medal

Other World Hockey Features

2004 World Championship Home Page
2004 World Championship Schedule
Team Canada Home page
World Champoinship Articles

Women's World Championships

2004 Women's Championship News
2004 Women's Championship Schedule
2004 Women's Championship Official site

Meandering towards the Memorial

We continue our little bit of housekeeping, by consolidating all of the Memorial Cup links we had on the blog site this spring. Relive the battles in Kelowna!

Opening Rounds

Game 1 - Kelowna 1, Guelph 0
Game 2 - Gatineau 3, Medicine Hat 1
Game 3 - Kelowna 4, Gatineau 1
Game 4 - Medicine Hat 2, Guelph 1
Game 5 - Gatineau 7, Guelph 2
Game 6 - Kelowna 2, Medicine Hat 1

The Semi Final

Game - Gatineau 6, Medicine Hat 5

The Memorial Cup

Game - Kelowna 2, Gatineau 1

The Features

Memorial Cup Homepage
Memorial Cup Schedule
Memorial Cup Kelowna Host site

Stanley's Path

Time for a little housecleaning on the site. As the playoffs rolled on to the ultimate Tampa Bay victory, I kept a rolling list of summaries on the left. Now for the sake of blogsite esthetics it's time to clean things up a bit.

For those that need to know every moment of every game here are the links to the summaries of each and every game of the big quest. Excuse the dampness of your computer as you get to the Sens elimination, I'm still a bit emotional at their dismissal at the hands of the evil empire of Toronto. As well there was a mist in my eyes as Calgary surrendered to the will of the Lightning, oh for two more goals!

For the record the Path to Stanley

Round One


Game 1 - San Jose 1, St. Louis 0
Game 2 - San Jose 3, St. Louis 1
Game 3 - St. Louis 4, San Jose 1
Game 4 - San Jose 4, St. Louis 3
Game 5 - San Jose 3, ST. Louis 1


Game 1 - Tampa Bay 3, NY Islanders 0
Game 2 - NY Islanders 3, Tampa Bay 0
Game 3 - Tampa Bay 3, NY Islanders 0
Game 4 - Tampa Bay 3, NY Islanders 0
Game 5 - Tampa Bay 3, NY Islanders 2


Game 1 - Philadelphia 3, New Jersey 2
Game 2 - Philadelphia 3, New Jersey 2
Game 3 - New Jersey 4, Philadlephia 2
Game 4 - Philadelphia 3, New Jersey 0
Game 5 - Philadelphia 3, New Jersey 1


Game 1 - Ottawa 4, Toronto 2
Game 2 - Toronto 2, Ottawa 0
Game 3 - Toronto 2, Ottawa 0
Game 4 - Ottawa 4, Toronto 1
Game 5 - Toronto 2, Ottawa 0
Game 6 - Ottawa 2, Toronto 1
Game 7 - Toronto 4, Ottawa 1
TORONTO WINS SERIES 4 games to 3 (say it isn't so, sob)


Game 1 - Vancouver 5, Calgary 3
Game 2 - Calgary 2, Vancouver 1
Game 3 - Vancouver 2, Calgary 1
Game 4 - Calgary 4, Vancouver 0
Game 5 - Calgary 2, Vancouver 1
Game 6 - Vancouver 5, Calgary 4
Game 7 - Calgary 3, Vancouver 2


Game 1 - Colorado 3, Dallas 1
Game 2 - Colorado 5, Dallas 2
Game 3 - Dallas 4, Colorado 3
Game 4 - Colorado 3, Dallas 2

Game 5 - Colorado 5, Dallas 1



Game 1 - Detroit 3, Nashville 1
Game 2 - Detroit 2, Nashville 1
Game 3 - Nashville 3, Detroit 1
Game 4 - Nashville 3, Detroit 0
Game 5 - Detroit 4, Nashville 1
Game 6 - Detroit 2, Nashville 0


Game 1 - Boston 3, Montreal 0
Game 2 - Boston 2, Montreal 1
Game 3 - Montreal 3, Boston 2
Game 4 - Boston 4, Montreal 3
Game 5 - Montreal 5, Boston 1
Game 6 - Montreal 5, Boston 2
Game 7 - Montreal 2, Boston 0



Round Two


Game 1 - Tampa Bay 4, Montreal 0
Game 2 - Tampa Bay 3, Montreal 1
Game 3 - Tampa Bay 4, Montreal 3
Game 4 - Tampa Bay 3, Montreal 1


Game 1 - Philadelphia 3, Toronto 1
Game 2 - Philadlephia 2, Toronto 1
Game 3 - Toronto 4, Philadelphia 1
Game 4 - Toronto 3, Philadelphia 1
Game 5 - Philadelphia 7, Toronto 2
Game 6 - Philadelphia 3, Toronto 2


Game 1 - San Jose 5, Colorado 2
Game 2 - San Jose 4, Colorado 1
Game 3 - Colorado 1, San Jose 0
Game 4 - Colorado 1, San Jose 0
Game 5 - Colorado 2, San Jose 1
Game 6 - San Jose 3, Colorado 1


Game 1 - Calgary 2, Detroit 1
Game 2 - Detroit 5, Calgary 2
Game 3 - Calgary 3, Detroit 2
Game 4 - Detroit 3, Calgary 2
Game 5 - Calgary 1, Detroit 0
Game 6 - Calgary 1, Detroit 0



Round Three Divisional Finals


Game 1 - Tampa Bay 3, Philadelphia 1
Game 2 - Philadelphia 6, Tampa Bay 2
Game 3 - Tampa Bay 4, Philadelphia 1
Game 4 - Philadelphia 3, Tampa Bay 2
Game 5 - Tampa Bay 4, Philadelphia 2
Game 6 - Philadlephia 5, Tampa Bay 4
Game 7 - Tampa Bay 2, Philadelphia 1

Game 1 - Calgary 4, San Jose 3
Game 2 - Calgary 4, San Jose 1
Game 3 - San Jose 3, Calgary 0
Game 4 - San Jose 4, Calgary 2
Game 5 - Calgary 3, San Jose 0
Game 6 - Calgary 3, San Jose 1




Game 1 - Calgary 4, Tampa Bay 1
Game 2 - Tampa Bay 4, Calgary 1

Game 3 - Calgary 3, Tampa Bay 0
Game 4 - Tampa Bay 1, Calgary 0
Game 5 - Calgary 3, Tampa Bay 2
Game 6 - Tampa Bay 3, Calgary 2
Game 7 - Tampa Bay 2, Calgary 1


Stanley Cup Stats
Hockey Night in Canada Playoff site
TSN Playoff site
Sportsnet's Playoff site
ESPN's Playoff site
RDS's Coupe Stanley
SRC's Coupe Stanley
NHL's Stanley Cup History page
Hockey Hall of Fame's Stanley Cup Journal
Hockey Hall of Fame's Stanley Cup Tribute page

Disturbing rumours for the Rock

Will the St. John’s Maple Leafs have played their last game on the rock? It could very well be, if things fall into place as quickly as the Toronto Star suggests. The story out of Toronto is that the financial problems of the Toronto Roadrunner franchise may open up the doors for a relocation of Newfoundland’s AHL franchise to Toronto.

Toronto has been struggling with their farm club for a couple of years now as travel costs began to outstrip the revenues being generated in St. John’s. While the local population has been great supporters of the Baby Leafs, the fact that the nearest team is in Maine has been a logistical nightmare for the folks at MLSE. Not to mention the problems the distant franchise poses when trying to call up players on an emergency basis.

For the folks in St. John’s the departure of the Baby Buds would be a hearty loss, the population has taken the team to their hearts and followed their adopted sons with pride. To have them removed with nary a goodbye would be a most unkind fate. But alas it appears that just may be the fate awaiting both players and fans.

The economics of operating a hockey team in Toronto may outweigh the spirit provided on the Island. The Oilers are looking to move their farm club out of the Ricoh centre if the mess locally isn’t cleared up soon, Toronto would merely have to pay off the territorial charge and take over the rights to the west side arena.

One final item to consider that may seal the fate of St. John’s is the fact that there may not be any hockey in the NHL next year. If the Leafs have moved their farm club right into the city they stand to have a very successful year as Leaf fans file into the Ricoh centre to view the farmhands. With the AHL poised to be the only professional hockey in Canada next year, a timely move to Toronto from St. John’s could end up being a money maker. And that unfortunately may be the bottom line when it comes to where to place the Baby Leafs. Sadly for St. John’s and Newfoundland they may not fit into this new era of the NHL!