Sunday, February 27, 2005

Does the U stand for Underworld?

The United Hockey League, a lower echelon hockey operation is finding itself more and more topping the sports broadcasts these days. With the NHL out of commission for this year and maybe beyond, sports programmers are scrambling for some news on all matters ice.

Normally the AHL would step in to fill the void, likewise the Junior leagues, but it would seem that they can't compete for time with the U. A league that not only makes the sports reports but can also claim some attention from the news departments as well. Turn on your local sports and along comes the U to fill the highlight (er lowlight maybe?) reel moments with everything but a mob hit.

The last couple of weeks has seen the U embrace NHL stars looking for a place to skate, suspend a coach for offering a bounty on the leagues all time goal scorer and feature a brawl filled game where a player attacked an opposing coach resulting in a suspension for life for one player. All in all a rather exciting couple of weeks for a league that most times can't even find time in The Hockey News.

More Slap Shot than ice capades, the U is an apparent throw back to the days of bare knuckle hockey, where as Conn Smythe would say "if you can't beat them in the alley, you can't beat them on the ice". When you feature teams called Trashers and Mechanics you really shouldn't expect a genteel passing game, but the knock em down, drag em out brand mad popular in the Paul Newman hockey epic. The U makes the AHL and Juniors look positively European by comparison.

One suspects that Tony Soprano's boy Anthony Jr., will be moving his hockey affiliation from the Devils to the Trashers come the next season of the hit TV show. For the UHL talks the kind of language that the boys at the Bada Bing would understand. Fire up the satalite dish there Silvio and break out some foil, the boys wanna watch the U, it's their kind of hockey!

Saturday, February 26, 2005

CBC paints a giant bullseye on its back

(While this article has only cursory Hockey info, it does revolve around Hockey Night in Canada's former play by play ace Chris Cuthbert, hence it's inclusion in HockeyNation!)

You would think that in a week that the Federal Government increased its budget and smiled kindly on the Mother Corporation of Canadian Broadcasting, that they would be feeling pretty good. But nope at the CBC it's circle the wagons time as they find incoming shots from all directions.

First there is this curling fiasco, now in normal times the status of the roaring game would hardly generate the kind of negative press that the CBC is suffering these days, but with no NHL hockey to broadcast the glare of sport beats down on the corporations Curling Coverage and the judgment is that the CBC is messing up a pretty good game. I'll direct you to the seanincognito site for the wonderful expose of CBC incompetence in covering a rather easy to follow sport, sean has been having a field day over the last week or so tracking the backlash, the backlash, the backlash and the backlash over the unusual broadcast strategy employed by CBC Sports regarding curling. Did I mention there was a bit of a backlash!

But should one think this is a one time only faux pas, think again. Perhaps it's the disappointment over losing the rights to the Olympics to those evil specialty folk at TSN, Rogers Sportsnet and Bell Globe media (including arch rival CTV) but the CBC are on a serious losing streak. If this were Vegas even the pit boss would suggest they move on to the lounge for a break and rethink their plans.

In the last month the CBC has cancelled the most popular Hockey Day in Canada feature, which was one of those feel good tell a story about Canada that is supposed to be the network's mandate. Citing a lack of hockey and lack of revenue the suits in the Barbara Frum broadcast centre said small town Canada could do without a tribute to the grassroots this year.

Of course, one idiots decision is another guys brainstorm and the folks at TSN were quick to jump on the idea and put together their own version of Hockey Day, called Canada's Game: Hockey Lives Here. And it was just as good if not better than the previous versions on the CBC and that's without benefit of the triple header of professional hockey. In fact, the absence of the pros was hardly noticed as we traveled from coast to coast to coast to celebrate the great game. Why the CBC didn't think this would be a worthwhile idea is beyond me and beyond their own employees, or in the latest development their ex employee.

It seems one of the CBC broadcasters who spoke out loudly against the cancellation of the day of hockey was Chris Cuthbert, who spoke his mind in a planning meeting, no doubt suggesting that perhaps in a year without hockey this would be the perfect vehicle to show the game was more than just a bunch of professionals making obscene amounts of money.

For his intervention, Cuthbert was cut adrift earlier this week. The head of Sports Nancy Lee sending him packing, supposedly due to the lack of NHL hockey on the network this year. An interesting decision, as Cuthbert not only was on Hockey Night in Canada, he also was the voice of CFL football on the CBC. The CFL of course now can claim to be the only professional sport left on the CBC, with ratings rising over the last number of years, Cuthbert and Chris Walby brought the Saturday broadcast into prime time and made it every much as popular as the Hockey boys did on Saturday nights for the NHL.

The CBC fired Cuthbert without even bothering to inform it's partner in CFL broadcasts, the league. Something that no doubt will be addressed when the CFL contract comes up for renewal. The CFL has made great strides in its presentation due in no small part to Cuthbert's contribution, they won't be happy with his departure. For the CBC to eliminate such a versatile and talented broadcaster as Cuthbert under such a feeble excuse, smells of something that reaches far deeper into the politics of the CBC.

The Cuthbert firing has once again brought the CBC to the newspapers and like the Curling mess, the CBC comes up on the losing side of any PR agenda. With the various mis-steps of the last few months, one has to wonder if the people that run the CBC are really paying attention to who is getting fired around there, seems to an outside observer that the folks at the top of the food chain should be walking the plank before the network suffers any further embarrassment.

And unlike Cuthbert who shouldn't be out of work for any length of time (unless he wants to be) ,the bureaucratic morons making these questionable calls won't fare quite as well. Having taken a much respected department into this state of farce will not look particularly good on a CV. Many times the criticism of the CBC is unwarranted, bordering on a blood lust from it's private industry competitors. But in this case everyone so far has been spot on,

CBC sports is a mess, there's no vision, no competence and if things keep up like this there will be no viewers.

The above item first appeared in my A Town Called Podunk blog, for more of my general interest items check it out!

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

A nation's angst!

Perhaps its the way that we were teased on Friday night only to be sent crashing to earth on Saturday, but the farce that has become the NHL and NHLPA negotiations seemed to send Canadians into a final fit of disgust by Sunday afternoon.

CBC Radios Cross Country check up took the pulse of the nation on Sunday and the blood pressure is high, our indigestion is not getting any better and a lot of us could benefit from some anger management sessions.

Rex Murphy the loquacious host of Check Up, sat behind the microphone on Sunday and let the public vent. For two hours the calls came in from Signal Hill to Victoria, the Territories to Southern Ontario and all points in between, we called, we vented and Rex sat back amazed at our passion.

Heart felt explanations of why hockey matters were put forward by some, others offered solutions to the current impasse, while many just blew off super heated steam at both sides of the dispute.

Check out the February 20th edition of Check Up on your own, you can listen to the program on the CBC Radio website, spend a couple of hours with a wonderful Group therapy session for the disenfranchised.

Monday, February 21, 2005

The F Troop Rides again

Once upon a time on television there was a wonderfully inept band of soldiers known as the F troop, a cavalry crew that if memory serves correct had a hard time putting their saddles on their horses let alone head off to mete out justice.

Well fast forward a fourty years in real time and a century or so in the ages of the world and we have a new F troop, two battalions led by equally inept leaders vying for the title of most likely to ruin a pretty good thing.

For the Bettman Battalion and the Goodenow Group a few choice F words

Farcial-- The definitive word for the last week of "negotiations", for that is what the last week has brought to all hockey fans, the on again, off again season. The secretive meetings apparently only to deliver sound clips of inactivity and a final bit of proof that the league is indeed on a suicidal course.

Fabrications--Is anybody telling the truth here? the sniping from both sides in this silly little high school cat fight, do we really care anymore about Bob and Gary's dueling press releases

Facile--How hard can it be to cut up a couple of billion dollars among 30 teams and roughly 700 players?

Factions--League against union, Owner against owner or player against player, before we see hockey again there will be some serious infighting on all fronts.

Fantasy-- The world that both players and owners live in if they think losing 18 months is going to make their league a marketable product.

Facade--What both sides put out to the public as the ball of wool began to unravel, tough talking from the principal combatants now poisons the well for the foreseeable future.

Face off--Normally what we see at the start of a game, instead it's the definition of confrontation.

Fact checkers--Needed at the Hockey News immediately.

Fascism--the style that both sides seemed to base their control on. Owners were reined in by Bettman, the players slapped down by Goodenow. Democracy apparently has no place in the worlds of the NHL and NHLPA.

Failures--Neither side has been served well by its leaders, an inability to look past the impasse and realize how much damage they have done to their business will haunt them for many years.

Fans--Never factored into this debate.

Fatigue--the condition the fans find themselves in after being led down the path one time to many.

Fat Heads--no need to explain further!

Fade to Black--The state of television sports in Canada for the next three months until the CFL thankfully returns to our screens. Over at TSN and Sportsnet one wonders just how many dog shows can be found to fill a schedule.

Fickle--how most American hockey fans feel about the sport, out of sight and out of mind will be the way of the NHL now below most of the 49th.

Fired--Can we rent Donald Trump for a night, Donny baby, give Gary and Bob a call and send them the love! Say the words Mr. Trump, say the words!

Fix-It--The plaintive plea of hockey fans everywhere.

Floaters--the career status of Bob and Gary.

Football--CFL training camps open up in May!

Foreclose--How many banks will foreclose on NHL franchises in the next few years?

Forgotten--The state which the NHL and NHLPA will find themselves in as they travel their mutually determined course of irrelevance.

Fodder-- A joke writers dream, the NHL managed to finally make the big time, Jay Leno, David Letterman and Jon Stewart all mentioned the sport in their shows last week, sadly the mocking tones continue to ring in a hockey fans ears.

Frustration-- Where hockey fans find themselves after a roller coaster week of hopeful belief sent crashing into final despair.

Funeral Directors--Suggested hiring pool for next league commissioner and NHLPA president.

Futility-- The feeling that hockey fans everywhere have, mere spectators to a fight which they knew would eventually end in doom.

Future--Not anytime soon.

Fumigate--What needs to be done to get the stench of this failure away from us.

Friday, February 18, 2005

It's the Bizarro World of NHL Hockey!

Here we go again. Just when you though the final spike had been punched through the heart of professional hockey, comes word that not only are the two sides talking again, but quite possibly a deal has been made and there may be hockey again this year.

The Hockey News broke the latest bit of information on Friday evening, a tale of a planned meeting on Saturday brokered by Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux. Tales of player agents burning up the trans oceanic phone lines to clients in Europe telling them to get packing it's time to come home. The cancelled season apparently about to become uncancelled.

Of course as with any firestorm of rumour there's little to base the shocking developments in the great impasse of 2005. A 45 million dollar salary cap is apparently in place, leaving one to wonder the fate of the small market teams that claimed to need a cap in the thirties to survive. Instead of "making the game work properly" that Gary Bettman insisted was the basis of the drawn out dispute this time around, we seem to have a desperation bid to just get hockey back on the ice. How long a fix that will prove to be will be something to be argued for many years to come.

Just how many games any "regular" season might feature has not been disclosed, nor has a solution to many of the other sticking points in the last five months of point and counter point between Bob Goodenow and Gary Bettman.

No one knows what triggered the renewed attempts to find some common ground and exhibit some common sense. Perhaps it was the veiled threat from ESPN that the only footprint the NHL has on American TV was about to cut it's losses and move on from any form NHL broadcast in the future. Then again it may have been a coup from within the players ranks, as a number of top stars apparently have expressed disappointment at how the whole scenario spun out of control on Wednesday.

Regardless, the hockey talk shows (check out the 9pm-midnight block on CKNW Friday for a sample of the interest) are alive with excitement as hockey fans jump on any glimmer of hope that the sport may return shortly. Listener after listener expressing a hope against hope that this wild rumour takes root and proves to be factual by Sunday.

The timing couldn't be better for TSN, Saturday sees the Canadian Sports Network featuring a six hour tribute to Hockey called Hockey Lives Here. How appropriate if they could report during the six hour marathon that indeed Hockey Lives, ratings for TSN on Saturday should be through the roof as Canadians gather around their television sets waiting for the puffs of smoke from New York City. The signal for a return to the rink for the players, whether the fans follow remains to be seen.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Look! Up in the sky, why it's the Sun!

After spending yesterday watching the the three Sports networks in Canada devote an entire day of broadcast time to Deathwatch 05, one would be forgiven if we awoke to find a darkened sky, cold blowing winds and freezing temperatures descending upon the land!(hmm, well ok bad analogy for folks living from Newfoundland to Alberta and places north, but you get my drift).

But hey the Sun did rise this morning, those that have jobs went to them. (Not so fast you folks at the NHL and NHLPA and rinks around the continent) and life generally went on as usual.

Despite the furrowed brows of Bob McKenzie, the grave insights of Brian Burke and the countless observations from pundits and prognosticators across the dial, we'll get on with life without the NHL.

The TSN broadcast, which is where I eventually settled down as the day progressed, was full of foreboding gloom, a dark and stormy day for all concerned. The music that of a funeral dirge befitting a Russian commitsar's funeral from the sixties. Was it my imagination or did the graphics just seem darker than usual, shadowy people in shadowy times?

For the most part the various panelists, while lacking in brevity, did a good job of explaining the gravity of the situation. Over six hours to explain a one theme happening may seem a tad overblown, but it probably was their final kick at the hockey cat (apologies to animal lovers everywhere) for a while.

What they all go on to do now is anyone's guess. Some of the lucky hockey analysts will transfer their skills to other sports, but many of these talking heads will be talking to themselves for a fairly long amount of time.

If things now drag on over a year (as some of the doosmdayers have predicted) we may find Pierre McGuire doing local weather "there's a Monster storm coming in, better put on that helmet and get ready to get rocked". Don Cherry won't torment the over sensitive censors at the CBC this spring, the people's network will be a bluster free zone for the first time in many years. Of course without the bluster there will be no luster to those Spring ratings books, the CBC probably makes a huge hunk of change from the hockey festival of April and May, the bottom line at CBC world headquarters is going to be a red line, expense accounts across the Mother Corp are about to take a huge hit.

All sports radio stations across the nation will find thin gruel to fill the waves without the game, with the exception of Toronto and it's ongoing basketball soap opera and those lovable Blue Jays down in Florida, the pro sports scene is barren until the CFL camps of May.

The repercussions for the business world without a hockey industry in Canada could be an interesting study, while the game may be a forgotten niche sport in the USA, it's a multi million dollar economic engine for the media, the lotteries and the merchandisers of Canada. Want to find some sad people, check those industries out, there's going to be some tough decisions made in boardrooms far away from Gary and Bob's offices.

For the HockeyNation the items no doubt will dwindle. Our blog will continue to monitor all things hockey, but to be honest there are other blogs out there where you can find your Euro hockey fix, follow the lower minor leagues and such. The Memorial Cup is coming up and the World Championships should be a far more competitive tournament this year, so there will be some hockey to follow. We'll take a closer look at the AHL with it's Canadian teams, but we won't be providing the same amount of output.

One thing we will do is sit in front of the television one more time this weekend. In an ironic bit of timing, TSN has scheduled their tribute to our game for this weekend, Canada's Game: Hockey Live's here runs from Noon- 6 pm EST (9 am-3 PST) this weekend. A cross Canada trek to see hockey as it should be played, not as it should be ruined. Perhaps it will help to rebuild our faith in great game, trashed by much lesser people!

While the two participants in this Hockey apocalypse retrench and rethink their strategies we'll keep track, but don't expect coverage of every mystic statement from these oracles of ineptitude. Should there be something of value to report we'll add it to the blog, but for now we're going to go enjoy the Sun!

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Thanks for trying your best guys!

Well it must have been hard to deliver the news today Mr. Bettman, such hard work all for naught. Your guys really burned the midnight oil, made some generous offers and certainly explored all options to solve this terrible impasse. The average hockey fan must really feel that you are on their side today.

Likewise Mr. Goodenow, you and your player rep partners sure knuckled down to the task at hand, as each month went by I'm sure you all sat and pondered what was best for the game and for the fan. I can only imagine your disappointment in how things have turned out. Hockey fans no doubt also feel that you are holding a torch for us as we ponder our fates in our hockeyless world.

Oh, the hell with this. Who am I kidding anyways! The least important aspect of the developments today was the fan.

Give me a break, both sides of this incredibly stupid display of greed and self interest deserve whatever fate will befall them. There's something particularly sickening about billionaires and millionaires, unable to simply cut up a pie of millions of dollars so all could find common ground.

The dour expression on the faces of Mr. Bettman and Mr. Goodenow looked good on TV, but it didn't seem particularly sincere guys. The NHL announcement, followed by the NHLPA rebuttal more than testified to the lack of trust that has taken hold of the agenda. We get the feeling that you both are where you want to be, some kind of grudge match til the bitter end, regardless of the cost. One side ready to crush it's players, the other ready to bring the owners to their knees.

Our poster boys for incompetence can sit around their offices til the cows come home as far as we are concerned. You have fouled the nest guys, neither side has our respect, nor our admiration, if your lucky in six months time you may actually cross our minds. Hopefully in one of those "whatever happened to......" moments.

The game will always be The game in Canada, it is not the domain of the overpaid, pampered athlete, nor the playpen for the corporate greedmeisters that seem to prevail in much of industry today. Wherever there is a rink, a clock and a sheet of ice there will be a game played. It may not be the product put forth by the NHL, but then again that product has suddenly become a rather tainted offering of late.

Instead there will be the pure chase of the sport, whether it's a junior match, a senior game, pee wee tournament, other forms of minor hockey, University match up or beer league rec offering, somewhere tonight there's a game happening in your home town. It's there without the baggage, without the greed and without the self serving grandstanding. Just 60 minutes on a fresh sheet of ice for the love of the game. What a concept!

The NHL and it's opposites in the NHLPA can now retire to their neutral corners and stay there for the eight count, don't expect us back anytime soon. We'll return when you have earned our trust, our respect and most importantly the right to ask us for our money.

For Gary and Bob here's a bit of news that you probably never factored into those intense discussions of the last week or so. While you were busy trying to figure out what was best for you, you left out a very important part of your equation, what's best for us the fan. Stand advised we'll now take our time deciding if whatever you both eventually cook up will be worth our support. Because without us, you guys are nothing.

The last time a Stanley Cup went without being awarded was during the great Spanish flu epidemic of 1919, this time it's the fans who are sick!

Five months wasted guys, five months wasted. You both have now stepped to the abyss and apparently decided to jump! Thanks for nothing!

One more shot of Novocaine please

Finally our time in the dental chair of Drs. Bettman and Goodenow may finally be ending. This never ending root canal we've endured under their less than steady hand, soon to be but a distant throbbing in our gumline.

As our two surgeons bickered while we were trapped in the chair we've learned a few interesting things, one never doesn't necessarily mean NEVER, and math is still A topic of controversy when the two teeth pullers get together.

The "deadline" is set, (then again maybe not) for 1 pm EST, 10am PST when Dr. Bettman will finally lower the chair and tell us to go home, floss regularly and come on back for a check up in six months or so. Then again he may say, check back with us in two weeks for our special on cleaning and polishing!

The two sides are still a few million apart, the NHLPA sticking to a decision that a 49 million dollar cap is livable (so much for never surrender), the NHL seeking to reduce things by another 6.5 million or so (hmm, should Edmonton start packing? last we heard they needed a cap in the low thirties to survive!).

The final correspondences from Gary and Bob (well as final as things seem to be with these two guys) expressing that no more concessions are coming, the 6.5 million dollars the possible breaking point in this lengthy and apparently now pointless charade of negotiating.

Players are asking questions amongst themselves about how if a cap is now a cause for acceptance, why things weren't moved forward months (and many lost dollars) ago? Small market owners may be wondering whatever happened to the hard cap and linkage to cost certainty? That holy grail of the small and struggling.

Even as late as this last hour of negotiating (if that is what this has been!), the NHL's gatherer of financial facts Mr. Arthur Levitt has popped up to say that the league could survive even the embarrassment of a cancelled season. Perhaps his contribution is a sign to the owners that they need not back down now, there may be more blood to gain yet!

All will wait for Dr. Bettman to take to his stage on Wednesday and offer up a final prognosis. And finally we can either pick up our pom poms and cheer on our boys or turn our backs and say see ya next year, maybe. By 10 am PST tomorrow finally the game will be turned back over to the fans, then we can make our own statements, our own judgments.

For most this root canal type of slow motion posturing leaves us numb and sore, it may be a while before we schedule our next appointment at the Bettman/Goodenow Clinic of Pain!

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Not a promising noise

Well my absence from Blogging these last few days all comes down to noises. The computer has been making some "weird" sounds of late, (more frequently these last few days), weird of course is that word that one uses when you just can't figure it all out.

Two crashes in three days gives one the feeling that the end may be nigh. Rebuilding windows XP after each crash has taken up a fair amount of computing time here at the Hockey Central bunker. We sit in pre meltdown mode again this morning as we type, the puter performing agonizingly slow, erratic in video and weak in spirit.

In between reboots, rebuilds and recriminations came a gurgling sound from the upstairs bathroom, yesterday gurgling proceeded to the next phase, the blockage and the back up. Hours upon hours of plunging has resulted in little relief of the situation.
Blogging sadly will take a back seat while we try and get the facilities back in working order (one has to have one's priorities heh), the plumber will be here today, wonder if he knows anything about computers as well!

I can only assume there is some symbolism of my bathroom problems coinciding with an NHL season about to be flushed down the drain, though at least Gary and Bob can actually flush something! By all accounts today is crunch day in the NHL, the union supposedly on the ropes having broken that psychological barrier of the cap, willing to settle for a cap of 52 mil, quickly dismissed by the league they now get down to the nitty gritty of what number they might actually settle on.

The only question remaining now is will my drain be clear before Bob and Gary put down their plungers for the season?

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Discount, Discount Ducks?

The NHL has enough fires on its hands with its current impasse over the salary cap, but there's an even more alarming glow in the distance.

The NHL is apparently going to go to some desperate measures to ensure that the value of franchises don't drop below the current trading level. The flashpoint for the valuation devaluation could be the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.

The Disney Corporation is apparently quite intent on eliminating the Ducks as a part of the Magic Kingdom profit (and mostly) loss statements and have been entertaining offers much below the NHL franchise's current Forbes listing of 108 million. The rumblings from Anaheim have the NHL putting together an emergency purchase plan to buy the team from Disney should they become seriously smitten by a lowball bidder.

While the NHL efforts to keep their franchise values high is a laudable thing, one wonders if they're thinking this whole situation out completely. First off would it really hurt their bargaining position with the players should one of their franchises tumble terribly on the financial market?

And more importantly just what do they think the value of any NHL franchise might be if they have suspended operations for a year and a half as is the rumoured possibility due to the current dispute.

Should the rinks remain dark for over 18 months, the 108 million dollar values will seem purely monopoly money like. A little extra incentive for Gary and the boys in the NHL office to bring this mess to a conclusion quickly. Once the owners start to find their investments declining rapidly, questions of competence will quickly rise to the top of the list.

A principle is one thing, but start to lose one's principal and heads may begin to roll!

More of a habit than a passion?

Has Ken Dryden hit upon a secret that the NHL may not want to know. That many Canadians may be finding that this unrequited love affair with hockey can easily be replaced?

That may be the bottom line as the NHL/NHLPA stumbles on to its fifth month with little in the way of negotiating let alone hockey playing taking place. Dryden who it seems has been named minister of hockey affairs in the Paul Martin cabinet, gave a well thought out answer to the question of whether Canadians will survive without their hockey fix.

The cabinet minister and much respected thinker on all things hockey was offering his opinions on the state of the game, after advising that it was doubtful that the Federal Government of Canada would become embroiled in the increasingly bitter and fruitless discussions of late.

Dryden suggests that NHL owners may rue the day that they deprived the Canadian public with it's all encompassing fixture of hockey. The backlash against the misadventures of both union and ownership may be felt in future gate receipts and television ratings. Many fans may find that they get along just fine without a six hour marathon on Saturday night or a meaningless midweek game in January.

For both sides in this dispute it may soon be a case of reaping what they have sewn!

Daly waiting to talk, Cuban can't stop talking!

NHL VP Bill Daly says he wants to talk, like a jilted teenager he's hanging close to the telephone on the off chance that Bob, or Ted or maybe even young Trevor might dial his number and ask him out for one more date. Daly says this is a very important week in the current impasse, holding out hope that things can get taken care of to get the season underway and this nasty dispute put behind the two parties. But for Bill the phone is not ringing, the league claims they have not heard a word since the NHLPA broke off talks on Friday, not a call, not an e mail not even a nasty jibe via a friendly journalist, nothing.

Too bad that Bill couldn't just sit down and negotiate with Mark Cuban of the Dallas Mavericks. If Mark was running the NHLPA the deal would be signed, the schedule maker at work and the players on the ice. Cuban who was in Toronto on Monday for a basketball game between his Mavs and the Raptors said "the players are out of their minds". He went on to add that the players need a bit of a reality check over the whole situation. No doubt Gary has sent a thank you card and favorite beverage to the hotel room for his timely intervention

Of course Cuban comes from the management side of the sports world so his comments are not surprising. He sees the possibility of a whole new era of responsible sports ownership in the wings if the NHL owners hold to their line. With an NBA contract coming up for renewal don't think for a minute that he wouldn't love the idea of the NHL being held up as the template for the new reality of sports franchise ownership.

Many in the sports world both union and management are watching this doomsday scenario of the NHL unfold. Owners from other leagues looking to see if the NHL can bring its workers to the table for terms of surrender. The different player unions hoping just as hard that the players will stick to the lines, fight the good fight and show that the players are now empowered and unwilling to back down.

With Baseball, Basketball and Football all preparing for contract talks in the next year or so, this NHL lock out is a test run for the future. The NHL may not be part of the big four of pro sports anymore, but they have the full attention of those involved in the major sports.

A sure sign that this dispute is about much more than a game of shinny on a frozen surface, it's all about big business. It may be a love of the game of our youth for the fans, but it's all about the money for the participants. Money in this case wins out over love by a huge margin.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Some will take a salary cap, just not Gary's

Chris Chelios, Derian Hatcher and Kris Draper are getting the blades back out and are ready to hit the ice. But you won't be seeing them in Red Wing or Black Hawk colours this year, instead the trio will take to the ice on behalf of the Motor City Mechanics, a struggling UHL team based in a Detroit suburb.

Chelios and his pals Hatcher and Draper signed contracts with the Mechanics yesterday, with Hatcher the first on the ice on Tuesday as the Motor City boys took on the Flint Generals. And while the three get their skating legs back, there are rumblings about a bit of hypocrisy in their decision to get back to playing hockey.

The three ex-NHLers move to a league a tad far down the evolutionary chain of pro hockey. The UHL is one of those worker, lunch bucket types of leagues, made up mostly of career minor leaguers who on the best month probably only pull in about 700 bucks a week, 2800 a month or 36,400 a year. A far cry from the multi million dollar salaries that the newest Mechanics might be used to receiving.

The UHL operates under a pretty strict salary cap, one in place because frankly the league doesn't make much in the way of money, has no tv deals, no merchandising monies to speak of and a rather low profile at the best of times.

How Chelios and his buddies can reconcile taking jobs away from guys that may actually be depending on the UHL for a livelihood is best left to them to sort out. But more than one observer has pointed out the irony of the trio signing on with a league that not only has a salary cap, but depends on it for its very survival.

For the three it might have been a better choice to follow the rest of the exiles to Europe, there at least its a case of out of sight, out of mind. Better yet they should have bought the Mechanics, given everyone a raise and tested out running a hockey team on their own. It might have given them a different perspective on things, instead they're sending three journeymen to the showers while they play a bit of shinny.

If they really just wanted to get back on the ice, wouldn't it have been wiser just to go and rent some ice time and organize a little NHL pick up action. Instead they've put a spotlight on their actions and given their union brothers an unnecessary item to have to defend. Maybe Gary will mention the irony to Bob in Thursday's final gasp NHL/NHLPA meetings. If nothing else it will help them to fill the time before they break off talks and most likely end the season. Leaving us to wait for those Motor City mechanic highlights to come up on Sports Centre!