Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Break out the foil! Goons on Ice is back on the Ice!

Please let this be the last mention of the Hockey Enforcers Battle Royale until the actual date of the fisticuffs. Prince George, BC city council under advisement from some legal officials has reversed its decision to ban the Hockey Enforcers card scheduled for August 27th at the city's CN centre.

With Mayor Colin Kinsley leading the way, the council gave a hesitant go ahead to the competition , which shall pit former NHL tough guys and those that think they were against each other on the shimmering ice of the city's hockey mecca. Kinsley himself was not particularly in favour of the skating slugfest but suggested that the city had no right to legislate what is good or bad taste as far as entertainment goes.

Those that were against the idea from the beginning are still against it, but with the prospect of legal challenges looming they chose to close their eyes and hope for the best. Councillor Dan Rogers blamed that old favourite whipping horse, the media for the controversy. Rogers claimed that the Vancouver media took the story and ran it to the extreme. An interesting comment from a guy that made his money as a television and radio sports guy at one time. Councillor Brian Skakun who spearheaded the move to stop the fights claims the Enforcers will do nothing to enhance the city's image and may continue to propagate the stereotype of Prince George as a redneck kind of town. Skakun was the lone ranger for a kinder, gentler Prince George as in the end he was the lone vote against the motion.

Needless to say the whole mess has divided the city from the Hart Highlands down to College Heights and out the highway towards Vanderhoof. But for Darryl Wolski it's all gold, as they say any advertising is good advertising and for Wolski and his Enforcers this has been the motherlode of advertising!

Over the boards in Belfast

Alan Maki has a wonderful little tale in the Globe and Mail about a Canadian software designer who has invested some of his working capital into the Belfast giants hockey club. Jim Yaworski put 1.5 million of his hard earned dollars into the Belfast franchise and now sits as a co-owner with the Giants all because he likes to collect hockey sweaters. His financial commitment and enthusiasm has also caught the eye of sports fans in both Northern Ireland, Ireland and the England.

Hockey is a relative newcomer to the sports scene in Northern Ireland and the Republic, ice rinks apparently few and far between. But the Giants are a bit of a success story in Belfast owing to their inclusiveness towards all fans. In a town where ancient and bitter rivalries can occasionally turn deadly, the Giants apparently have found a way to help everyone take their minds off of the negatives and join in something positive.

It's a nice story and a great tribute to a game which the citizens may know little about, but can find some common ground on for sixty minutes.

JR's Spinnerama

Ah the last line of defence for the professional athlete, the ole I was taken out of context excuse.

Jeremy Roenick feeling a bit of heat over his they can "kiss my ass" quote of a few days ago has claimed that many in the media have not treated his comments fairly nor in the context for which they were delivered. He was particularly annoyed with ESPN who only showed snippets of his rant as opposed to the entire full frontal assault on all things hockey.

Regardless the reaction is almost as loud and boisterious as the quotes were, with many media outlets suggesting that JR needs to be kept under a gag order for the next little while. The latest outbreak of foot in mouth syndrome and the lack of any outrage by the players regarding the comments has many wondering if anyone has learned anything from the last year.

It would seem that in today's NHL, much like last years NHL, the fan is far, far down the list of valuable assets. A situation that will no doubt be repaid tenfold whenever JR and the gang get back to work.

Monday, June 27, 2005

JR finds a microphone

It's been a long off season for Jeremy Roenick, JR who hasn't had many opportunities in the last year to comment on all things hockey, finally unburdened himself over the weekend. JR let loose on the NHL, his union executive and hockey fans who look at he and his fellow band of brothers as spoiled millionaires.

Roenick is upset that the union management did not accept a deal back in early 2005, one that would have saved the NHLPA some of the pain that is about to come their way with a new deal. JR says that the players got their butts kicked by the NHL and that the union will give back more than any other union in the history of professional sport.

And while all seem to agree that some damage control will be necessary with the fans after this year long debacle, JR isn't quite ready to take the barbs of the ticket buying public. While he admits that all will have to do their part, he has no time for those that think of hockey players as spoiled millionaires.

He apparently was only warming up after that broadside, Roenick went on to say that the union heads neglected to listen to him and other NHL players who repeatedly told them that the path they were on was one of destruction. They may not have listened to him then, but they're certainly going to be hearing from him now. It will be interesting to see how the players union reps respond to the latest from Mount Jeremy.

However for hockey fans JR's outburst is a good sign, he's back, he verbose and ready to rumble. Hockey must actually be on its way back grumbling and all!

Goons on Ice (the phoenix like rebirth of)

It seems you can't knock this Darryl Wolski guy out, if half of his hockey combatants have his ability to take a punch the big show may go on all night.

When we last left the saga of the Hockey Enforcers, Prince George city council had voted to ban the show from the city's CN centre. However, after a bit of bravado from Wolski about lawsuits and with a suggestion from the police that the exhibition could find a way to fit into the Criminal Code, the on again/off again knuckleduster showcase may soon be back on again.

Mayor Colin Kinsley has stepped into the controversy by urging his fellow council members to reconsider their votes of last week and to bring the program to another vote at Monday nights Council meeting.

The Enforcers show has become quite the controversial issue in Prince George which is not quite used to being the subject of debate. Opponents of the Goon show say that it is sending a wrong message to young people and not painting the northern BC city in a proper light. Those in favour of the competition claim that the fisticuffs planned for the CN centre won't be any more harmful than what you could find in a Prince George bar on a Saturday night.

One would assume that Prince George must have other pressing issues to deal with these days, but washed up hockey enforcers will once again dominate the council agenda.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Goons on Ice (The cancellation, again!)

Put away the road map of Northern BC, you shan't be needing directions for the way to PG today. Prince George city council delivered a knockout punch to the organizers of the Enforcers tournament. As the Northern BC city mindful of the perception of a home of barbaric fisticuffs decided that it was not going to put out the welcome mat for hockey's traveling band of knuckledraggers.

The Enforcers tourney had only just finished trumpeting its new locale when the rumblings of discontent started to become known from the citizenry. Subject to snickers from other BC communities such as Kamloops and Kelowna to name a few, the populace that don't like the idea of men on skates kicking the crud out of each other started to make a bit of noise.

For organizer Darryl Wolski it's back to the telephone and a search for a city, town, village or backyard rink where he might finally let his charges square off. Something that most observers in Prince George probably won't agree with. With a Pay Per view contract still dangling and the inevitable companion DVD and VHS products no doubt to follow expect the search to continue.

Wolski is obviously feeling the pressure with the latest setback, as he launched an attack on Prince George council claiming that they had given their city a black eye. But for these Hockey Enforcers the only thing cool about the whole project has been the reaction from those approached to host it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The right Mallard for the job at hand

The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim are under new ownership and as of today the hockey side of the team is under new management as well. Brian Burke was introduced to the Los Angeles sports media today taking over as General Manager of the team that Mickey and Donald once called their own.

The former GM of the Vancouver Canucks takes control of an enigmatic squad, one which a few years ago looked set to dominate the Western half of the NHL when Bryan Murray carefully nurtured his Ducks to a Stanley Cup playoff run.

The task for Burke now is to make the Ducks competitive and lure back hockey fans that most likely have forgotten about the team completely. For the moment cuts in season ticket rates will be used to try and bring back some fans. Burke plans to meet with the current coach Mike Babcock in what effectively will be an interview to keep his job.

Burke was adamant that he wanted the team to take a different path than the most recent journey has taken them, it will be up to Burke to decide if Babcock is on the same page as him. Burke had a fair amount of success in Vancouver and is a pretty good acquisition by the new Duck owners. He believes in a strong work ethic and dislikes anyone who dogs his time on the ice or causes dissent in the dressing room. Ask Fedor Federov the former Canucks was sent to Winnipeg and never surfaced again under Burkes watch, a cautionary tale for brother Sergei who no doubt has already been warned about Burke.

A colourful manager, Burke is never afraid to speak his mind and should be a rather successful promoter for his new team. The Ducks seemed normally content to sit as the second banana to the Kings, Burke will shake a few trees in Anaheim and make sure that the hockey played at the Pond is the style of play to bring back the crowds. His players will find that they are more involved in their community and Burke himself will make sure his team makes the sportscasts each night. Considering the fact that LA is the second largest market in the USA it would seem that the Ducks have indeed picked the right guy to lead them out of the hockey wilderness.

Goons on Ice (the Backlash)

With Prince George, BC now the centre of the Goons of the Ice universe, many locations are saying better them than us. The backlash against the Hockey punch up show is growing and one wonders how long Prince George will be willing to allow it's CN Centre to host this less than wanted event.

With a chance to put the city on the Hockey map, Prince George at the moment says they still plan to allow the August 27th Slugfest to proceed, but if the reviews from afar are any indication the publicity they get for their efforts may be anything but what the local Chamber of Commerce and Tourism people may wish for.

From neighboring Kamloops about four hours down Highway 97 comes the suggestion that such a show would never wash in hockey savvy Kamloops. Where city managers say the show would have a problem drawing a crowd even if the city allowed a possibly illegal event to take place.

Ouch, if anything should sway the folks of Prince George away from the Goon show it will the suggestion that by accepting the brawlers as their own, city residents will be lesser than their provincial rivals.

The true barometer of a backlash however, as always, will be the sale of tickets to this inauspicious event, with prices ranging from 29-200 dollars the Prince George sportsfan (and ghouls of the Cariboo) will be the ones casting their votes. Poor sales will mean no show. And no show will make the summer a restful one for the hockey purists and nervous civic officials.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

What the kids are learning

It's been a pretty sad month off the ice for Minor Hockey in Canada, three separate situations have gone a long way to show that in some locales the fun of the game seems to be taking a back seat.

At the start of the month came word of a New Brunswick man, making plans to take his son's case against Minor Hockey all the way to the Supreme Court. All over an MVP awards snub three years ago.

Earlier this week in Penticton, BC a young lady took her case to the Human Rights Board after her minor hockey team had cut her from her team, replacing her with a boy. One who had a lesser rating than she did.

Now comes word out of Ontario of a young lad taking his Minor Hockey Association to Court for 10,000 dollars in damages. His situation stems from a 3 year old grievance against the Applewood Minor Hockey association. In his case an apparent problem between his father and the Minor Hockey officials has made his minor hockey experience less than enjoyable.

If nothing else the young ones are learning the litigation side of hockey. Considering the mess of the pro game these days, it's something that sadly may be just as important as shooting and skating

Friday, June 17, 2005

Running back to Saskatoon?

Back in the 1983 the St. Louis Blues almost became the Saskatoon Blues, the late Wild Bill Hunter led a prairie group dedicated to purchasing the then financially wrecked Blues and relocating them to one of the cradles of Canadian hockey.

In the end however, the NHL not particularly sold on the idea of success on the Canadian prairie, found an owner for St. Louis Harry Ornest, who purchased the Blues for 31 million and kept them on the Mississippi River for as a more stable financial picture developed.

Now the Blues are once again on the market and once again bleeding ink a dark crimson red. The Lauries, Nancy and Bill (Nancy a heir to the Wal Mart fortunes) who bought the Blues and the Savis centre in 1999, have said that losses of 60 million over two years are too much to bear. Added on to the franchise red ink is the debt load of the Savis Centre which has accumulated over 200 million dollars in debt since it opened in 1994. The massive flow of money out has apparently taken its toll and the Lauries want out.

Bringing into question the viability of the Blues in St. Loo. Now no one is actually expecting Saskatchewan Place to start dusting off the action plan for NHL hockey in Saskatoon, but down the ole Yellowhead highway is a brand new state of the art rink in Winnipeg, don't be surprised to start hearing rumours of the Winnipeg hockey powers courting the Blues for relocation there.

There is always Hamilton as well with Copps Coliseum built for NHL hockey but never granted a franchise and hockey mad Quebec City is always an option, though the age of Le Colisee probably rules a return out until a move for a new arena gains strength in the Quebec Capital.

But word will soon leak out, count on it. Interestingly enough there may be no better time to pick up an NHL franchise, with costs about to be placed under control via a salary cap (or whatever buzzword they use to introduce one). St. Louis may just be the tip of the franchise for sale properties soon to line the pages of the Sports Properties for Sale section of the Business papers. Many observers feel that the Blues if run properly can be a viable concern in St. Louis.

The Lauries claim their priority is to keep the team in St. Louis, but one suspects if the right offer comes around they'll be more than willing to wave goodbye. Just ask fans of the Vancouver Grizzlies who watched the Lauries show interest in their basketball team, a situation that helped speed the Grizzlies out of Vancouver. Long after the Grizz left BC, perhaps the time has finally come to retrieve one sports franchise for Canada, time will tell!

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Goons on Ice finds a home

The Northern British Columbia city of Prince George will be home to the Enforcers ball come August 27th. The much delayed and frequently questioned tough guy brawl for it all, has found a location willing to provide a rink, accommodations and at least a welcome, all be it purely on a cash basis.

Having been denied the chance to showcase their wares in Winnipeg and Minnesota, promoter Darryl Wolski who has had his problems finding a home for his wayward band of journeymen enforcers figures that Prince George and his crew will be a good fit, despite suggestions that the impending fisticuffs may actually be illegal.

Described as Hockey fights without the hockey game to get in the way, the Battle of the Hockey Enforcers will feature sixteen "tough guys" tee it up at centre ice for a number of short brawls, with the winners taking home an undisclosed cash prize for their efforts and bruises.

Wolski anticipates a big crowd at the CN Centre in Prince George and many others tuning in on pay per view and cable television. It's taken Wolski eighteen months to finally get his venture close to a launching pad so when he received the clearance from the Prince George Athletic commission and the city of Prince George he got busy with his organizing.

However, not everyone is looking forward to the Enforcers on Ice, former NHL player and tough guy Nick Kypreos counts himself as one firmly against the plan. Suggesting it's purely cockfighting at it's finest and an embarrassment to hockey.

The 16 lads prepare their knuckles for their dates with destiny or embarrassment on August 27th.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Sign on the dotted line already!

Well there is still no agreement to comment on, so the ole HockeyNation blog will be rather sparse until then. Really one can only comment on endless rumors and vitriolic outbursts for so long, before you start to yawn at the same old same old of it all.

So as we await the word from on high that the two sides have come to an agreement and the ice will be fresh come September we offer up these hopeful signs for hockey fans everywhere.

The Vancouver Canucks had help want ads placed in the newspapers this past weekend, a sign perhaps that things are close to finalization.

The leauge asked the BC Labour board to adjourn their planned hearings on union certification.

And once again it's Wayne Gretzky to the rescue, as the Wayner steps up to run Team Canada in Turin next year at the Olympics. If of course the NHL sends players (Good God even the boneheads running this league couldn't screw that up could they? Yikes I shouldn't ask questions I don't want answers to I guess!)

Anyways, we'll keep our ear to the ground and our eye on the net for any breaking news and hopefully soon we will be talking about actual Hockey news once again!