Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Oklahoma! Where the wind comes sweeping across the rink, well maybe anyway. .

Brand new state! Brand new state, gonna treat you great!

Gary Bettman can only hope! The latest entrant in the we want in sweepstakes, is the state celebrating its Centennial this year.

And in addition to this list of events, Oklahoma City would like nothing finer that to have Hockey to offer up, well unless Basketball wants to stay, then the hockey dream gets put on ice, but as civic booster and minor hockey team owner Bob Funk says there’s always Tulsa!

OK city is presently in the grasp of a short term romance with the New Orleans Hornets, who have been calling the five year old, 20,000 seat Ford Centre home since Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana.

The Hornets are scheduled to migrate back to New Orleans next year, leaving the Ford Centre open to tenants again, though there is some hope perhaps the Hornets may wish to stay where they are now, or failing that there’s the possibility that the Seattle Sonics may leave Seattle and head for the plains.

Hockey it seems is also a prospect, though apparently not the first choice. Funk says all the right things, and has joined the chorus line of applicants for Mario Lemieux’s attention, hoping to bring the Penguins down south. Funk is quoted in the Oklahoman newspaper with kind regards for the NHL; "We've always had an interest in the NHL or anything that contributes to Oklahoma City or the Oklahoma environment," Funk told The Oklahoman. "I think the NHL has a good future."

However with a very real preference already in place; "Certainly we need to consider the NBA first and foremost," Funk told the newspaper.

And so it is for the NHL, even the cities that are on the list are willing to take a look at the NHL if only by default. For Gary and the gang at the NHL, a line from the musical from the state with wide open spaces and wide open opportunities. And when we say Yeeow! Ayipioeeay! We're only sayin' You're doin' fine, Oklahoma! Oklahoma O.K.

Sean Fitzgerald of the National Post had an interesting examination of the courting of the Pens by the land where there’s : Plen'y of air and plen'y of room, Plen'y of room to swing a rope! Plen'y of heart and plen'y of hope.

I dunno, somehow you have to think that Jim Ballsillie's 175 million dollars and a Kitchener-Waterloo home would make more sense, wouldn't you?

Penguins try to stay focused as vultures circle overhead
'It doesn't affect us': Oklahoma City joins mob of suitors vying for franchise:

Sean Fitz-gerald
National Post
Monday, January 08, 2007

A minor-league owner in Oklahoma City has joined the queue of prospective new hosts for the Pittsburgh Penguins, expressing faith the National Hockey League could succeed in his market -- unless it got something better first, like an NBA team.

Bob Funk owns the Central Hockey League's Oklahoma City Blazers, and he reportedly approached local leaders last week to extend an official invitation to Penguins management.
Pittsburgh owner Mario Lemieux visited Kansas City last week, where he was offered free rent and a management stake in a new arena if he agreed to relocate the Penguins.

Oklahoma City has been acting as a foster home for the New Orleans Hornets, who were displaced by Hurricane Katrina and are scheduled to return home next season.

"We've always had an interest in the NHL or anything that contributes to Oklahoma City or the Oklahoma environment," Funk told The Oklahoman. "I think the NHL has a good future."
That future could play out inside the Ford Center, a five-year old arena with a capacity of more than 18,000 seats for hockey. It holds almost 20,000 for basketball, though, and would likely embrace the Hornets -- or the locally- held Seattle Super Sonics -- with more warmth.
"Certainly we need to consider the NBA first and foremost," Funk told the newspaper.

Even if the NBA squeezed the NHL dreams from Oklahoma City, Mario Lemieux's scouting expedition to Kansas City, where his Pittsburgh Penguins were offered free rent to relocate, brought backmemories of the woeful Kansas City Scouts, who went 27- 110-13 in two seasons from1974-76 with a roster that included former Penguins generalmanager Craig Patrick, former Penguins enforcer Steve Durbano and some guy named Lemieux (Richard, not Mario).

A look at the club's all-time leading scorers:
Player GPG Guy Charron 129 40 Simon Nolet 113 36 Wilf Paiement 135 47 Dave Hudson 144 20 Robin Burns Randy Rota Gary Croteau 151 Ed Gilbert 121Funk suggested the Penguins could always try Tulsa, a city with a population of around 400,000. The Tulsa Oilers' CHL rivals include such storied franchises as the Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs, Youngstown Steel Hounds and Memphis River Kings.

The Penguins, whose lease with the antiquated Mellon Arena expires this spring, have variously been linked to Las Vegas, Winnipeg, Hamilton and Hartford, Conn. But Lemieux and investor Ronald Burkle also met Pennsylvania government officials last week in a bid to avoid relocation.
Amidst all the rumours, the Penguins beat both of last spring's Eastern Conference finalists, shutting out Carolina 3-0 on Tuesday before beating Buffalo 4- 2 on Friday.

"We're curious at what's going on, but it doesn't affect us at all," Pittsburgh coach Michel Therrien told The Associated Press. "We are focusing on what we have to do, but we read stuff in the papers like everyone else does. But the focus isn't on that. We've got confidence and a lot of faith in the people who manage our team, and they all have our support."

One reason behind the franchise's appeal is its potential on the ice. Sidney Crosby led the league in scoring yesterday, and could soon be named captain of a young group on the rise, if not also on the move.

"I think everybody thinks this is a great place to pl a y," Penguins defenceman Ryan Whitney told the AP. "The crowd is unbelievable. If we get a new building, I know myself and other people want to be here a long time. It's a great place to play, a great city, a great sports town. We all hope we end up staying here."

Minnesota Wild winger Marian Gaborik returned to active duty over the weekend after missing 34 games with a groin injury -- but he did not return to the team's top line.

Coach Jacques Lemaire opted to keep the trio Mark Parrish, Mikko Koivu and Pavol Demitra together despite Gaborik's return. The 24-year-old signed a threeyear contract worth US$19-million last year after leading the team with 38 goals.

"If they go well," Lemaire told The Pioneer Press, "they'll stay together."

Minnesota started the year with six straight wins, but faltered when Gaborik's groin pulled him from the lineup. Gaborik sought a variety of treatments that took him to Los Angeles and Vancouver.

He was held scoreless in his return on Saturday, playing 12 minutes, 58 seconds in a 2-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche.

Tampa Bay Lightning forward Brad Richards could spend a week at home in Prince Edward Island this fall -- as a tour guide for all of his teammates. Charlottetown has placed a bid to host the NHL club for one week of training camp in September, a move tied to Richards, a famous native of Murray Harbour, P.E.I. "It'd be huge," he told the St. Petersburg Times. "Anything in P.E.I. of that magnitude is always big. Since we won the Cup, they've been following the Lightning a lot." ? Being mired in the middle of the Eastern Conference standings has forced the defending Stanley Cup champions to evaluate their roster. "We are going to continue to look at possibly adding a defenceman," Carolina Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford told The (Raleigh) News&Observer. "There are a few defencemen out there that we have liked for a couple of years we feel can fit into our team, but as we speak we haven't done anything." ... Nashville Predators goaltender Tomas Vokoun is expected to make his first start since Nov. 23 tomorrow night against Anaheim. The 30-year-old returned from the disable list on Saturday and watched as understudy Chris Mason continued his strong play in a 3-2 win over St. Louis. Vokoun was sidelined when he broke a bone and tore ligaments in his left hand.

By the numbers: It seems the road to the top of the Northwest Division goes through Alberta. Vancouver has gone 5-0 against Calgary and Edmonton since Boxing Day to move into first place?The Ottawa Senators, meanwhile, might like to stay on the road between Toronto and Buffalo. The Senators are a combined 8-2 against the Leafs and Sabres, and 14-17-2 against the rest of the league.

© National Post 2007

No comments: