Monday, February 28, 2005


Weekend Roundup: A Family Affair

It was a bit of a wild weekend in the Czech Extraleague as the season is almost complete.

In this Vsetin-Karlovy Vary derby, 39 year-old Russian defenseman Alexej Jaskin played the final home game of his career for Vsetin. Since Vsetin is far out of the playoffs, they decided to give him a unique parting gift: The opportunity to play on the ice at the same time as his son.

Enter Michail Jaskin, the 13 year(and 3 month)-old son of Alexej. Michail dressed as a forward and played the first shift of the game together with his father. Needless to say, Michail is, by far, the youngest player to ever dress for an Extraleague match.

As you would expect when dressing a 13 year-old, disaster ensued! Jan Kostal of Karlovy Vary took quick advantage of the mismatch and scored on the first shot of the game! Now Michail is -1 for his Extraleague least Michail and Alexej will always remember that shift ;)

I just wonder how low they can go? Will another Extraleague club try to outdo Vsetin and dress a 12 year-old?

In addition to the 2 Jaskins, Vsetin also dressed 2 Horak's and 3 Hruska's. Try keeping track of that scorecard!


Elsewhere in Czechia, Litvinov captured the 8th and final playoff spot with a 2-0 over Hame Zlin. Plzen lost 6-3 to Liberec and has been eliminated since Litvinov has the tiebreaker advantage.

The match between Znojmo and Pardubice had to be postponed due to both rosters being ravaged by the flu. This match will be made up later this week.

And Richard Kral (my hockey idol from Trinec) has declared that he will not be back with the team next year. Needless to say, I'm more devastated than the day I found out that Terminator 2 would not win the Best Picture OSCAR.


ZLATA HELMA! - The second-to-last set of videoclips is now online for your viewing and voting. Please go over to the Zlata Helma site and stuff the ballot box for entry #6. Thank you.

(Right-Click and 'Save As')

1. Tomas Vlasak turns Litvinov's Kamil Jarina inside out with more moves than a Michael Jackson video.
2. Kamil Jarina looks a lot better in this clip as he does a pretzel twist to make the save.
3. Martin Hamrlik (bro of Roman) sets up Jaroslav Balastik with a loooooooong pass.
4. Martin Chabada rips a slapshot (from about 5 feet away) past a poor Vsetin goalie (Stefan Zigardy?) who probably crapped his pants.
5. Milan Kraft has had a poor year, but he does get on the highlight reel for starting up this 3-way combination play.
6. Former Vancouver Giant Robin Kovar makes a skillful mid-air deflection in one of his three goals versus Pardubice.

...and the stats from the last round of games...

Saturday, February 26, 2005


EuroUpdate: Czech Extraleague Playoffs Approaching

The Czechs and Slovaks are some crazy peeps, yo! The start playing exhibition games in August and then start their playoffs in early March. Unlike the NHL, they really like to get things over with quickly :).

This all coincides with the fact that European hockey fans eagerly await the World Championships and wait to have the best players available in the May tourney.

I think Europe, despite the EARLY start, really does it the *right* way. While the NHL continues to drag its' season longer and longer into the summer, the Europeans get their champions crowned in April. The WCs happen in May and then everyone has the nice late spring/early summer weather to enjoy playing tennis, golf, whatever under the sun.

IMO, it's very hard to watch hockey or get in a hockey mood when its hot and sunny outside. That's why my stay in Phoenix during late Feb/early March of last year felt so strange.

With just 2 games to go (3 for Vitkovice and Liberec, both of whom play today), let's check the standings table:

The Top 7 spots are all pretty much guaranteed with just a little bit of movement expected in the 3-4 spots. It's quite a testament to the talent of Pardubice that they overcame an early stay in the basement to rise up all the way to a tie for 3rd.

As you can guess, the real excitement is the battle for the eighth and final playoff spot between Litvinov and Plzen.

Now, I am not a big fan of either team, but I am torn somewhat. Litvinov has one of my absolute favourite players (Jiri Slegr), while my pal David is from Plzen and I have a soft spot for that team (and its great fans). I just wish that somehow Vitkovice could finish their last three games with 0 points and that Plzen and Litvinov could both squeak in.

Litvinov finishes off the schedule with road games against Zlin and Vitkovice while Plzen has a road game against Liberec and a home encounter against the deflated Znojmo Eagles. Give the nod to Plzen for the schedule.

Looking at the bottom of the table, we get the Hockey Rodent's favourite team, Dukla Jihlava (You can imagine why its not a good idea to pick a hockey team based on the fact that their logo looks like a beer bottle label). If Dukla doesn't manage to get another point, they'll finish with a miniscule 20 points and tie the 2002-03 Havirov Panthers as the most futile team in Extraleague history.
To give credit to Dukla, their 5 wins currently beats the 4 wins the Panthers racked up 2 years ago.

(You are the weakest link, goodbye!)

My favourite team, Trinec, is safely in the 13th place spot which guarantees another year in the Extraleague. That's all I'm going to say about that...

Vsetin was expected to finish right around the 12th place spot they occupy now. Although they had some NHL help with Rostislav Klesla, Roman Cechmanek (a part-owner), Branko Radivojevic, and Radovan Somik, the Vsetin club has a very young defense and not much depth overall.

11th place Znojmo is a favourite among many Slovaks for its proximity to the Slovak border and the great Slovak duo of Peter Pucher and Marek Uram. It's too bad that their legendary weak defense was even weaker this year when their 2 best dmen (Snopek and Havir) bolted to Pardubice in the off-season.

10 place Karlovy Vary (Karlsbad) is the one team that I wish would get relegated one of these days. Since their promotion in 1998, KV has *NEVER* made the playoffs and never finished higher than 10th place. Their uniforms are consistantly awful and they rarely develop a star prospect or any good players of any note (Lukas Mensator is one exception...while Vojtech Polak is turning into a total bust). Thus, their cycle of futility is going to continue for the distant future.
Like a cockroach, KV manages to avoid relegation and stick around like an unwanted pest.

I'll delve into the playoff-bound teams a bit later when things get settled in the table. With all of the NHLers, this ought to be the BEST. PLAYOFFS. EVER!
(Except to those of us who can only follow over the Internet)


Other stuff for ya:

1. Jaromir Jagr was named European Player of the Month by - Check out this great profile of the Czech Coach Killer.

Jagr says he is unused to spending so much time in the gym and that he is being made to skip, something he hadn't done since elementary school. Jagr has made it no secret he prefers an environment in which he is not restricted to too much orders and holds his own freedom to do what he wants on the ice.
The more things change, the more they stay the same...

2. The lockout and presence of NHL players has helped Slovan Bratislava break their attendance record with 137,704 fans pouring through the doors this season. Just another figure to put to rest that stupid rumour/fiction that the NHL lockout was 'hurting' the Slovak League and that the fans were angry at the NHL players.

3. Martin Rucinsky (Litvinov) is now done for the season. He has flown to Philadelphia to have an operation (I'm not sure what for, since the news release doesn't specify).

4. ...and now the boxscore stats from yesterday's games...

Friday, February 25, 2005


Anaheim Mighty Ducks in a Row

The (evil and twisted) Disney Corporation has finally found an owner/sucker to take the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim off of their hands: Billionaires Mr. and Mrs. Henry and Susan Samueli:

If anyone is to buy an NHL team in the midst of bad leadership and failed CBA negotiations, then these two very optimistic folks would be your best choice.

Henry Samueli:

"We're buying the team with a long-term plan in mind. We're assuming this (the labour dispute) will get settled shortly. We're assuming things will get cleaned up and we'll have a long and healthy future with the team."

"It's never good for the fan base when you have a lockout, but the Mighty Ducks have done really well over the years," he said. "We will make sure we do everything in our power to make it a winning team and a profitable team."

"I think we can restore confidence in the sport not only here, but across the country."
Samueli likely presumes that the NHL will get the union busting/cost certainty in order to make the Ducks a team that can actually turn a profit on a day-to-day basis.

Mr. Samueli has 18 filed patents and seems to be a master engineer. He will have to engineer a way to turn a soft market into a strong market.

Last season, Anaheim ranked 23rd in average attendance and will not support the team all that well unless they are winning. The tacky name and movie connection worked well for a few years, but the novelty wore off and perhaps it's time to ditch the 'Mighty' tag and awful uniforms. Perhaps it's time for the Ducks to grow up and market themselves as a 'serious' team.
Of course, the fans will flock to see a team called The Fluffy Pillows of Orange County if they are an exciting team and serious Stanley Cup contender.

At the very least, the NHL did not have to step in to protect the value of the franchise. That would have been just another embarassing log to throw on the NHLs fire of failure.

Thursday, February 24, 2005


NHL Arenas: Get Out of Town!

One of my pals from Czechia, David (ada), posed an interesting question to me tonight:

"Which NHL teams have arenas that are 'out of town'?"

While the Vancouver Canucks and Toronto Maple Leafs both play in arenas that are in the core of their respective downtowns and near transit hubs, other NHL clubs require you to take a long trip to go watch some hockey.

I know of some of them, but I am probably missing some. Unless you are a real hockey trivia buff, or you've been to these places, it would be hard to know exactly where they are.

Here are the ones we know about. If you have any to add, please feel free to comment.

Ottawa Senators - Kanata, Ontario - There were big dreams of building this place into a new 'Silicon Valley' until the crashed brought people back into reality. I don't know what Kanata is like these days, but I know that the location isn't very central.

Phoenix Coyotes - Glendale, Arizona. This is one place I've been to, and it takes about 30 minutes to drive out there (and I was staying in the far western part of Phoenix). Since many Coyotes fans come from the more affluent eastern part of Phoenix or Scottsdale, it would take them up to an hour to drive there in some instances.

Like Kanata, the arena was built in a rather empty place in hopes that the upcoming development would drive the value of the team/land/etc up and up. Well, the development in that part of Glendale is very slow. The only thing surrounding the America West Arena is a big parking lot, sand, and plenty of prickly cactus plants.

New Jersey Devils - East Rutherford, NJ. The Devils play in the middle of a swamp and it's no wonder why they were so anxious to get a new arena.

Florida Panthers - The Panthers play in Sunrise, which is a long way from Miami and quite a distance from Fort Lauderdale, the two major centres in the region.

Dallas Stars - Duncanville, TX - I am not sure just how long it would take to get there from Dallas, but it appears to be quite a distance away according to this map.

So, I have 4 for sure and 1 other possiblity. I'd love to hear of any others that are not near the city center or in the city the team is named for. (Duncanville Stars would sound rather wimpy)


CBC Cuts Cuthbert

I know the blogosphere (for lack of a better term) is chalk full of negativity and angst. It’s kind of hard to be when most of the news that gets reported these days is bad news.

Take the case of Chris Cuthbert, the best play-by-play man on the CBC (Hockey Night in Canada) and #2 man to Bob Cole. Cuthbert has been let go by the CBC in a move that is both puzzling and somehow logical. Many broadcasters and journalists have suffered cuts due to the lockout, and CBC had lost their biggest bread winner for the time being.

Steve Simmons delved more into the situation and echoes my thoughts on the baffling termination of Cuthbert:

What he (Cuthbert) never saw coming until he answered his front door Tuesday afternoon was a courier handing him an envelope informing him that his 21 years at the CBC had come to an end.

There was no phone call, no handshake, no thanks for the memories.

A cold and classless ending for one of the warm and truly admirable people in the Canadian broadcasting industry.
21 years and you get your pink slip by courier?

The two best reasons why Cuthbert is no longer at CBC Sports are 1) pettiness; and 2) budget cuts. Nancy Lee, the head of CBC Sports, apparently was not a fan. She let him know, more than once, that she didn't share the opinion of Cuthbert that most of the industry had.

And from the inside and not so quietly, Cuthbert was critical of some CBC Sports decisions. He believes they have all but ignored the National Hockey League lockout. He believes that the cancellation of their Hockey Day broadcast was a mistake. What he doesn't know now is whether he was a victim of trying to make CBC Sports better or simply of a salary cut for a department which needs to alter its economics.
I could understand the financial reasons for letting Cuthbert go, but they could have easily assigned him elsewhere! CBC Sports covers a bevy of different events (curling, skiing, etc) and Cuthbert would have made an excellent broadcaster for any of them.

Back in my ‘Masters of the Pic’ post, I declared Chris Cuthbert as the 2nd best play-by-play man in the industry. I’m not the only one who thinks highly of Cuthbert (See James Mirtle and Tom Benjamin)...

And since the news leaked out Tuesday afternoon, Cuthbert has spent almost all of his time on the telephone. Peter Mansbridge called and left a message. That meant something. The evil Bob Goodenow called to show he isn't always the evil Bob Goodenow.
The dream scenario, when the NHL returns, would be for TSN (The Sports Network) to get rid of Dave Randork’s not-yet-over-puberty voice and send Gord Miller back to hosting That’s Hockey. Cuthbert could take over the play-by-play duties for TSN and improve the quality of their broadcasts by well over 300%.

In the end, it's a rather poor decision handled in a rather poor way by the dunderhead chief of CBC Sports.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005


EuroUpdate: Cole Mining

Professed 'Caniac' stormshaman translated an interview that Hurricanes forward Erik Cole gave to German newspaper 'Morgenpost' in late January.
(You can find the full article translation at this linkage)

Erik Cole isn't known to be the brightest light in the chandelier, but it's interesting to read his comments, nonetheless.

Morgenpost: Why is it so hard to find a solution?

EC: Since the last lockout, the players have had it pretty good. If somebody had done something three or four years ago, the NHLPA would have gone to the owners and agreed to financial restraints. But now we're at a point where the Commissioner has made promises to new ownership groups that he intends to keep. But I don't think that a salary cap [should be] the first solution. A luxury tax system would definitely be the best. If that doesn't work, then a salary cap [should be tried] next.

There should be six teams that bring in the majority of the League's losses. They account for 75 percent of the losses. In addition, the numbers that the NHL has publicized [are probably] way too high. [(note: I am probably translating this incorrectly, because the way it comes out isn't making that much sense to me.)]

The League could have inflated a few numbers a little, but [I don't think] that applies to every team. There are a few that are struggling in their markets and have lost money. And there are teams that throw around their money irresponsibly. But is there a system that can help [everyone]? I don't know. The New York Rangers shell out so much money--80 million dollars. And then they [turn around and] say, that they have the biggest losses.

Morgenpost: Does that influence the NHLPA in the negotiations?

EC: Absolutely. If six teams are responsible for the majority of the losses [NOTE: I think that "losses" in this case refers to payroll, but please do not quote me on this], then perhaps it would be best to punish these teams for it. Then maybe they will change their ways. Despite that, the League wants a general solution. If Bettman talks about cost certainty for all, then that means that with a salary cap he's guaranteeing a minimum profit for the owners. But that should that be? Most [of the owners] didn't get rich because they own a hockey team. They got their money elsewhere. For many owners the NHL's a "second-hand" [i.e. hobby -- ed.] business.

Morgenpost: But from the point of view of the fans, one can also ask what makes it so hard for millionaires to [show some moderation].

EC: When somebody comes to a point where they can't better their situation, then that person won't work quite as hard as he can anymore. A salary cap can have an impact on quality. The NHL currently has the worst TV contract of any professional league in North America. It'll be hard to improve it if [we] don't play. That's another tool for the League to show the public how bad the situation is. Not just that we're losing a lot of money. Now we won't get a good TV deal anymore. But why did Bettman agree to that contract if it's so bad? I believe there could have been a better contract, but the League just didn't work hard enough [for one].

Morgenpost: What bothers you the most about the whole situation?

EC: That the League says that they need to negotiate, and the players have no interest in negotiating. But with December's proposal of a 24 percent salary rollback we've made an honest attempt to salvage the season. People realized then, that the other side won't deal, and that the League is trying to make it look like the players have no thought of the sport or the fans. If this was a strike, then people can blame us. But we're locked out, and the European leagues are profiting from it. The product here is getting better [because of the NHLers playing here]. Should there be no season this year in the NHL, the next one could be gone too. Then even more NHLers will come to Europe. And they will quickly forget how it is in North America, because things here are pretty nice. The Lockout could well lead to everyone wanting to go to Russia soon, because they pay a lot of money [there].


So, let me get this straight, Erik

1. If you have a salary cap, you won't work as hard? You won't compete as hard? That's one of the mose asinine things I have heard in quite some time. Do you not compete to win EVERY SINGLE GAME? If not, I would not want you on my team.
2. Maybe Bettman could NOT get a better TV deal because nobody would ever give the NHL a better TV deal. When the NHL broadcasts on ESPN or ESPN2 are being outdrawn by Poker and Lawn Darts, that really tells you something.
3. Russia may pay a lot of money to a FEW stars, but that gravy train won't last in the long term. Do you think the Russian Oil Barons are going to keep spending millions on their teams when they charge about 25 cents a ticket? (Ok, I'm exaggerating, but not by much).
4. I agree that the European leagues are profiting from the presence of the NHLers, but you forget that many NHLers are playing in Europe for deep hometown discounts.

Erik Cole should also realize that European teams wouldn't exact be beating down the door to sign a player of his type of calibre. Cole could also use a few basic economics lessons.


In other news...

1. Martin St. Louis has left Swiss team Lausanne to return home to Tampa Bay. His wife is 7 months pregnant and he wants to be there when the bun pops out. He *might* return to Lausanne during the playoffs.
2. Kristian Huselius and Henrik Tallinder, 2 of 3 Swedish players involved in that recent alleged-rape scandal, have signed with Swiss teams (Rappeswil-Jona and SC Bern, respectively). It's typical for (alleged) criminals to duck to a neutral country like Switzerland, isn't it?
3. The Czech Extraleague had a day off yesterday, but the Slovak Extraleague played a full slate of games. Here are the stats...

Tuesday, February 22, 2005


Nashville: No Longer Gay

Apparently the Preds have a really good sponsor and a nice arena, but the name is a bit unfortunate.

Gaylord Entertainment Center?

Anyway, it seems that Gaylord is losing interest in the franchise and is jumping off of the S.S. NHL.

The Predators will redeem all of the outstanding limited partnership units in the Predators owned by Gaylord as partial payment for Gaylord’s Naming Rights Agreement, effectively ending Gaylord’s ownership in the Predators; and the Naming Rights Agreement with the Predators for the arena will be terminated; and

Gaylord also will make a one-time cash payment to the Predators of $4 million and has agreed to issue a five-year, $5 million promissory note with interest at 6 percent per annum to the Predators. The note will be payable at $1 million per year for five years, with the first payment due on the first anniversary of the resumption of hockey in Nashville.

The Preds had pretty poor attendance last season (approx 13,177 a game), so is Gaylord jumping from the S.S. NHL because it's a sinking ship?
The Gaylord Entertainment name will remain on the arena, though the Predators will begin the process of securing a new naming rights partner; but Gaylord will have no further contractual obligations with respect to the naming rights. Under terms of the agreement, Gaylord will continue to support the team through the retention of its suite at the arena, its purchase of tickets, and advertising at Predators home games.

Well, the fans will have to put up with the jokes about their arena for a little while longer. I wonder if there was any particular motive for this company to sell it's share of the Predators at this time. Given the connotations of the name 'Gaylord', I'm surprised that a particular company would keep that name and then stick it on an arena.


NHL Snobbery: Live from the Ivory Tower

With the death of the 2004/05 NHL season, many fans and pundits (including myself) have been crying about the dearth and death of hockey in our lives. With the NHL off of our TVs and out of our town’s arenas, many addicts are no longer getting their hockey fix.

So, what about the alternatives? How about the AHL, ECHL, UHL, Junior Hockey, and so forth?

I know that the NHL is only one of many leagues and avenues in which to participate in getting your hockey fix. Hockey is simply not just the NHL!

For many “NHL” fans, however, there is simply no alternative to watching the best of the best.

Imagine yourself growing up on a gourmet diet of chicken cordon bleu, foie gras, caviar, Kobe beef, and lobster. You aren’t going to be hankering for beans and wieners, are you?

So, why do so many “NHL Snobs” now not show much of an interest in the lower levels of hockey?

1. Pace of Game/Skill Level – On television, it is highly noticeable that the pace and tempo of the AHL game is much (s)lower than that of the NHL. Even with the NHL’s best efforts to kill offence, the game is just much more frantic and the players are noticeably faster and more skilled. It’s hard for an "NHL Snob" to watch an AHL game when the level of play is rather ‘boring’ to them. (If this was the free flowing AHL of the mid-early 90s, it might be a different story)

2. Familiarity – Even most non-hockey-geeks, such as myself, know quite a few NHL players from the familiarity and repetition of being subjected to hearing their name so many times. You read stories, watch them play, and get to know these players somewhat – even if just by last name basis. When I watch or listen to an NHL game, I can usually tell you what kind of player that Player X is, what team he plays for, where he came from, etc...

When I watch an AHL game, there are many players whom I have never heard of or don’t really know much about. When I watch a CHL (junior) game, I don’t know about 95% of the players.
It’s very hard to get involved in a game or in a league in which you have little or no familiarity or rooting interest in the players or team(s).

3. “It’s beneath me” – I don’t personally feel this way, but I am sure there are a few fans out there (From major markets) that feel that the AHL and other minor leagues are just not worth their time because they aren’t “the best”. There are people in the world who look at minor leagues with some sort of contempt. We say PLAYER X sucks because he can’t make the NHL (Say, Rocky Thompson), failing to realize that the failed-NHLers are still 10X better than anyone who plays in your local beer league.

Hockey is Better Live – This is true, in my opinion.
I absolutely love going to Vancouver Giants games at the Pacific Coliseum, and I enjoyed myself thoroughly at the one AHL game I attended in Hamilton. I generally always enjoy myself when I attend a live hockey game at any level. TV doesn’t usually do hockey justice, as the old cliché goes.

So, I will admit that I am somewhat of an “NHL Snob” when it comes to hockey on TV. I cannot really watch non-NHL games on TV all too often because I just find the tempo slow and I can’t really identify with the players or teams. I have grown up on NHL hockey on TV and I am much too used to watching the best players (not in Europe) compete night after night at the highest level.

I just wonder if I’d feel the same way if North American hockey weren’t so polluted with obstruction and offence-killing strategies...

Monday, February 21, 2005


Truth in Reporting: Who do you Trust?

"Trust - who do ya?
Trust - what makes U a real lover?
Trust - I put this question to ya
Cuz I want U 2 be with me"

"Trust" – Prince

One of the most important ‘inventory’ items a media member/company can have is ‘trust’. We, the consumers of information, have to place a certain level of trust in the media to report the facts as they really happen, and report information that really happened. Unless you are reading an Al Strachan’s latest birdcage liner, you expect that the information you get some a media source is accurate and truthful.

We don’t have the resources to call up Dave Nonis and ask him "Hey, did you really trade Marek Malik for Pavol Demitra?". We can’t spend hours phoning various sources to get the real lowdown on daily events. We expect the media to do that for us, and to not present false information. Fact-Checking is one of the dirtiest and grimiest jobs you’d have in the media, but it’s also one of the most important.

"Check, re-check, and check again!"

This past weekend’s events really show what can happen when consumers put trust in the major media, and that trust is taken advantage of with sloppy reporting.

Both ESPN and The Hockey News, two of the largest media sources for NHL news, both reported that a new CBA agreement was imminent, and the season would be ‘uncancelled’. (See Offwing link for more details).

As I took a sabbatical from hockey this weekend (for the most part), none of this hoopla really affected me. I only saw the aftermath, and the shattered dreams of desperate hockey fans that won’t get their NHL fix this season.

Remember the boy who cried wolf? In Canada, we have SPORTSNET, one of three major sports networks. SPORTSNET is notorious for some trade-deadline-day misreporting, including a major bombshell about Sergei Federov being dealt (When he was with the Wings) in a blockbuster trade. SPORTSNET had reported the deal as DONE on their website.

The problem? The trade never actually took place! Just a couple hours later, the story vanished from the website. If you had missed the initial posting, you would have never known that such a fabrication existed.

This wasn’t the first time that SPORTSNET reported a trade rumour as fact, and it seriously damaged their credibility in my eyes. Now, on Deadline Day, I simply watch TSN (or go to for any breaking news on trades. I don’t really trust SPORTSNET much when it comes to reporting trades, at least not on Deadline Day. I know I’m not the only Canadian hockey fan who feels this way.

Once you lose the trust of your readers, you lose their respect and then their readership. In their rush to produce a breaking story before the other sources, THN and ESPN erred in reporting information that wasn’t true or wasn’t cross-checked with multiple sources.


As for myself and this weblog, I know I have made a few minor errors in my reports and analysis. They will usually be stupid errors that would be picked up if I spent more time editing my work. Since I am under time constraints, do not have an editor, and often spout my opinion in a waterfall of thoughts, I will be prone to making the occasional minor oversight.

When I write an article for any outlet (HF, Czech World Cup Site), I will take the time to do meticulous research and make sure the facts and stats I am reporting are 100% accurate. Fortunately, these articles can be edited to eliminate most ‘stupid’ mistakes.

When I do a study or analysis on this blog, or report information of any sort, I will back it up with a credible source and do my best to ensure that what I am reporting is true. I usually use major media sources for my information, because I can generally trust them to be reporting the true facts.

If I ever use a non major-media source to give out some information, it is because I have developed trust in whatever news they are giving to me. That said, nothing I report as ‘news’ on this weblog is really ever going to shatter the earth into single-size portions. If I ever did have access to ‘inside’ information that was really BIG, I wouldn’t report it unless I could cross-check the information with another credible witness. The major media outlets should certainly know better as they do this stuff every day and have the resources to ensure that their information is stated correctly.

Who do ya trust? Right now, I wouldn’t trust ESPN for anything related to hockey (Not like they had a lot of credibility going for them anyway), and I’d be wary of THN for the moment.


EuroUpdate: Hot Video Action

Since we truly won't be getting any NHL hockey on TV this season, these Zlata Helma (Golden Helmet) clips really provide some of the best highlights we're going to see all year.

I really wish the NHL would do something similar to this.
If you don't know by now, the Golden Helmet is a contest held in the Czech Extraleague.

Fans vote for 1 of 6 best 'actions' from the previous week of games. Every week, fans vote on the best action from six categories: STICKHANDLING, SAVE, PASS, SHOT, COMBINATION, and FREE (Anything goes in here)

The winner of the voting wears a real Golden Helmet while they play, showing that they are, in fact, THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN HELMET!

The NHL could hold this contest monthly. Place the top 6 plays on the NHL website and on the NHL Cool Shots show. Fans could phone in or vote online for their pick. The winning NHL player would then wear the Golden Helmet on the ice for the next month.

Forget the cliche BS about "Oh, he'll just be a target! Everyone will want to cheap shot him". It's time that we stopped listening to the 'traditionalists' all the time and started injecting some new ideas into the game.

This week's Top 6 is pretty damn good!

1. Martin Havlat takes the pick in and goes backhand-forehand-backhand ROOF for the goal. Niiiiiiice!
2. Milan Hnilicka commits some grand glove larceny as he robs Kladno's Horna on the rebound.
3. Vitkovice's Juraj Stefanka sets up Predator's prospect Zbynek Irgl with a very cheeky and lightning-quick pass from behind the net. The goalie never had a chance.
4. David Pospisil goes ROOF with a great shot of his own. Check out the celebration afterwards!
5. Ivo Prorok is the firestarter on this 3-way combination play.
6. Ales Hemsky finishes off with some master stickhandling work. This is Hemsky's 4th nomination this season for a Golden Helmet award. I'm somewhat jealous that Oilers fans have such a slick player on their hands.

...and here are the usual boxscore stats from yesterday's games...

Sunday, February 20, 2005


Get Fuzzy: Lockout Edition

Yes, even comic strip characters are feeling the pinch of the NHL lockout...

Saturday, February 19, 2005


Freaky Friday in the NHL plus a Special Edition EuroUpdate

For once, I decided to take a nice one-day break from all things hockey. I really didn't read any hockey news and didn't surf around too many websites and blogs.

Given the strange events of yesterday and the end result (nothing has changed), perhaps that was a good decision (or, like Samuel Adams Beer is was "Always a Bad Decision!"). Of course, now I'm out of the loop like a drunk NASCAR driver.

Yeah, so the sides were apparently talking, Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux got involved, and all signed pointed the season being un-cancelled. Net result? Nothing, yet...but they'll be meeting again today

Let's see what TSN Insider Bob McKenzie has to say to summarize the events of yesterday.

"It may have been the most bizarre day in NHL history."
Whoa, Bob, calm down and cut back on the caffeine!

"First came news that the NHL and NHLPA would meet in New York City on Saturday morning, the first formal communication since the two sides exchanged terse letters on Tuesday night. Ostensibly, the meeting is taking place because of a groundswell of activity from some owners, some general managers, some player agents and some players who believe this season can be 'un-canceled' as quickly as it was canceled on Wednesday."
Gőlbez, in his best villain voice, "Desperate fools! Why do you struggle? There is no hope for you now!"

Not long after that news broke, the Hockey News website posted a stunning story, quoting an unnamed player as saying the NHL and NHLPA had reached an agreement in principle, suggesting Saturday's meeting would see the cancellation reversed.

That basically turned the hockey world upside-down.

As the NHLPA put out a release described the story as "totally false", many in the hockey world from players, to agents, to team personnel, were talking it up as if the deal was virtually done. But as the night wore on, the reality started to dawn on people - the deal isn't done.
Hmm, sounds like The Hockey News is getting its 'news' from Pelle Eklund. They should know better than to trust a Swede.

All this optimism was clearly misplaced on Friday. That isn't to say the NHL and NHLPA can't pull a rabbit out of the hat, but it's not nearly the slam dunk so many people are suggesting now that the two sides are going back to the table.

All we know for sure is the two sides are meeting, the dynamic has changed somewhat with the addition of people like Gretzky, Lemieux and Gartner, but remember one thing - until further notice, the season is still very much canceled.
In other words, much ago about nothing...

OK, I'm not really on the fence any longer. I do not WANT them to succeed in time for a stumpy 28-game, 20-game, or 10-game season. Yes, I would still watch the games, but I really don't want the NHL tarnished in such a manner.

To quote KC and his Sunshine Band:
"Na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na
Baby give it up
Give it up
Baby give it up"

Work out the CBA, take all summer if that is what it takes. Fix the problems on the ice, call the damn obstruction penalties, and then find some leadership within the NHL that can understand both the off-ice aspects of the game and one who can make sure the on-ice product is improved.

My dream utopia involves a good CBA and an 82-game season, complete with slight rule changes and a true committment to curing the obstruction plague.


EuroUpdate: A look at the Slovak season to date.

What about the Europeans? Would (m)any of them tell the NHL and their teams to flip off? Could they?

I'm saying this because all of the Euroleagues are nearing the start of their PLAYOFF seasons. If I am a fringe or 3rd line European player, like Jaroslav Svoboda or Josef Melichar, I might just tell the NHL to 'Wait until next year'. I wonder if the fans would throw a mini-revolt if their NHL stars (except the Jaromir Jagr's, because they are rich mercenaries and are expected to bolt) left their clubs so close to the playoffs.

Over in Slovakia, there are just 5 games to go before the playoffs start. Here's a good run through of the Slovak teams thus far.
Checking out the standings...

As it stands right now, the top 4 contenders are pretty much the clubs with a strong NHL and national team player presence.

1. Evil $lovan Bratislava has really done their damage without a lot of NHL help. Lubomir Visnovsky has been with the team only about 3/5 of the season due to a knee injury, and Miroslav Satan only arrived in January. Slovan has just done their damage the usual way: Buying the best players from other Slovak teams. It is very surprising to see $lovan has the best defensive record, and have been getting exceptional goaltending from former national team (and national joke) Pavol Rybár.
2. If you an offensive-minded Slovak forward, then Zvolen is the place for you. The NHL line of Zednik-Handzus-Orszagh is actually more of the defensive conscience up front compared to the wily old offense-only veterans they have up front.
3. Dukla Trencin fell hard when Marián Gáborík and Marián Hossa went to Sweden for a vacation. Their head coach got fired, Demitra lost his hair (Oh, wait...), and they slipped down the standings. Now that Hossa and Gabo are back, Trencin's mechanical Power Play is once against wreaking havoc on the rest of the country. Last season, Trencin won the championship with great defense and team play. This season, it's all about the goals and the glory.
4. Kosice started off well when they had the services of Ladislav Nagy and Martin Strbak. They lost those two stars, but did gain the services of Martin Cibak and still have Jiri Bicek in the fold. Kosice is a solid team with many good Slovak-league vets. Their goaltending, however, is a big question mark.
5. Nitra hasn't had an NHL dress up for them this season, but have managed to surprisingly grab 5th place from the teams under them. Lubomir Kolnik, older brother of Florida's Juraj Kolnik, is the offensive leader for Nitra. Since they don't have the firepower to compete with the Top 4, they rely on an airtight defensive system (much like the Minnesota Wild). Nitra is a tough team to play against and will give fits to one of the Top 4 clubs in the playoffs (Kosice, at this point)
6. Zilina was expected to be higher than 6th, especially as they had the services of NHLer Ronald Petrovicky and a very underrated defensive crew. Petrovicky played himself out of a job, and now Zilina is going to be in tough against the loaded Top 4 clubs.
7. Dukla Trencin is known as a factory for producing NHLers, and Poprad could be called the factory for other Slovak Extraleague teams. Poprad is one of my 'pet' favourites, but have constantly lost talent to the richer clubs (especially $lovan). Poprad managed to squeak into the 7th spot with outstanding goaltending from Stanislav Kozuch (one of my favourites) and a solid defense (including Radoslav Suchy). It's too bad that Peter Bondra could only stay for 6 games (in which he had 6 points)
8. Liptovsky Mikulas - Same Story, Different Day - Every season, they have a pretty solid team. Every year, they sell what shred of talent they have to other Extraleague clubs. Every year, they don't get far in the playoffs. They did have Martin Cibak for the early part of the season, but like all good talent, he didn't stay with LM for long.
9. Skalica - The league's biggest dissappointment, and team with my favourite logo in all of hockey. They had a horrendous start, even wallowing below pathetic Dubnica for a team. Miroslav Zalesak and Zigmund Palffy both played there for parts of the season, but even they couldn't pull their moribund teammates from any higher than 9th places. Secure in the fact that they won't fall anywhere near the depths of Dubnica (thanks to a decent 2nd half), Skalica basically sold its 'talent' to other clubs and will tread water until next year.
10. Dubnica - Pavol Demitra was born there, but wouldn't really want to admit that he is from the same town as one of the worst teams in professional hockey. 3 wins in 49 games and just 82 Goals For in 49 games? Now you know why Slovak Extraleague teams hold 'Guaranteed Win' nights during certain games of the season.

The standings probably won't change much at all in 5 games, but the effect of a possible NHL season could have a large impact on the playoff chances of certain teams.

Oh, and the usual stats from the last round of games... Ivan Huml has left the AHL and has joined Kladno. Jaro Balastik had another big night, and now has 30 goals on the year.

Thursday, February 17, 2005


The Morning After

Now that the world has woken up to the nuclear winter world without NHL hockey, the remaining people who still care about the league are pouring out their souls through various channels.

Personally, I do have a large rant/analysis of the job Bob Goodenow has done through the past year, and the crucial mistakes he’s made. I’ve already stated most of my thoughts in yesterday’s post (and previous posts) regarding Gary Bettman and the NHL’s role in all of this.

I just don’t have the resolve to write such a rant right now. My emergent apathy continues to devour me slowly, like rust on a ’69 Mustang.

Jason Kirk, a fellow hockey blogger, cancelled his season tickets with the Nashville Predators and wrote a passionate and well thought-out letter to GM David Poile.

Brian Burke, and the rest of the TSN panelists, gave final thoughts on the deal not done:

Brian Burke: My challenge to both sides now would be to please fix one part of this. This thing is blown up. You can say it's going back to square one, but please fix one part of it. Even with a CBA will you stop this useless, senseless wrangling over the financial data. Form a join audit committee and start giving the players a true picture of each team's financial position so we don't have to talk about that anymore.
For the life of me, I could never understand why the NHLPA so refused to have their own auditor look into the NHL’s finances (the NHL even offered this suggestion) or go into a joint-audit with the NHL. Was the NHLPA afraid that the findings would be bleak? Was the NHLPA afraid of the truth? Was the NHLPA just too stubborn? We may never know...but it seems foolish that they would spurn this opportunity to prove the Leavitt report was a total sham.


The Replacements?

The media will obviously shift a large part of their focus to the prospect of an impasse and possible replacement players.

I know a few angry fanatics claim that they will cheer for the uniform, and not the players. They will support their Maple Leafs/Canadiens/etc no matter who is wearing the uniform.

Would you?

Let me ask you this: Do you watch AHL hockey on a regular basis? Did you watch IHL hockey on a regular basis?

For many fans, including myself, the answer is a resounding ‘No’.

I admit I am a bit of an NHL snob (although I enjoy live Giants games). The difference in pace between the AHL and the NHL is very noticeable to me. Although the NHL is not nearly as entertaining as it was 10 years ago, it is still considerably faster than the AHL. I cannot really stomach too many AHL televised games.

If you get a league of ‘replacement’ players, you are going to have a lot of Lonny Bohonos’s and no Markus Naslund’s. The NHLPA is not going to break that easily (despite the recent bumblings of Goodenow), and the legal red-tape to even get to using replacement players is thicker than the hull of the U.S.S. Enterprise.

I am not a pro-union guy, so I wouldn’t shed many tears for ‘breaking’ a union that may have just demanded too much. Still, I wouldn’t feel comfortable supporting a league and its greedy owners that couldn’t form a partnership with its players.

I may watch such a league, but probably with far less enthusiasm and vigour than the real NHL.

Since I don’t expect we’ll ever get to this point, I don’t feel the need to discuss it further.

I’d probably be better off buying a massive satellite dish and beaming in games from Europe, unless the North American channels pick up more games from the other side of the salty pond.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005



In the immortal words of General M. Bison:


NHL Commissioner, and resident clueless deer-in-headlights, Gary Bettman made the announcement today on the NHL website: (My own interjections in parenthesis)

“Every professional sports League owes its very existence to its fans. Everyone associated with the National Hockey League owes our fans an apology for being unable to accomplish what is necessary for our game and our fans. We are truly sorry. "

(Gary, we do not accept your apology, and this will have consequences as the NHL’s revenues will shrink in future years. You should be ashamed for letting the NHL to get itself into this mess with your weak leadership skills and lack of foresight)

"Five months ago, I stated that the National Hockey League could not function without an economic system that will bring our League into the 21st Century. I said that our 30 Clubs were united in their dedication to an economic system under which the teams and players, sharing common objectives and a commitment to our fans' satisfaction, would work together as partners.”

(The NHL could function if the majority of teams were run as well as the New Jersey Devils, the Nashville Predators, or the Vancouver Canucks. The NHL could function if the majority of teams didn’t hire ex-players who had little or no clue about economics and business in general. If you were truly concerned about fans’ satisfaction, then why did you allow the on-ice product to deteriorate to such a low level?

Good business practices are not ‘20th century’, they apply to all periods! If the NHL wants to be in the 21st century, then I suggest certain NHL teams start hiring like a true business, and not through the old-boys network)

"The time since then has been devoted to the pursuit of that goal. Today, I can tell you that our determination remains every bit as strong as it was in September to secure the partnership required to protect and ensure the future of the League ... for the benefit of the Clubs, the Players, and our devoted fans.”

(Partnership? It’s blatantly obvious that you want nothing short of breaking the union to your iron will. A real partnership would have genuine revenue sharing between the clubs. I see no team spirit on either count!
I guess this also means that we won’t be seeing NHL hockey for a long time.)

"When I stood before you in September, I said NHL teams would not play again until our economic problems had been solved. As I stand before you today, it is my sad duty to announce that because that solution has not yet been attained, it no longer is practical to conduct even an abbreviated season. Accordingly, I have no choice but to announce the formal cancellation of play for 2004-05. "

(Gary, anyone with a functioning brain can see that even your CBA proposal would not solve the economic problems in certain markets. You are certainly right in that the NHL was in a financial mess in many places. The fact is, you looked at the wrong solutions and went about ‘solving’ this mess in the worst possible manner.)

"We profoundly regret the suffering this has caused our fans, our business partners and the thousands of people who depend on our industry for their livelihoods. We will continue to explore and pursue all available options in order to achieve a successful resolution to this dispute and to get the best game in the world back where it belongs -- on the ice, in front of the best fans in the world."

(Translation: We’ll go to the labour relations boards and look to get them to declare this an ‘impasse’)

"This is a sad, regrettable day that all of us wish could have been avoided."

(I agree. It’s too bad that it had to come to this.

Gary, I hope you are polishing your resume right about now, because you’ll be looking for a job in the not-too-distant future. You have allowed the NHL to run itself to ruin on and off the ice. I cannot think of too many business leaders that have done a job as poorly as you have during your NHL tenure.)


EuroUpdate: D-Day

I know some fans out there are still waiting with bated breath...watching the public exhange of love letters between Gary Bettman and Bob Goodenow.

So, we'll keep this short and sweet.

TSN's Insider, Bob McKenzie doesn't see much hope, and either do I...

There is a huge gap here. The NHL proposed a $42.5 million hard cap vs. the NHLPA proposal of a $49 million soft cap that could be as much as $53.9 million depending on the circumstances.

Those are big numbers to crunch. Right now, I don't see the NHLPA making the move to $42.5 and I don't see the NHL making the move from $42.5 to anything - maybe $43 or $44 million. When you put it in that context, where do we go?


...and then he asks an obvious question

It's sad to say but the time for creativity has passed. On Valentine's Day, the two sides finally got together and decided to make up. The league came off linkage and the NHLPA agreed to a salary cap. With the spectre of the season going down the drain they finally started to negotiate. Where the heck were they six months ago?
Well, the fact is both sides figured they could hold out and make the other side sweat it out. Only now, perhaps, do they realize that they both made a critical error in that regard. Both sides will end up losing more ways than one.

Lost Revenues
Lost Fans
Lost Games
Lost Cultural Relevance
Lost Players (some retire, some stay in Europe)

...and lost in all of this, is the fact that much of this nonsense could have been avoided had the NHL and its team knew how to better manage their on-ice and off-ice product.

So, here is the small EuroUpdate. I have a feeling I won't have to stop doing these for y'all.
In fact, since these leagues are almost ready for the playoffs (yeah, it's that late in the year), I may have a lot of goodies on the horizon.

Stats from yesterday's matches...

Tuesday, February 15, 2005


Props for Plekanec

It's about time I gave some press to one of my favourite prospects, TOMAS PLEKANEC!

Tomas Plekanec of the Hamilton Bulldogs started the PlanetUSA rally at the 3:34 mark of the second period, then added a goal in the shootout to earn honors as the Dodge Most Valuable Player of the game. The PlanetUSA All-Stars earned the sweep of the weekend event after winning Sunday’s AHL All-Star Skills Competition by a score of 17-13

Although Pleky isn't having quite the season he was last year, the 22 year-old pride of Kladno is still leading his team in scoring (53GP 20-20-40 40PIM -6) and is the most productive Czech in the AHL.

In 2005-06, Pleky should be a regular in the NHL with the Montreal Canadiens. I'm glad to see him get in the spotlight for once. His AHL tenure has been great, but he gets very little attention.

(And this reminds me that I have lot of editing to do on his official website)


Is it Really Worth it to Have a Season?

So, the NHLPA Guild offered to accept a $52 million cap while the NHL countered with a $40 million cap that had none of that dreaded ‘linkage’.

Maybe they’ll just meet halfway and we’ll get a $46million cap (Yeah, and Gary Bettman will save the NHL...riiiight)

To those who pray and worship at the Temple of False Hockey Rumours and are guided by the delusive gospel of ‘Eklund’, this will no doubt show that there is a ray of hope in salvaging an NHL season.

Is it really worth it? Do you really want hastily-thrown-together 28-game schedule with playoffs ending in July?

To me, the Stanley Cup is like Frodo’s long journey in Lord of the Rings. One must surmount a long road with many obstacles, enemies, injuries, and balrogs to achieve ultimate victory in the Quest for the Cup.

I think it’s an insult to the Tampa Bay Lightning, Detroit Red Wings, and all other past winners of the Stanley Cup that a team could simply win the Holy Grail after a venal 28-game season and subsequent playoffs.

When Dave Andreychuk held aloft the Stanley Cup after over 100 regular season & playoff games in 2003-04 (not to mention the 1000+ before then), the scars, fractures, and bruises just showed what an exceptionally long and arduous road it takes to win it all.

If the Vancouver Canucks finally won their first Stanley Cup (we all have dreams) after such a shortened season, I wouldn’t feel ‘right’ about it. I could never feel that the Canucks have really ever achieved the same lofty goals that the other championship teams have attained.

Like James Mirtle, I don’t want to see Markus Naslund or any other player etched on an NHL trophy for achievements in a miniscule 1/3-of-a-real-season.

(Given Brian Savage's penchant for fast starts, I could see him winning the Rocket Richard trophy....ewwwww)

Oh, if the NHL *did* come back and there were games on TV in 2 weeks, I would definitely be watching. I won’t be one of those who pretend that they wouldn’t watch the NHL once it comes back to our television screens.

At the same time, I’m almost hoping that the NHL and NHLPA don’t work out something before the clock strikes midnight on Wednesday. I want the NHL to fix its on-ice product just as much as they claim to be fixing their off-ice problems.

If the NHL spent more time than Brendan Shanahan actually looking at why the game is exceeding boring at times, I would probably not think so negatively. If the refs would actually call obstruction penalties, and the NHL front offices had the balls to tell the refs to call obstruction penalties, I would probably not think so negatively. If we got more than 2 goals a game, I would probably not think so negatively. Given the fact that many players aren't even playing hockey (or hockey at a high level) right now, I wouldn't really be too enthusiastic to see disjointed hockey.

It is truly a bad sign for the NHL when a hardcore hockey fan, such as myself, doesn’t care too much if this NHL season ever takes place. Even if the NHL ‘solves’ their financial problems in the next 24 hours (and they won’t, even if they get a deal negotiated), the damage may never be repaired...not with Gary Bettman in charge.

Monday, February 14, 2005


EuroUpdate: Valentine's Day Edition

Pannon GSM Cup – “Slovensko vít’azom Pannon GSM Cupu!”

That’s right, kiddies, Slovakia took home the Pannon GSM Cup with a 2-1 shootout over Canada’s Castaways (Yeah, another shootout loss for the Canucks).

Canada - Slovensko 1:2 on Penalty Shots (0:0, 0:0, 1:1 - 0:0, 0:1)
Goals: 54. Banham (Pollock) - 56. Nagy (Stümpel), Peter Pucher (winning penalty shot)

Canada: Passmore - Ch. Joseph, Pollock, Van Impe, Delmore, Kurtz, Furey, Bannister - Maneluk, Metropolit, Green - A. Schneider, Herpeger, Banham - Gordon, Gardner, Adams - Gainey, E. Schneider, Leed.

Slovensko: Stana - Podhradský, Strbák, L. Cierny, Suchý, Smrek, Starosta, Stehlík, S. Hudec - Satan, Stümpel, Nagy - Ciernik, Rastislav Pavlikovský, Marcel Hossa - Országh, P. Pucher, Bartecko - Kukumberg, Róbert Petrovický, Radivojevic

No big bling for $lovensko – My pal Daniel wanted to correct me on something. It turns out that the 80,000,000 Forint(s) sum was not the prize money for the winning team, but the actual budget for the tournament itself. (D’oh!). The Slovaks won’t be returning home with quite as much bling as I had stated before ($20,000/player)

Swift Reaction to Scandal in Sweden (from the AP)

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) -- Three NHL players, in Europe during the lockout, were suspended on Saturday for the rest of the season by Sweden's ice hockey federation after being accused of rape.

Kristian Huselius and Andreas Lilja of the Florida Panthers, and Buffalo Sabres defenseman Henrik Tallinder reportedly told police they had consensual sex with the 22-year-old woman in their hotel room after meeting her in a bar early Wednesday.

Authorities released the three players after questioning Thursday -- hours before the Swedish national team played the Czech Republic -- and said Friday they didn't have enough evidence to charge them.

"By their actions, these players have damaged Swedish hockey, other players, officials and this girl," Swedish Ice Hockey Association chairman Christer Englund said. "They went out during a national team gathering and they brought the girl to the room. We can't accept what happened."

After being examined Thursday at the Huddinge University Hospital in Stockholm, the woman told police she had been raped.

The players quit the team Friday morning in the midst of the Sweden Hockey Games, the last event on the European Hockey Tour.

With the NHL shut down by the season-long lockout, Huselius and Tallinder are playing in Sweden's Elite League for Linkoping, while Lilja is playing for Mora. Huselius leads the league in scoring.

Huselius and Tallinder were banned from Linkoping's activities until Monday, when the club's board will meet again to decide if they have a future with the team.

"Until then we'll collect as much information as possible," club director Mike Helber said. "We'll also talk to the players. But it's clear that they have showed bad judgment just by staying out late. What has happened is really, really bad."

Copyright 2004 Associated Press.

The rape charges have been dropped (for now), and it’s somewhat surprising to see that the Club teams and the league are banning some very key players just before playoff time. It seems the league and the clubs are delivering a ‘guilty’ verdict before the law courts do. We’ll just have to see if any of the players makes an appeal.

Oh, and happy Valentine’s Day to all of my readers...let’s end on a happy (Blue)note!

Sunday, February 13, 2005


Sunday Slam

Since the NHL obviously doesn't hire any economists or forward-thinking business managers, they need outside parties to do the thinking for them. (TSN Story)

"They (NHL franchises) are going to be hurting when they come back - they were hurting before the lockout, with a fan base that is thinning out," said Andrew Zimbalist, an economics professor at Smith College who studies economic trends in American sports. "They're alienating a large part of the small fan base they already have."

Zimbalist has done some good work analyzing the economics of MLB baseball, so his opinion carries some weight in the sports-analysis world. He's also right in that the NHL cannot really afford to alienate the small fanbase it has in many cities in 'non-traditional' markets.

"The notion that the NHL can solve its problems with a salary cap is ludicrous," Noll said. "It will increase profits for the best teams, but it doesn't make the small-market teams viable. The disparity of revenues across the league is greater than in any other sport and there's no salary solution to that problem. Some teams have 25 times (the local TV revenue) of other teams. The only solution is to get rid of the small-market teams or subsidize them.

"Even if salaries were zero dollars per year, I question if some small-market teams would have enough revenue to cover costs. Blowing up the league is the likely outcome because the big-market teams don't see revenue sharing as being in their best interest," Noll said.
The NHLPA's Ted Saskin has made the point countless times, but most fans and mediots just don't seem to get the simple fact that NHL has no interest in any meaniningful form of revenue sharing.

What good is a $35-45million salary range when a team like the Florida Panthers probably can't make nearly enough revenues to meet the minimum requirements?

As long as the NHL refuses to distribute the wealth from the Maple Leafs, Rangers, Flyers (etc...) to the weaker sisters of the league, this salary range isn't going to help the Thrashers, Panthers, Hurricanes, and Penguins.

Blowing up the league? well, if the NHL truly intends on this salary range, I wonder if the NHL would expect/plan to eliminate certain franchises that can't meet the salary floor. This would certainly tie into the conspiracy theory that the 4 expansion squads were only brought in for their large expansion fees...which in turn funded their large 'rainy-day' contingency break the union...yada yada yada

There is one dissenting view...

Neal Pilson, the former CBS Sports president who now runs a consulting firm, disagrees with Noll that the league must contract to survive but warns it will take time and considerable effort to win back fans.

Pilson thinks NHL players are making "one of the most dramatic miscalculations in labour management history" by refusing to consider a cap.

"The sad thing is the players don't seem to understand that if the season is cancelled, their deal is going to be diminished. They're not going to get a better deal a year from now," Pilson said. "The league is going to be in a weaker position, so it's a huge miscalculation on their part that they can increase their bargaining position by refusing any discussion on a hard salary cap."
Pilson is right in that the NHL is causing considerable damage to its product and it will take years for it to recover. Baseball is part of the USA's cultural and sporting fabric 1000x more than NHL hockey, so the NHL may take 10 or more years to get back to it's "peak".

As for the players...they will simply have to accept a salary cap. I don't like it, but it's true. Where else can the players (en masse) make the kind of coinage that they do in the NHL? A splinter league? Europe? UHL?

The owners hold the ultimate hammer, but both sides are getting hammered in this ludicrisp game of 'Chicken'



Day 2 at the Pannon GSM Cup went well for the Slovaks (who beat the Hungarian hosts 4-2) and Canada (Who beat Germany 4-1)

Slovakia 4 - Hungary 2
Goals: 12. Fekete, 14. Gröschl (Ocskai, Sille) - 12. Nagy (S. Hudec), 25. Satan (Nagy), 28. Satan (Strbák), 45. Kukumberg

Canada 4 - Germany 1
Goals: 18. Herpeger, 46. M. Green, 52. E. Schneider, 59. Metropolit - 53. Fical

Yesterday at the Swedish Hockey Cup, the Czechs managed to beat the pesky Finns in overtime, 3-2, thanks to an overtime goal by Jaroslav Bednar. In the other match, the Swedes beat the Russkies by the same score in regulation time.

This morning (afternoon in Sweden), The Czechs beat up on the Russkies by a 4-3 count.
Czechia - Russia 4:3 (1:0, 1:0, 2:3)
Goals: 18. Zidlický (Prospal), 38. Hlavac (D. Výborný, Dvorák), 42. Bulis (Prospal, Dvorák), 55. Hlavac (D. Výborný) - 42. Afanasenkov (Simakov), 56. Rjazancev (Kurjanov, Simakov), 60. Denisov (Rjazancev, Simakov).

The Zlin line of Jaroslav Balastik-Petr Cajanek-Martin Erat remains scoreless after 3 games, unfortunately :(

NHL Players go Hungarian - Rob Niedermayer and Jason Strudwick have both signed transfer agreements with Ferencevaros (Budapest), bringing NHLers to a country that has yet to produce a single NHL player. Levente Szuper has been oh-so-close for the Calgary Flames, but Hungary is still hungry for its first NHL star.

Columbus Blue Jackets and Anaheim Mighty Ducks fans might be interested in this profile of Espen "Shampoo" Knutsen.
If he was a shampoo, he would definitely be 'Finesse'

Saturday, February 12, 2005


Weekend Update: Make all the clouds disappear

It turns out that the 3 members of Team Sweden (mentioned yesterday) being investigated for the alleged rape of a woman have been cleared of the least for this very moment, the police have stopped investigating the incident.

1. TSN Story
2. VodkaFish has some news directly from his Swedish source, Jocke.

Like you said, they are no longer suspects, but they are still held under investigation. A prosecutor will be handed this case today and the players themselves (Tallinder, Lilja & Huselius) have just hired a very famous Swedish lawyer (Leif Silbersky).

The three players admit to having sex with the 21-year old woman.
A press-conference was held five hours ago and the players told the members of the press, that they will leave the team and let others fill their spots in the roster. They felt it was the ‘best thing to do for the team’.


On a more positive note, the Pannon GSM Cup got underway in Budapest. 8,000 fans watched their Hungarian squad got tarred and feather by a collection of old NHL 4th liners by a 7-0 score. Slovakia beat Germany 2-1 in the other match.

Hungary - Canada 0:7 (0:1, 0:3, 0:3)
Goals: 17. M. Green, 24. Gardner, 33. Pollock, 38. Gainey, 47. E. Schneider, 49. Glen Metropolit, 52. Herperger

Germany - Slovakia 1:2 (0:0, 1:0, 0:2)
Goals: 23. Barta (Felski, Sturm) - 44. Nagy (Podhradský), 56. Stümpel.

Nemecko: Kölzig - Retzer, Bakos, Schauer, S. Wright, Kopitz, Köppchen, Kink, Petermann - Felski, A. Barta, Sturm - Hecht, Ustorf, Kreutzer - Hackert, Fical, Arendt - Lewandowski, Mondt, Furchner.

Slovensko: Stana - Podhradský, Štrbák, L. Cierny, Suchý, Smrek, Starosta, Stehlík, S. Hudec - Šatan, Stümpel, Nagy - Ciernik, Rastislav Pavlikovský, Marcel Hossa - Országh, P. Pucher, Bartecko - Kukumberg, Róbert Petrovický, Radivojevic.


Brad Isbister has managed to find another European team. He'll be joining Innsbruck/Tirol of the Austrian League. Finally, a league in which he won't suck in! (Maybe)

It appears Niko Dimitrakos has managed to get his Greek citizenship papers in order, and thus is allowed to officially join the SCL Tigers in Switzerland.

Sean Avery is joining his old Red Wings buddies with the Motor City Mechanics of the UHL. Leave it to Avery to put his in mouth once again, as he comments on taking a UHL spot and Europeans in the NHL due to expansion.

"If he doesn't want me to take his job he should work harder," he added to Toronto's The Fan 590 radio station. "Work harder until he's good enough to make the NHL then I wont be able to take his job."

"I think they can eliminatate a lot of Europeans who are mediocre and are taking a lot of jobs," Avery told Toronto's The Fan 590.

Hmm, if the NHL shrinks back to 24 or 26 teams, mediocre 4th line North Americans like you, SEAN AVERY, wouldn't have a job!

I'm sure the UHL players can sweat and work themselves out to tears, but they still aren't going to make the NHL. Do you think the UHL stars lack the passion for game? Just be thankful you were blessed with enough natural talent to even make the NHL, Sean, and stop being such an ass.

Trust me...there is a reason why Canucks fans want Todd Bertuzzi to go 'Tuzzi' on Avery.

Friday, February 11, 2005


EuroUpdate: I told you Swedes were evil!

It seems that 3 members of Team Sweden had a little trouble with the law last night...

(Courtesy of and Fredrik Palsson)

Kristian Huselius, Andreas Lilja and Henrik Tallinder were all brought to a police office in Stockholm for questioning just a few hours before the game vs. Czech Republic in Sweden Hockey Games. They were questioned about a rape that took place during the night between Tuesday and Wednesday, the same night as the Swedish team came to Stockholm after the game against Norway in Karlskoga.

The players weren't released before around 20:30 and they all missed the game against the Czech Republic. They are currently not suspected of any crime.

Sweden had to play without three quality players but still managed to win against the Czech Republic after penalty shots.

...and yes, this was the REAL Andreas Lilja, and not Peter Forsberg pretending to be him...

In Day 1 of the Swedish Hockey Games, Sweden did indeed defeat Czechia by a 3-2 score. In the other game, Senators’ prospect centerman Alex Kaigorodov gave Russia 4-3 OT win over Finland

Boxscore from the Sweden/Czechia game...

First period:
0-1 (5.39) Andreas Johansson (Henrik Zetterberg; Magnus Johansson), 1-1 (16.05) Vaclav Prospal (Radek Dvorak; Jan Bulis)

SOG: 8-8.

Second period:
1-2 (11.15) Andreas Johansson (Magnus Kahnberg) in double pp, 2-2 (15.16) Jan Hlavac (Tomas Kaberle).

SOG: 5-10.

Third period:
SOG: 15-10.

SOG: 0-2.

Penalty shots:
0-1 Mattias Weinhandl

SOG: 0-1. Total SOG: 28-31.


As for Slovakia, they begin play in the Pannon GSM Cup against Germany.
There is some incentive to win this tournament, as the winning team will get 80 million Hungarian Forint(s). At today’s exchange rate, that’s equal to about $525,000 Canadian. That’s over $20,000 per player, which would be really damn good money for the poor Hungarian players, and still damn fine money for the Slovaks and Germans.

(Edited: 5:26am 02/11/05)

Thursday, February 10, 2005


Randal the Linesman...

Now, this is just plain mean...


NHLPA: Not Pulling the Trigger

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman walked into a luxury car dealership yesterday, and was scoping out a bright cherry-red Ferrari. Obviously a man accursed of small endowment, Gary needs a car that enhances his ‘manly side’.
One of my ‘inside’ sources managed to record the following conversation.

Salesman: Hi! My name is Bob. How can I help you today?

Gary: Oh, Hi, I’m Gary. I’m just checking out this baby (referring to the Ferrari) here.

Bob: Good choice, sir! The ladies can’t resist a guy who drives one of these. Just cruise through downtown with this puppy, and you’ll have more action than a Ron Jeremy production.

Gary: You’re right! This is just the car I need. I’ll give you $10,000 for it.

Bob: *snickering* $10,000? Surely, you jest!

Gary: $10,000, and not a penny more. I’m not a rich man, and I couldn’t possibly afford to pay any more than that.

Bob: The ROLEX you are wearing is worth more than $10,000! How can you stand there and tell me you couldn’t pay more than that for this exquisite automobile? If you want this car, you’ll have to pay market price - $250,000!

Gary: $250,000! I cannot possibly function as an economically viable entity if I pay $250,000 for this car! How about I offer 10% of my salary? I’ll give you $100,000 for it! A car should never cost more than 10% of a man’s salary!

Bob: Look, Gary, perhaps you should visit the Mazda dealer down the street. If we tied our car prices to people’s salaries, we’d be giving these things away. We’re not a charity here. Sorry.

Gary: OK OK OK!! How about I offer you $250,000!! But...if the car’s total costs ever equal or exceed a quarter of a million dollars, or the fuel costs per year run more than $500, or the car payments equal over 30% of my salary, then the price of the car will revert down to $100,000

Bob: Gary, I’m not as dumb as you look...the car’s price would instantly become $100,000 under that scenario!

Gary: Well, it was worth a shot.


You may have heard that the NHL made another softball offer which was quickly rejected by the PA. The NHL made it seem like they were accepting the NHLPA’s December offer, but reaching 1 of 4 trigger points in the new offer would cause the CBA to revert to what the NHL wants. Since the triggers were easily obtainable, it was obvious that this was nothing more than the NHLs last offer with nothing more than a new lemon flavour.

Look, Gary...the NHLPA has been handily beating you and most of the NHL executives into the ground for the past 10 years. Do you really think you’d sneak this by them?

For complete details, check out this post by Eric at Offwing. He’ll fill you in on all the details and fallout from the latest round of ‘nothing’.


Over in Europe...

1. Nitra and CSKA Moscow were bored, so they decided to play an exhibition game. Nitra, who was without 10 regulars (including star goalie Michal Fikrt) managed to ‘only’ lose 5-3 to the Moscovites. CSKA has a stacked roster including Oleg Kvasha, Nik Zherdev, and Jan Hejda. The score was 3-3 after 2 periods, which is quite an achievement for an overmatched Nitra squad. (Thanks to Daniel for the tip)

2. Dominik Hasek has now expressed his interest in the Russian Super League. Maybe now he can find real people to play chess against.

3. Michal Grosek extended his contract for 2 years with Geneva. Probably a good career move.

Random Rumour of the Day: According to my inside sources, Boston defenseman Nick Boynton wants to become a waiter when he retires.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005


EuroUpdate: Happy (Chinese) New Year!

All quiet on the Western front, so here’s the latest from Europe.

1. Now that Dany Heatley has finally had his legal problems dealt with in Atlanta, he has decided to join his buddy Ilya Kovalchuk in Kazan (Russia). Given the notoriously bad drivers in Russia, Dany should feel right at home *rimshot*.

2. Frantisek Kaberle has left his brother, Tomas, in Kladno and has joined MoDo of the evil Swedish Elite League.

3. Not-so-swift skating Buffalo forward JP Dumont is headed to SC Bern of the Swiss League.

4. As mentioned before, but confirmed entirely now, Brad Isbister and Richard Matvichuk won’t be joining HC Slovan Bratislava (Slovakia). The insurance costs were just too high (especially for Matvichuk) and the deals fell through. Since both players registered with Slovan, it doesn’t look like they’ll be anywhere in Europe this year.

(Edit: Just to add to Slovak correspondant, Daniel, informs me that the agents for both players wanted Slovan to insure their NHL contracts for their entirety, and not just for this season. Obviously, it wasn't worth it to $lovan.)

5. Kladno and Vsetin played in the lone pre-tournament game yesterday in the Czech Extraliga. Kladno beat a depleted Vsetin team in a 3-2 squeaker.
Robin Kovar: 1 goal and +1
Tomas Kaberle: 1 assist and +1
Jan Hrdina (??) and Roman Cechmanek (night off) did not play.

6. Speaking of evil Sweden, if you want to know how a North American enforcer finds life in Swedish hockey, then check out James Mirtle’s interview with Buffalo prospect Andrew Peters. The experience will ultimately be good for Peters since he can develop his non-fighting skills and defensive play.

7. "The Rat Came Back, the Very Next Day!" – When the moody Slovak Zdeno Ciger retired last August, I wrote that he had a penchant for surprising career moves. Maybe it shouldn’t be surprising, then, that he’s coming out of retirement to play for evil $lovan Bratislava once again.

8. Czechia’s Funniest Videos – On November 5th, 2004, Kladno played host to the Liberec White Tigers. The game was tied at 4 with regulation time coming to an end. With a few seconds left in the game, Tomas Kaberle, who is deep in his own zone, fires the puck down the ice…and scores!!! Yep…while Milan Hnilicka was checking out the babes in the crowd, Kaberle fired the GWG past him at 59:59.
Check out the video here (Right-Click and ‘Save As’).
It is phunny!!

Tuesday, February 08, 2005


Hockey: Just a Habit?

Ex-Leafs talking head, and current member of Canadian Parliament, Ken Dryden, decided to pipe in with his thoughts on the current NHL situation.

"I think that there are a number of fans in this country who have sensed over the last number of months that actually maybe it was more habit than it was passion.

"I think for the great majority it's still a passion, but others have discovered that maybe it was something else.

"And so, as much as this can be problematic in the U.S. and that's where it's usually talked about, I think it's also a problem in this country.''

hab•it (noun) - A recurrent, often unconscious, pattern of behavior that is acquired through frequent repetition.

I guess hockey does have some elements of a habit, at least in MY life.

1. Repetition – I (would) frequently turn to CBC (Channel 3 in VCR) at 4:00PM on Saturday nights to watch Hockey Night in Canada. I would also turn on the TV at night to the sports channels to see if there was a game on or not. Some people tune in to the nightly news at 6 o’clock, while others turn to the hockey games.

2. Diminishing Marginal Utility – Economists know this term...basically, the first of something (first chocolate, first Jolly Rancher, first vodka shooter, first marijuana joint) is always the tastiest. The second of something is less enjoyable, and the third less enjoyable, and so on and so forth. With hockey, the first games of the season are usually the best, and then they aren’t quite so enticing or appealing. This is a frequent attribute of any habit.

3. “It’s not good, but I like it” – The NHL is in danger of losing more and more fans as the on-ice product becomes more drab with each clutching infraction. Still, many fans, such as myself, still watch the games despite the fact that the quality of the product is lower than it used to be. With any addicting habit, the addict finds it hard to give up the habit, even when the habit is not that enjoyable at times.

4. It’s destructive – I can remember staying up very late to watch the hockey games during the 1998 Nagano Olympics. I failed some assignments and did poorly on exams because of this. I’ve also thrown objects at the TV on occasion and had some huge spikes in blood pressure thanks to watching hockey. Hockey isn’t always good for you :)

On the other hand, a habit normally doesn’t bring about the type of passion that has been exhibited in Canada at times.

After the 2002 Salt Lake City Gold Medal win, I was in a sea of 10,000+ people in downtown Vancouver reveling in victory. The whole city of Vancouver, as well as other large Canadian cities, was pretty much throwing one big ‘Gold Medal’ party.

Just look at how possessed Calgary was during the recent Stanley Cup playoffs! Women were taking their shirts off and fans were routinely partying in the streets. Apart from Mardi Gras, you don’t normally see this type of behavior.

Hockey: Many times, it feels like a habit...but the passion still exists.


"Idle Rumors Are the Devil's Tools"

I know I've discussed the suddenly popular Hockey Rumors blog and it's so-called mertis before. I got an email from Dubi, who pointed me to his vivisection of Eklund's spotty rumor trail.

If you had any doubt left as to the credbility of 'Eklund', then I suggest you check out Dubi's 'Ordinary Least Square' Blog.

I was curious, so I put him to the test. I went through all his posts, every last one of them, quite a bit since November. Though he qualifies it all as rumor, I was surprised to find that virtually nothing he has reported has come to pass. So little that in three months of posting, he has only written “as I said” or "as I predicted" a few times -- and he says it every time a prediction comes true.

Yep...Dubi went through each and every entry and chopped Eklund's remaining credibility into one-inch cubes. After ripping Eklund a new one, Dubi made a great point with which I fully agree with.

Eklund, you are doing a disservice to the fans you think you are advocating for. You have not gotten one single major point right, and have gotten only a small handful of minor or obvious points right. In the process, you have created false hope among fans who should be clamoring for resolution, and worse, it appears possible that you have emboldened one side to take a harder line by portraying the other side in an unflattering light that no other source has validated.

If you see any minions/dunderheads posting Eklund's rumours on message board as statements of actual fact, then I suggest you point them to Dubi's post and watch as their dreams shatter like antique chinaware.

Let's consider this case closed and move on.


Crowned and Flatlined

The ongoing NHL lockout has claimed two personnel jobs within the NHL, Kris King and Pat Flatley. King, who is the compliance officer for the league's new crackdown on the size of goaltender protective gear, did not receive a contract renewal due to the inactivity of the entire league. Pat Flatley, NHL Alumni Board of Director/NHL Director of Alumni Relations, will also be without a contract. It is expected that when the league resumes, the pair will return to their regular duties.

During their careers, King and Flatley were two ‘blue-collar’ types that didn’t rake in the big millions that their star peers did (Although King was well overpaid during the last part of his career).

Now that the lockout has cost them their jobs (temporarily), I wonder whose side they would be on this fight. The NHL has provided them with post-playing employment, and then taking it away from them. Both players wouldn’t have been hit too hard under a salary cap (except King’s last contract), so they may not sympathize with their former guild buddies.

(Story provided by

Monday, February 07, 2005


Won't Somebody Think of the Charities?

We’ve heard plenty of stories about how the fans, concession stand workers, bartenders, waitresses, players, owners, panhandlers (There are a lot of them outside GM Place every game), etc. have been hurt by the NHL lockout.

How about the charities?

According to a story by CTV (Canadian Television), you can add another party to the long list of those hurt by the NHL lockout.

The Canadiens (Children’s Charity) aren't the only charity that's hurting. Lotteries and things like silent auctions raise millions annually.
But with no hockey, there's no money.

In Calgary, the city's minor hockey association got $80,000 per year from the NHL's Flames. Next year, it could be a fraction of that or even nothing at all, depending on how long the lockout lasts.

"It's hurting us big-time," says the association's Ken Moore.
In a good year, the Flames help raise up to $1 million for charity. This year, it's about one-third of that.

Every year, the Canucks have a telethon during a selected broadcast to help their main charity: Canuck Place.

There won’t be one of those this year without any televised games.

Every game also features a 50/50 draw which helps out local minor hockey associations. $3,000+ per game is usually raised to support minor hockey. Take an estimated $3,000 X 41 home games as a figure - These kids lose out on $123,000 this season!

The NHL Lockout: Where everyone is a LOSER!


On a side note, it appears that Richard Matvichuk and Brad Isbister won’t be joining HC Slovan Bratislava as first thought. Although they are registered to play with Slovan, vice-president Krajci doesn’t expect them to come over to Europe. It’s hard to Matvichuk and Slovan to pony up enough dough to insure his $8.5 contract.

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