Stop The Insanity – Get Rid Of This Rule

Insane.  Just watch.

I thought about this rule a lot yesterday given the wacko spin-job the NHL tried to put on the whole mess with Brad May’s “no goal” against the Dallas Stars. The sport being what it is decided to one-up itself in a game between two severely struggling teams in Carolina and Toronto. This situation happens in overtime and bones Toronto out of an overtime victory, one which they couldn’t secure in the shootout because, you know, somehow winning a game in overtime and in the shootout is viewed as the same fucking thing.


The conclusion I’ve come to on this bogus “intent to blow the whistle” nonsense is that it’s a crutch. It’s a crutch for the officials because God forbid they make a definitive call in a game or do their job effectively. This has to end. Play to the whistle or don’t play at all. Simple as that. I know why the “intent to blow” clause is in the rule books, I understand it perfectly.

No more though. Referees are going to drag their asses in games and pretend that they’re bigger than the game itself? Too bad, your time has ended. The fact that more fans are getting to know the names of officials for all the wrong reasons isn’t a good way to seek out fame. People know Kerry Fraser because of his stupid hair but they also know him because he botched a call in the 1993 Western Conference Finals. People know Don Koharski because then Devils coach Jim Schoenfeld called him a fat pig and asked him to have another donut. They don’t know Don Koharski because he’s a swell guy or a good official, that’s crazy. People know Bill McCreary because he’s got a porn star mustache and can’t help but be the center of attention in any game he works.

Stop the insanity already. I want a couple of things out of officials. I want consistency and I want accountability for their actions when they decide they’re better than everyone else.  Consistency is already an impossible thing to get out of any game so I’m shit out of luck there, at the very least I should be able to get officials that don’t think they’re bigger or better than the game itself.  It looks like we’re all screwed there too.

GaryMcMahonHe intends to blow each and every night.  Mission accomplished.

The NHL has to get rid of this bogus ghost rule because any time it comes into play it’s a cop out of the highest order.  “Well, I wanted to stop play, but I was too damn slow to do it.”  What a joke.  Two nights in a row now games have been botched because of this referee crutch.

Get rid of it.

(Much thanks to Jeffler on Twitter for being lightning fast in pointing the video out on YouTube)

Solving The Trapezoid

This week the NHL General Managers met in Toronto to discuss issues going on with the game and one of the big things that came up was whether or not to keep the trapezoid area behind the goals.  The trapezoid is the only area behind the net goaltenders are allowed to play the puck and making it essential that defensemen be on their games and skating fast to retrieve pucks dumped into their end lest they give up possession to the attacking team.

The issue at play with the trapezoid is that in these races for the puck, players are getting hurt and a lot of folks hate that goaltenders can’t hunt pucks down and keep play flowing along in control of the defense.  Some GMs are anonymously arguing that goalies keeping play moving along will help the offense.

Well sure, that’d be a great argument if we hadn’t gone through years of deathly boring defense-first, sport-ruining hockey before Herr Bettman and his Army of Idiot Minions decided to lock out the players and reinforce the rule book to make sure fans weren’t bored to tears.

The argument against the trapezoid for purposes of saving players from being injured is a bit stickier.  No one likes to lose any players to injury, especially in lunatic bat-out-of-hell chases for the puck into the end boards.  After all, who wants to see more injuries like these?

I’m a squeamish sissy so I sure as hell don’t want to see those kinds of injuries anymore and that’s just because I don’t want to post them on my website, never mind going through them myself.  Of course, the GMs decided against making any changes to the trapezoid rules because… Well, why have a seemingly lame duck season with one set of rules when another set is on the way?  If changes are going to happen, they’ll come up after the season if at all.

Besides, it seems as if the trapezoid debate is more of something for message board and blog fodder as it is, at least that’s what I gathered from this quote by Sharks GM Doug Wilson”

“I don’t think there’s a great appetite to change it,” said Wilson. “And I don’t mind that because you’ve got to be conscious that when you change one thing, it could impact two or three other things. We put it on the agenda, we’d asked to talk about it, just to really spur thought.”

Spur thought in the room there and here on the Interwebs for us  mom’s basement geniuses to tackle.  Of course, fan opinions on the trapezoid are fairly predictable.  Fans of teams with goalies who play the puck well or are overly concerned with player injuries are upset, meanwhile others are likely indifferent or pleased.  One team I was concerned with was the Devils and Tom Gulitti at Fire and Ice got some thoughts from the man most hurt by (and opposed to) the trapezoid, Martin Brodeur. Brodeur, in this case, is sticking up for his defensemen.

“I’m not involved, but my view of it is it’s a no-brainer if they want to start to eliminate these huge hits for the defensemen,” Brodeur said. “Many times you’re able to just chip the puck and save a big hit. That was one thing when I was younger whenever my defensemen or somebody was getting a big hit, I felt guilty that I let that the guys get hit like that. Now, I’ve got to sit and watch all the time.”

That’s a tough stand to argue against and I won’t do that.  It’s stupid to do that and he’s right, it sucks to see guys take huge hits and it’s even worse to see guys get hurt from it all.

It’s also part of the game.  I won’t be some macho asshole here and start telling guys to take off the skirt, I already admitted I’m a huge wuss and I’m as physically fragile as it gets.  What I will do, instead, is offer a solution to adopt that saves everyone the trouble.

The NHL should give it the old college try.  Eliminate the trapezoid, allow goalies to play the puck at their own volition but save everyone the trouble and adopt no-touch icing.  One thing Brodeur said in Gulitti’s great piece was that more often than not goalies are going to make mistakes playing the puck so its on them to decide if they want to take the chance.  Sure, that’s easy for him to say being one of the best puckhandling goaltenders of all time, but it’s still true.  In that case, spin the wheel and make the deal terrible puck-playing goaltenders.  How bad do you want to keep possession of the puck and how bad do you want to potentially get chewed out by your coach for being a bonehead?

Yeah, I thought so.

Adding no-touch icing does nothing to take away from the flow of the game since, more often than not, icing is going to end up being called and the chances of it getting waived off are generally pretty few.  Therefore, adopting a rule that cuts to the chase, and just gets the play moving along shouldn’t be that big of a deal.  Races for the puck to save a faceoff from happening are pretty friggin’ rare and if that’s the kind of play in hockey that gets your juices flowing… Maybe finding a new sport to watch would be a good start because you’ve missed the boat.

My one sticking point here is that a little more be asked of the linesmen aside from playing ignorant to plays off the puck, being unable to keep count of players on the ice and effectively watching the lines.  Tall order, I know.

The linesmen are also the judges of icing and one of the rule changes that was made after the return from Herr Bettman’s Attempted Murder of the NHL was the elimination of the red line and two-line passes.   There was a stipulation in the rulings on icing that could be better put to use here should the NHL do the smart thing and do things the college way.

Rule 65 – Section e: The Linesman shall have discretion to wave off apparent icing infractions on attempted passes if those passes are deemed receivable.

How’s about we reinforce the linesman’s definition of what the attempted breakout pass looks like.  After all, if you want to keep play moving this isn’t a bad way to do so and you don’t even need to rewrite anything in the rules.  By implementing these changes, you’re able to corral the injury problems with defensemen getting destroyed by attacking forwards moving at breakneck speed and you’re able to unchain the goaltenders from the net.

As long as defensemen aren’t allowed to skate in front of/latch onto attacking forwards like they were allowed to do through most of the 90s and early 2000s, things should work out just fine.  It works out fine (for the most part) in college hockey and making it work in the NHL shouldn’t be much of a problem. Then again, that’s putting a lot of faith into the men in stripes to do the right thing.   Maybe I should hold back on these drastic suggestions after all.

How’s That Versus Dispute Going Gary?

Any progress with that little DirecTV-Versus dispute Gary?

Just curious since, you know, the longer this goes the more pissed off fans of teams all over the country will get about this.  I guess this means that the NHL doesn’t care unless playoff games get affected.

Never say that Lil’ Gary never gave you nothing, fans.  Actually, you should say that.  Often.  What is Herr Bettman doing to help out?  Well… He told Empty Netters of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette what he was doing to “help” out.

“Yes I’ve been involved. I’ve been talking to both sides repeatedly. I even tried to mediate a deal to get the games on for last night and DirecTV didn’t seem all that interested in responding and reaching out to Comcast and Versus. Remarkably, I’m pleased to see the ratings were up last night nevertheless. But if you’re a DirecTV subscriber, you’re most immediate recourse, the most satisfaction you can get, the thing you have the most control over is your relationship with DirecTV.”

Wow, great work there.  So rather than work with their corporate broadcast partners at Comcast, Bettman has, instead, opted to go the slam route by proxy considering that Comcast has been busy with newspaper and sign propaganda while DirecTV is busy with propaganda of their own.  Of course, if you’re to believe what Comcast has to say a deal should be easy to broker.

Yes this dispute continues to be all about super rich jerkoffs trying to squeeze more money out of one another in some fashion, but the big jerkoff in all of it is happy to sit on the sidelines while his corporate partner still does all the heavy lifting.

The NHL does a lot of great things for the fversusans including being the one major sport that keeps in touch with the fans via blog allowances for press credentials and Twitter, but in this situation where it boils down to games being watched live the fans are getting boned the hardest and it’s everyone’s fault but the fans.  Comcast wants more money for their subpar network (supposedly), DirecTV wants to tell Comcast to sit on it and rotate (definitely) and Gary Bettman waits for them to play nicely even though that hasn’t even come close to happening as of yet.

If college football season and the NHL being in full swing (both major programming chips for Versus) haven’t gotten Comcast and DirecTV together for an agreement, I sincerely doubt the United Football League is going to patch things together for them for viewership.

So what now Gary?  Fans are getting pissed off, but not quite pissed off enough to force action.   It would seem that it would be your move now but inaction seems to be the correct action, right?  Weak sauce.

bettman-B&WOust This Man

Bettman’s Pet Project Wets The Bed

I was reading a link from the Los Angeles Times this weekend, you know, a newspaper – those things that used to be the staple of American media but have quickly become obscure thanks to the Internet.

This article talked about how there’s a fun dispute going on between DirecTV and the Versus Network in that Versus wants to charge the company more money to carry their programming and DirecTV doesn’t want to pass that buck along to their customers.

Since DirecTV doesn’t want to add any costs for their customer base and Versus, to this point, has been unwilling to move off their demands, DirecTV is going to drop Versus from their system on September 1st.  According to the ever-reliable Wikipedia (cough), this would mean 18 million DirecTV subscribers would not be able to see Versus.

If you’re a diminutive commissioner of a niche sport failing miserably to take advantage of the immense amount of talent in your league… This is not good news.

Robert Mercer, director of public relations for DirecTV, said: “Versus’ overall ratings are poor and have not increased nearly enough to justify what we’re paying them, let alone the significant increase they’re asking for.

“It is a significant rate hike and the deal is discriminatory because Versus is not offering the same package options as other distributors.”

All right that sounds shady as hell, why would Versus play hard ball with DirecTV?

Versus is owned by Comcast, a cable carrier that competes with DirecTV. Versus responded in a statement released Friday that said it has added “many marquee properties” and has become “the fastest-growing sports cable network in the country.”

And there it is.

This is just a mega-corporate pissing match where Comcast is looking to bone over their competition by trying to juice them for more money.  This kind of arm wrestling between cable stations and companies is nothing new at all, just ask the NFL about how their network is doing dealing with Cablevision.

Then again, this turns out to bversuse really bad PR for the NHL when their hand-picked cable network of choice is booted off of DirecTV because DirecTV doesn’t want to cave into their demands and subsequently helps feed the anti-Bettman-esque sentiment from our media friends north of the border.  The anti-Bettman stuff I dig here guys, but saying that while a cable company thinking they’re wearing the daddy pants when they’re stuck in Garanimals is pretty short-sighted.

What this battle between Comcast/Versus and DirecTV points out is that Herr Bettman’s plan of leading the charge to help overthrow the Disney/ESPN sports programming empire is falling well short.  Hell, the reason the Los Angeles Times picked up the story about this struggle is because of the effect it has on broadcasts of Pac-10 college football, not coverage of the Anaheim Ducks or Los Angeles Kings.  The Kings and Ducks are combining for ONE appearance on Versus for the entire 2009-2010 season (November 9th Los Angeles @ Chicago).  Apparently Versus wasn’t tuned into or turned on by Gary’s plan of NHL Non-Traditional Market Manifest Destiny.

One of the few things I gave credit to Bettman for after his “lockout to end all interest in the NHL” was insistence to stick it to ESPN for their snickering and boorish coverage of the lockout.  Problem there being that ESPN was already the only sports show in town worth bowing down to and it’s only gotten worse now.

What kills me here is Comcast/Versus’ company line for Versus being the “the fastest-growing sports cable network in the country.”  Well of course you’re the fastest growing sports cable network, you’re the only one that’s going on the “broad appeal” plan of attack and your only competition is the 50 metric ton gorilla named ESPN.  If you’re running a cable provider and you have the choice between filet mignon from the best restaurant in the city and week-old meat parts from butcher in the alley, the choice is pretty obvious.

Do I like what Versus is doing to try to broaden its appeal?  Sure.  Embracing the WEC and its mixed-martial arts fighting is amazingly a step in the right direction because it offers something gaining in popularity that ESPN doesn’t have.  Working out some kind of partnership with the UFC and their seeming monopoly on MMA would go a long way to helping the network, but I think Dana White and UFC can do whatever  the hell they want to and make bank at this point. Carrying college football is also a solid move but there’s got to be more than just these things to go around. The NHL is the jewel of their network and right now the NHL doesn’t have the swagger to make things happen business-wise.

Versus, for the time being, has to be content with just being the niche sports network and it this economy, Versus doesn’t have the kind of programming nor the following to be able to boss anyone around, never mind the kings of satellite broadcasting at DirecTV.

If Comcast thinks that this is the right time and the right way to pick a fight with DirecTV by using Versus as their bargaining chip then that’s not going to turn out well for Comcast or DirecTV subscribers that actually want Versus, all the while the NHL is at the mercy of Comcast to get this figured out somehow.  While Comcast doesn’t exactly lose out all that hard in this battle (they do have other rather successful networks in E! Entertainment Tengblomelevision and G4) Versus is their sports programming horse and keeping it sight unseen by up to 18 million people does them no favors.

That said, getting that monthly fee from each of those subscribers would certainly help Comcast to pay for more hair care products for Brian Engblom and to make sure that the Versus crews can travel further west than St. Paul, Minnesota more than a few times in a given season or even travel to Canada sometimes.  I hear they like hockey up there.

It’s all too amusing to see that Gary’s pet project to make Versus the new overlords of cable now somewhat hangs in the balance, at least for this season. I wonder what kind of face he’s making while he has almost no control over this…



Now let’s see if Gary has any stroke to help put this mess to bed, but considering even Paul Tagliabue and Roger Goodell don’t have the ability to help smooth things out with the NFL Network issues with certain cable providers, I’m not going in the with the highest of expectations for Lil’ Gary to help out this situation with Versus.

The Dawn of a New Era

This is a day I’ve long been waiting for.

Those of you who were kind enough to follow me at my now former home I am thankful to have you here with me now because that means you’re the best kind of reader – you’re the kind of reader that clicks any and all links that I throw at you and you’re happy to soak in the little slice of hockey insanity that I cook up here.

I know this summer has been busy, what with the Chicago Blackhawks not spending money like a drunken 20 year-old right wing and having their drunken right wing get into bitch fight with a cabbie that didn’t even have a valid drivers license.  I get it that there’s been a fair amount of news and that I’ve been seemingly asleep at the wheel for a good chunk of it.

What you’re looking at RIGHT NOW is why this summer has been a bit off from yours truly.

Welcome to the new sanitarium where Herr Bettman and his Board of Governors cronies come to be mocked.  If you’re new here, I welcome you warmly and with beer because as Benjamin Franklin said, “Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”  You better believe we’re going to be happy around here – I’m freaking giddy right now having this new site and new domain to kick around and call “home” now and I’ll enjoy having you all along for the ride while we make fun of Gary for having a serious Napoleon Complex and finding other ways to enjoy the incredible sport of hockey be it in the NHL or the NCAA.

Being that this is a new place, there’s going to be some bumps around here and little things that I’ve yet to figure you and if you spot them, don’t hesitate to drop me an e-mail so I can get it sorted out.  Speaking of folks that helped me get started here, let me take a moment to thank Shaun Breen from Major League Wiffleball for his patience and his time in dealing with my numerous e-mail questions on getting things going here.  Let me also thank Carlene Godfrey and to Tapeleg at Jerseys and Hockey Love for helping me work out a couple of other kinks so I could get things looking great here.

Buckle up kids, training camp starts in just a few weeks.

Bettman’s Stick Gets Caught In The Spokes

A tip of my cap to Andrew Bucholtz for tipping me off to a brief footnote in a Globe and Mail column by Bruce Dowgibbin providing me with some more cannon fodder for our dear diminutive NHL figurehead.

Let’s just cut to the quick:

Has Lance Armstrong become the Tiger Woods of cycling? The controversial American has been away from the Tour de France since 2005, but is making a comeback this year. For the first 10 stages of the 2009 Tour de France, ratings for Versus’ coverage are up 77 per cent through the comparable point last year. That includes an 85-per-cent rise among men 18 to 34 and 132 per cent for men 18 to 49. The 479,800 viewers for the Tour de France tops the 442,300 viewers Versus averaged for the first round of the ’09 Stanley Cup playoffs.

Yeah, I know the off-season is tough so we’re reduced to cycling news and talking about Lance Armstrong and…

Wait a second, what was that?

The 479,800 viewers for the Tour de France tops the 442,300 viewers Versus averaged for the first round of the ’09 Stanley Cup playoffs.

Cycling is doing better than the NHL on television when the cycling takes place while most Americans are supposed to be at work and away from television sets.

Un. Freaking. Real.

Suck it Gary, this one’s for you!

Remember, the NHL airs during prime time hours and they attempt to cater at will to anyone and everyone, meanwhile dudes in spandex riding a bike (RIDING A BIKE) do better TV business than the NHL on the SAME DAMN NETWORK?!


I can see the visionary changes with Versus and the NHL now.

Games played at 11 in the morning on a mountain in Europe and changes to the uniforms to make them even tighter than they are now and more expensive for fans to purchase just so the league can cash in on this cycling craze that has the ratings all abuzz.

Leadership: You’re (Still) Doing It Wrong

Better yet, let’s just get right down to what this means for the NHL.

Bicycle Ice Polo.

Get ready for it – it’ll be the most difficult sport ever created and it’ll come to Versus because some inept boob can’t make his current sport more popular/noticeable/marketable/affordable.

How can this leadership failure be allowed to continue? It’ll be fun when the salary cap falls by $5 million dollars after this upcoming season and teams start to really cry foul about money. Good thing the NHL extended that non-lucrative TV contract with NBC recently because, really, who needs TV money to survive anyway?

Future NHL Ticket Purchases: Doing It Really Old School

Not Herr Bettman and certainly not the NHL – they operate in a world without money. They operate in the South Pacific islands where bartering is legal tender. Make sure you brought enough chickens and volcanic stones to the ticket office so you can see a game this season.

Report: NHL Still NBC’s Bitch

I talked a few days ago that the NHL was potentially thinking of doing a Winter Classic Doubleheader involving teams that serve both NBC and CBC’s best interests to get them the biggest audience they can on New Years Day 2010.

After all, the name of the game is getting the league more well known with a high-profile event regardless of whether or not it waters down the novelty of the whole thing.

Forget about the potential Canadian game here for a second since the American game at the least had a host team selected already in the Boston Bruins but there was much speculation going on about just who they would face. The prevailing rumor was that the Washington Capitals and Alexander Ovechkin were going to be the foe allowing the NHL a major media event in which to promote one of the biggest stars in the game, the back-to-back NHL MVP.

Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir was able to track down Caps general manager George McPhee to find out if the prevailing rumors had any truth to them. McPhee’s answer was surprisingly snarky:

“I have not,” McPhee said when asked if he had heard anything from the NHL regarding Washington’s candidacy for the event. “You think we would know by this point.”

McPhee added: “It doesn’t sound like we will be part of it. Maybe that’s not a bad thing. When you go, you have to play in front of 40,000 or 50,000 of the other team’s fans. …I would just assume if we were in it that we would know by now.”

Sounds like there’s some sour grapes there, and I don’t mean Don Cherry. Perhaps something unseemly was going on and McPhee was all too aware of it and not at liberty to speak about it.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

A funny thing happened on the way through the rumor mill though as stories started to circulate that the Philadelphia Flyers were getting some buzz to be the Bruins opponent on New Years Day, a choice that seems a bit odd as, well, let’s face it the Flyers aren’t exactly a cuddly and marketable team. They’re abrasive, 29 other teams in the NHL generally hate their guts and so do the fans of those teams but they’re high profile thanks to that disdain and Flyers fans are generally some of the most psychotic staunchly loyal fans in the league.

The Flyers aren’t a team without talent as there’s Jeff Carter, Simon Gagne and Pierre McGuire object of affection Mike Richards as well but let’s face it, when NBC picks their same six teams out of a hat for their schedule each year the Flyers are getting more than their fair share of NBC attention and it’s pretty obnoxious.

This was all rumor on scattered Internet pondering though and harmless for the most part until earlier this evening news came out from, of all places, The Delaware County Daily Times that it was confirmed that the Flyers would be the Bruins opponent in the Winter Classic in Fenway Park and writer Anthony Sanfilippo brought the thunder with how he was able to obtain this knowledge.

Hang on to your asses because this is going to blow it right the hell up:

The NHL was pushing the Washington Capitals. They wanted to market Alex Ovechkin.

NBC, the network broadcasting the game, said no dice.

They were concerned with the poor ratings the Caps’ produced in the playoffs in an opening round series against the New York Rangers – the No. 1 U.S. market for the NHL.

So, they told the NHL to skip Washington and give them the Flyers… a more certain brand to market.

The NHL was stubborn for a while… mostly because the Flyers were more interested in a Jan. 1 date with Pittsburgh than Boston.

However, the NHL assured the Flyers that a future Flyers-Penguins outdoor game could still happen in a couple years.

The Flyers were satisfied and agreed to play.

Pardon me for one moment…

deep breaths

deep breaths

Don’t lose your cool, Joe. It’s not even fucking worth it anymore. Just let it go…

Now, I’m not going to completely blow a gasket here because, hey, who’s to say that Anthony Difilippo has his story accurate here. That’s not a knock against him, he’s dealing with sources that may or may not have everything squared away on their side.

But I believe every friggin’ word of it. Why? This is easy. Look how nicely they handled things with the Pittsburgh Penguins and their outdoor screen. The guys at The Pensblog thought very highly of how they handled things:

NBC, the channel that has used the Pittsburgh Penguins and Sidney Crosby in just about every commercial since the network started airing hockey games, is refusing to let the team show game three of the Penguins/Flyers series on the giant screen outside the arena.

Ironically, MSNBC published this article on Wednesday in which they wrote “during the Penguins’ run to the Stanley Cup finals last season, the outdoor TV routinely drew a couple thousand fans.”

And during the Stanley Cup Finals? More of the same as NBC refused to allow fans in Pittsburgh or Detroit to watch their teams road games on big screens at their arenas out of fear it would harm ratings.

And just where’s Herr Bettman through all this?

Zdeno Chara looks away while Mike Richards nauseates over Bettman’s posturing with NBC. Pierre McGuire salivates wildly.

Yeah, bending over for NBC again and again out of fear upsetting their drunken abusive father of a national broadcast “partner.” How many times now has Bettman “fallen down the stairs” for NBC so they can call the shots as to how the NHL operates its own league?


This lack of a spine shown by the NHL sickens me as they had the right idea for what to do with this game but instantly rolled over for NBC because they didn’t like the matchup.


Out of all this the Flyers still get what they want by getting an outdoor game with cross-state rivals the Penguins in a few years when, who knows if the game will even be worth doing if they run this trick pony into the ground.

And what’s more is… Who the hell do you market to the fans in a game between the Bruins and Flyers? Chara? I guess. Richards? Well, we’ll hear enough about him from McGuire. Do they spend the whole game talking about hockey’s supposed resurgence in Boston? What if the Bruins get off to a bad start next year and the crowd is swarmed over with people there to boo them or, worse yet, are only there for the spectacle and could give a shit else about the game?

That’ll play great on television – silence with mixed jeers from drunken boors.

My stand, and I’m sure the stand the NHL had until NBC President Dick Ebersol took his belt off, was that with the Capitals in the game you are guaranteed a major superstar worth marketing for the league in the game.

The last two versions of this game was teeming over with stars. In Buffalo you had Crosby, Malkin and Staal for the Penguins while Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek played for the Sabres. In Chicago you had Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews to push for the Blackhawks while the Red Wings came out with their crew of all-stars.

This time around? Marc Savard and maybe Phil Kessel for the Bruins with Richards and Carter and the potential Ray Emery sideshow carnival.

Wow, consider me glued to the set for this one.

With the NHL allowing themselves to be in a position to be abused by NBC like this the fans lose out because you don’t get to see the best of the best out there. Instead you get what might turn into a street fight. Hell, don’t even bother with Fenway, just play it behind the Green Monster on Lansdowne Street and turn it into a brawl since these two teams can always be counted on for that. I’m sure the NHL will love having these two teams beating each other’s face in in a game that’s meant to show off the best the league can offer in one of its most magical settings, the outdoor pond where everyone’s careers began long ago.

What a joke this “leadership” is. The NHL, instead of getting what it wanted, ended up making concessions not only with NBC but with one if its own teams.


NHL: Where Ruining A Good Thing Happens

The last two New Years Days the NHL has taken the holiday to seize the day and make sure to do something that allows them to get airtime on a day when they know everyone is going to be home nursing a hangover or at the very least laying about on the couch.

The NHL to their credit came up with the idea to play an outdoor regular season game on that day during the afternoon. After all, it’s January 1st and most of the northern US and southern Canada is in a deep freeze or at least winter-like conditions that lend themselves perfect to playing a game outside in a huge venue.

Two years ago, the Penguins and Sabres played at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, NY and last year the Red Wings and Blackhawks played at Wrigley Field in Chicago. January 1, 2010 will see a game featuring the Boston Bruins played at Fenway Park and the opponent to be announced later on this summer (rumors abound that either the New York Rangers or Washington Capitals will be involved).

Again, this is a great thing and a perfect setting for a game given the rejuvinated hockey fan base in Boston and getting a game with either the Rangers or Capitals is ideal because you’re either getting your biggest media market involved or the team with one of the biggest stars in the world. You can’t lose here…

…Unless you get the bright idea to do an outdoor game doubleheader on New Years Day with a second game set to take place in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Coming soon to the back of trucks all across Canada.

From the National Post in Canada:

Sources say the NHL is looking at building on the success of the Winter Classic by hosting two outdoor games on New Year’s Day. The first is rumoured for Fenway Park with the Boston Bruins hosting the Washington Capitals. The second is pencilled in for Calgary between the Flames and another Canadian team – likely the Toronto Maple Leafs.

CBC TV is a major push behind the Calgary proposal.

“I can’t see anything that jumps out to me that would be a roadblock logistically,” Haverstock said.

Now, I understand that he’s talking about logistics of doing a game in Calgary. Obviously its going to be cold as hell there and having conditions able to sustain the ice outdoors won’t be an issue.

The sort of logistics I’m thinking of here are those involved in wearing out the NHL fans and the wonderful novelty of the whole thing. Obviously Canada is bothered that they’ve, again, been left out of the NHL’s reindeer games in regard to doing an outdoor game. After all, it’s Canada that got the ball rolling with this thing back in November 2003 with the Oilers and Canadiens playing an outdoor game at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton.

Now with NBC and the NHL teaming up to make sure all the US marquee teams get taken care of with mid-season showcase event, Canada wants back in and for that I can’t blame them. Problem here is that a second game will get no attention in America.

The Heritage Classic in Edmonton nearly six years ago was an event that ESPN and ABC should’ve gone bonkers over to cover considering how much went into it with the legends game featuring the all-time greats for both franchises playing an exhibition game and then the real game itself. Instead, the event was largely ignored in the United States and video and highlights of then Canadiens goaltender Jose Theodore playing with a toque over his helmet in the frigid Edmonton air were about all we were left with to soak in.

When Buffalo and Pittsburgh played on January 1, 2008 the event was heralded as incredible and amazing a magical and all that with very little credit in the way given to what had happened five years previous but now this event was going to take over as a yearly staple – and hey, why not? It generates attention, looks great on the air and manages to steal airtime away from putrid college football bowl games.

Should the NHL decide to double its pleasure in 2010 to throw viewers a bone in both countries, because God knows Americans won’t watch Canadian teams on TV and Canadians are ruthlessly nationalistic and wanting some attention from Herr Bettman for all the financial propping up they do – sure, why not – let’s just slaughter the novelty of the whole thing and cave into everyones television demands.

Bettman has already shown that he’s got very little backbone to stand up for any sort of principles for the NHL and is now on the brink of selling out to both countries national broadcast partners at NBC and the CBC. This does come with a catch, however:

No one bothered to clue in the NHL Players Association.


From TSNs Darren Dreger:

”This is all news to me. We are breaking news, this is an insider moment that Calgary is potentially going to get an outdoor game and this is the first I’ve heard of it,” Glenn Healy, the NHLPA’s director of player affairs told TSN.

The NHL confirms the outdoor twin-bill will be discussed on June 25th at the competition committee meeting, however based on Healy’s reaction; there is reason to believe the event may be in jeopardy.

”We have never been approached by the league about a second outdoor game ever in Calgary and if they want to approach us, then our numbers are in the book.”

Then again, why would the NHL ever communicate something with the group of people they dislike more than NHL fans when its so much simpler to have someone at CBC let something slip out and get the buzz started instantly.

I can’t really top that because this is all it boils down to.

A man sits in his lonely board room cooking up ideas with his media pals… You know, the ones that he’s trying to win over so that they’ll give him some kind of money to turn a profit after he’s already given them carte blanche to boss him around and make a joke of the league by bumping off playoff games from their air in favor of horse races.

He cuts his deals, he makes his promises, and gives no regard for how things will work in the future when he’s trying to figure out a way to do an outdoor game in Tampa, Florida. You know he’ll have to do that because he’ll running out of ideas on where to do the next game or two on New Years Day all the while the fans have gotten over the novelty of it all and the idea just gets stale.

True Bettman style:
Get a hold of a truly great thing and abuse people with it simply because it “works” and then be forced to ride the negative tide that sweeps in when things get out of control.

Take a guess what tide rolled in today with this rumor of a New Years Day doubleheader.

Don’t get lost in what I’m ranting about here.

The Winter Classic as a singular game and big-time event yearly on January 1st is a great thing. Turning it into an annual circus having to look for new locations at all times to the benefit all the teams looking to cash in on a sideshow-like spectacle is a BAD idea.

The novelty is killed, the interest is nullified and pretty soon people stop noticing and giving a crap altogether. Doubling up sets a terrible precedent for this event in the future because you’re not only continuing a bizarro hockey xenophobia that exists with American and Canadian audiences, the simple greatness of a great spectacle event is worn out twice as fast as it would otherwise.

Leave it to Herr Bettman to continue his version of Sherman’s march to the sea to make sure anything good that happens with the NHL is soon burned to the ground.

Court to Balsillie: GTFO

Everything’s coming up Bettman, but this isn’t a surprise:

The Coyotes are staying in Phoenix.

A bankruptcy judge has rejected the proposed sale of the team to Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie, who would have moved the team to Hamilton, Ontario.

Judge Redfield T. Baum issued a 21-page ruling late Monday afternoon, concluding that the June 29 deadline imposed by Balsillie did not allow enough time to resolve the complex case.

“Simply put, the court does not think there is sufficient time (14 days) for all of these issues to be fairly presented to the court given that deadline,” the judge wrote.

If this shocks you that the court didn’t approve the sale to an owner looking to supersede the rules of the NHL, then you need to go back to school.

I’ve said from the get-go of this drama party that there’s no way the courts would see things Balsillie’s way, especially after he put a deadline on getting a sale done when it was clearly out of his, Jerry Moyes and even the NHLs hands.

Not coming to a Jobing.Com Arena near Glendale.

Of course, this is all just window dressing on the larger problem at hand for the NHL in that they have a franchise that is bleeding money yearly and something needs to be done to rectify that situation sooner than later. In this situation, however, it appears that Jim Balsillie and his moving van won’t be coming to Phoenix to take them away.

What happens with the Coyotes next will be very important to see how dedicated Herr Bettman is to actually keeping the Coyotes in Phoenix or if all of his talk about keeping the team there was just that.

Herr Bettman’s State of the Reichstag

I’ve held off on this piece for a bit because, well, there’s a big series going on right now. That said, I couldn’t allow for Herr Bettman’s yearly, rambling spin doctoring speech which he calls the State Of The League address go without giving it proper roasting.

Now I know that some of you may think that the harping on Bettman goes over the top and that’s fine and a fair criticism to which I just ask that he not make it so easy to find ways to hammer him. That said, it’s getting more popular to needle the man as Greg Wyshynski at Puck Daddy did quite nicely with his piece examining the NHL constitution and bylaws. If you haven’t given that a look over you should because the NHL constitution goes over about as black and white as the rules interpretations do for officials.

No wonder this league is such a mess.

What we’re going to focus on here, however, is Bettman’s May 30th press conference about what he thinks of the league and its many sticky issues and why he’s the kind of lying liar lying about lies that drive us crazy.

Black and White makes this blog classy-ish. It also opens the door to break Godwin’s Law.

If you’ve watched or absorbed sports enough in your life you know that when you get a talk from or an interview with someone involved in the game either they’re going to bore the crap out of you with the standard athlete/coach speak in which they offer up little to nothing informative or interesting.

If you’re dealing with someone in an executive position you’re probably going to get lied to a lot and if you’re on to their game and understand that they’re lying to you to mess with you, it’s fun.

Red Wings coach Mike Babcock is a superstar at this because he not only flat out lies, he twists reporters in knots with a British comedy-like dry wit in which allows him to both insult and take down a reporter who thinks they’re ahead of the game.

You also have guys like John Tortorella who don’t mind actually taking you down a peg or twelve and believe me, that’s quite the moment to have.

For Gary Bettman though… We know he’s lying, we know what he’s lying about and he thinks he’s being cute with us while others are more than happy to eat up what’s spoonfed by the Lying Mouth That Fails.

Honestly, do you think anyone out there believes it when he says this:

With regard to Phoenix, there has been a lot of commentary on the subject. So let me spend a brief moment on it.

The team was never in jeopardy. It was literally 20 minutes away from being fixed in a way that we thought was going to work quite well, and it’s our view, my view, that the Coyotes should not be in bankruptcy.

Give me a freaking break.

“Literally 20 minutes away from being fixed” – if you believe that I’ve got a team bridge to sell you.

Considering that the incredibly awful situation in Phoenix has now allowed for the soft underbelly of the NHL to be out in full display opening the door for every crazy canuck with lots of money to come running out to make a claim, how is it possible that the league was that close to righting the ship when they can’t even get out of their own way in the first place?

How difficult would it be for Bettman to be up front from the get-go to say, “Listen, things are in a bad way in Phoenix. Jerry Moyes has come to us with concerns and has asked for the league to help out in finding a buyer for the franchise interested in keeping the team tied to the city.”

At worst, the league takes a hit for playing things parallel to what goes on in corporate America with financially miserable companies getting a taxpayer bailout but at best everyone in the situation comes out looking like they’re trying to do the right thing for everyone concerned. Not only does it allow for everyone to look good, it’s solid PR for the league and for Jerry Moyes.

NHL Planning: It’s fannnnnntastic!

Instead you get this from the press conference following the State of the Game address:

Q. Publicly you’ve painted a fairly optimistic portrait of Phoenix’s financial health all season, yet court documents relating to the bankruptcy suggest there were some serious issues all year round. How do you imagine it turning around in that market?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: First of all, I know there have been suggestions that either Bill or I have been optimistic. That was not the case. What we’ve always responded to has been the notion that the club was not in any jeopardy. The club’s losses are comparable to what they’ve been.

The City of Glendale is prepared to work with the club in terms of building arrangements. And we believe there are buyers out there who are willing to step up, invest and make it work. This is a club that needs new ownership and a change in management and needs to perform better than it has. As long as there are people prepared to invest in doing that, we think the prospects can be optimistic and should be. At least some of the people that I’ve spoken to believe that it can be turned around and turned around rather quickly by doing a lot of the right things that haven’t been done.

Spin, spin, spin away.

The best part about reading this transcript is that you can see Bettman’s mood change from the start of the press conference to the end of it and he knows that what he’s shoveling isn’t being bought by those in attendance and hey, when you go into one of these things knowing full well that the reporters are going to come at you armed with a litany of hot-button topics you have to think he’d be prepared for this or more media savvy about it.

But it’s great to read an exchange that goes like this:

Q. Having said that, you’ve been in the south now, and your southern expansion, you’ve been 30 teams for, correct me if I’m wrong, 7 or 8 years now – the goal to be to get the big U.S. TV contract. The reward has never come. You don’t have the big TV contract?


Q. Is there any shelf life on being in these cities where across the board down there you’ve got financial problems. Do you ever pull your horns in on this whole 30?team thing and bring it back a little bit?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: The answer is I don’t agree with your premise. It wasn’t all about just the big TV contract. It was about expanding our footprint and connecting with fans in more places than before. If you count, I don’t have the exact number, but the number of people that have attended games in the new markets since they’ve come into the League goes into the tens of millions. We have a number of Stanley Cup champions and/or finalists who have come from the so?called Sun Belt.

To use your methodology of seven years, I’ll make it 10 or 12 years, that’s a relatively short period of time in the life of a franchise.

We like where we are. And this is not something that you take a snap shot over. We believe that our franchises can all be successful where they’re currently located. And somebody could have asked me the same question that you just asked eight years ago about the Canadian franchises. They could have said; ‘Why do you have any franchises other than Toronto or Montreal?’ eight or ten years ago, because the buildings in all the other places were two?thirds to half empty. And the answer is because that’s where we belong having franchises. We’re working with our fans. And we don’t run out on cities. We try to make it work. I think at this stage to pronounce that our expansion and the places where we are isn’t working is premature.

With respect to television, the television landscape is a lot more complicated than the discussion about it. Taking the year off that we took had an impact on where we are and who had what needs when, and the perceived value of our product.

The fact is we decided coming back to go in a certain direction in the United States. Our ratings are growing very nicely with a partner who is growing with us. And it’s playing out pretty much the way we planned. So if it’s not living up to the standards, perhaps, that you’ve set for these franchises, I apologize. But we think we’re doing okay.

Freaking hilarious.

I can picture in my head how Herr Bettman pouted over this and about how no one believes what he says when it comes to just about anything having to do with the league.In fact, I don’t have to imagine it.

Gary’s head being this cartoonishly large makes my Photoshop work all the more realistic.

I can just look at this and feel a lot better knowing that this is the look on his face.

With regard to what he’s saying about Phoenix, I doubt there will be any deviation in how things go at tomorrow’s hearing in the desert even though the Toronto Star seems to think that Balsillie has a good enough case to win out over the NHL. While we’re talking about super-wealthy rams butting heads here, I doubt that the courts would ever go with someone trying to back-door their way into owning a team and violating the way the league does business.

Then again, you just never know – law is funny that way. For my own greedy purposes, I’d love to see Balsillie win out in court tomorrow. Getting a judge to help me and others across the Internet give the NHL and Bettman the finger is something I pray will happen some day, I just doubt beyond anything else that tomorrow is going to be that day.

Of course, should it break down like that, the NHL already has the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on stand-by ready to smack that down just in case Judge Baum wants to get frisky.

At least the league is always ready with a backup plan.

Er… Right.