JordonCooper Rotating Header Image

NHL

Can someone help Kevin Lowe up from under that bus

Well that was an awkward press conference

Is it MacTavish’s fault? His intense forensic investigation has discovered that ….

… no.

No, this is totally not his fault, according to no less an authority as Craig MacTavish.

When grouped in with Kevin Lowe and Scott Howson as part of the Oilers’ braintrust, MacTavish bristled.

 “I’ve been on the job for 18 months. So you want to lop me in … I coached the team for a long time, but I have nothing to do with management. So don’t lop me into a situation of power and influence in the management level of this organization,” he said.

MacTavish coached the Oilers for eight seasons. The idea that he didn’t have input on player personnel decisions is, frankly, nonsensical. So essentially here he’s passed the buck for the poor construction of this roster over the years to former GM Steve Tambellini and Kevin Lowe, who is MacTavish’s boss and currently being helped from under a bus.

But MacTavish has attempted to position himself not as another example of the franchise’s addiction to nostalgia and cronyism, but as an “outsider” that is coming in to fix this mess. And claiming this isn’t his mess – and he lack of restructuring in both the roster and the team’s maligned scouting department says it is, at least partially – helps establish that persona.

“I’m pissed off. No one lives it more than me. And our fans are pissed off,” said the Rebel GM.

“We’re going to continue making rational, responsible decisions based on the situation that we’re in.”

No panic buttons. Stay the course. Patience with the young players. 

More of the same. Another year in the basement.

Knuckler

What a brutal shot.  It goes high and then low.  I feel for Tuukka Rask who will mocked by this team mates for decades for letting this goal in.

I do love this Gerry Cheevers type response.  He just shrugged his shoulders and didn’t seem to let it bother him.  If I was him, I may have been tempted to take a chopped Zdeno Chara who broke the rule of never putting your stick down in front of a shot. 

How Athletes Go Broke

Basically it is easy come, easy go.

What the hell happened here? Seven floors above the iced-over Dallas North Tollway, Raghib (Rocket) Ismail is revisiting the question. It’s December, and Ismail is sitting in the boardroom of Chapwood Investments, a wealth management firm, his white Notre Dame snow hat pulled down to his furrowed brow.

In 1991 Ismail, a junior wide receiver for the Fighting Irish, was the presumptive No. 1 pick in the NFL draft. Instead he signed with the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts for a guaranteed $18.2 million over four years, then the richest contract in football history. But today, at a private session on financial planning attended by eight other current or onetime pro athletes, Ismail, 39, indulges in a luxury he didn’t enjoy as a young VIP: hindsight.

“I once had a meeting with J.P. Morgan,” he tells the group, “and it was literally like listening to Charlie Brown’s teacher.” The men surrounding Ismail at the conference table include Angels outfielder Torii Hunter, Cowboys wideout Isaiah Stanback and six former pros: NFL cornerback Ray Mickens and fullback Jerald Sowell (both of whom retired in 2006), major league outfielder Ben Grieve and NBA guard Erick Strickland (’05), and linebackers Winfred Tubbs (’00) and Eugene Lockhart (’92). Ismail (’02) cackles ruefully. “I was so busy focusing on football that the first year was suddenly over,” he says. “I’d started with this $4 million base salary, but then I looked at my bank statement, and I just went, What the…?”

Before Ismail can elaborate on his bewilderment—over the complexity of that statement and the amount of money he had already lost—eight heads are nodding, eight faces smiling in sympathy. Hunter chimes in, “Once you get into the financial stuff, and it sounds like Japanese, guys are just like, ‘I ain’t going back.’ They’re lost.”

At the front of the room Ed Butowsky also does a bobblehead nod. Stout, besuited and silver-haired, Butowsky, 47, is a managing partner at Chapwood and a former senior vice president at Morgan Stanley. His bailiwick as a money manager has long been billionaires, hundred-millionaires and CEOs—a club that, the Steinbrenners’ pen be damned, still doesn’t include many athletes. But one afternoon six years ago Butowsky was chatting with Tubbs, his neighbor in the Dallas suburb of Plano, and the onetime Pro Bowl player casually described how money spills through athletes’ fingers. Tubbs explained how and when they begin earning income (often in school, through illicit payments from agents); how their pro salaries are invested (blindly); and when the millions evaporate (before they know it).

“The details were mind-boggling,” recalls Butowsky, who would later hire Tubbs to work in business development at Chapwood. “I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.”

What happens to many athletes and their money is indeed hard to believe. In this month alone Saints alltime leading rusher Deuce McAllister filed for bankruptcy protection for the Jackson, Miss., car dealership he owns; Panthers receiver Muhsin Muhammad put his mansion in Charlotte up for sale on eBay a month after news broke that his entertainment company was being sued by Wachovia Bank for overdue credit-card payments; and penniless former NFL running back Travis Henry was jailed for nonpayment of child support.

In a less public way, other athletes from the nation’s three biggest and most profitable leagues—the NBA, NFL and Major League Baseball—are suffering from a financial pandemic. Although salaries have risen steadily during the last three decades, reports from a host of sources (athletes, players’ associations, agents and financial advisers) indicate that:

• By the time they have been retired for two years, 78% of former NFL players have gone bankrupt or are under financial stress because of joblessness or divorce.

• Within five years of retirement, an estimated 60% of former NBA players are broke.

With slim chance of landing NHL team, Markham arena project somewhere between risky and outright insane

Bruce Arthur points out the insanity of the Markham stadium plan

Which brings us to the city of Markham, which hopes to stake a claim. The city has been wrestling for some time with a proposal to build a $325-million arena that would hopefully house an NHL team. Mayor Frank Scarpitti revealed a modified version of the funding structure on Friday with a murky new $70-million extracted from unnamed developers. The plan is still full of holes, with at least $50-million not covered, and council is expected to vote on a previous version of the funding structure Monday or Tuesday. And between now and then, someone should tell them that they are risking an enormous amount of money for a project that is somewhere between risky and outright insane.

“We have never been encouraging of this project,” said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, reached by phone on Saturday. “And we have repeatedly said that if this building is built, it should be built with the expectation that they will not get a team.”

Bettman was otherwise loathe to comment on the project, or any other one. Yes, he has always repeated a version of that line to those who hope to join the list, because the NHL does not want cities to bankrupt themselves in the faint hope that they might jump to the front of a queue. Yes, Bettman is widely disbelieved when he says, for instance, that Quebec is not necessarily getting the Nordiques back anytime soon.

But in this case, right now Markham is chasing something that isn’t there. One NHL source with knowledge of the league’s thinking called the Markham project “delusional,” and pointed to Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, already outdated, as an example. The source added that Markham is not a priority for the league, and that building an arena will not make it one. The NHL loves to insist there isn’t a list, but if there is, Markham isn’t on it.

What’s even more delusional are those that say that Saskatoon is going to get a NHL team.

Saskatoon Afternoon Show 5:15 Rountable

We had a good discussion today on the Saskatoon Afternoon Roundtable about hockey fights and the Mayor’s lack of leadership on active transportation and cutting congestion on Saskatoon City Streets.  I may have called him “clueless”.  If I would have brought my “A” game, I would have called him the “Gary Bettman of Mayors” and bridged the segments.  Next time (we talk municipal politics and hockey in the same segment).

Listen.

100 Ideas to Improve Saskatoon: 6. Do something with Cairns Field

I love Cairns Field.  It seats 5000 people which is small enough to feel cozy yet large enough to feel like an event.  The best part of it is that if you are there, you are watching some pretty good baseball being played by the Saskatoon Yellow Jackets on a warm Saskatoon summer night.

Cairns Field

The bad part about Cairns Field is it’s location.  It’s tucked away between Holiday Park and the South Industrial section.  It’s hard to get to and even hard to find.  I have had more than one person that was going to meet us at the game text and ask, “now where exactly is this Cairns Field”.

Cairns Field represents Saskatoon’s best chance at professional sports.  Professional basketball in Canada is the Toronto Raptors, we aren’t big enough for MLS or even NASL soccer, the CFL won’t put an additional team in Saskatchewan, and those that think that the NHL is coming are delusional (I’ve heard the arguments and they aren’t based in reality).  Minor league baseball (and maybe an AHL team) is the one team that can thrive in Saskatoon but it’s going to be hard if it is stuck back in it’s current location.

So where do you put it?  Well baseball needs to be close to downtown and close to amenities.  That is going to be a challenge anywhere in Saskatoon unless we can put it in the North Downtown redevelopment where the city yards are currently located.  

I am not saying it is ever going to happen but it would be an amazing place to walk down to and have dinner and then watch a game followed by a couple of drinks at a nearby pub.  They have done it in Winnipeg and for 50 nights each summer (plus playoffs) up to 7481 people come downtown to enjoy The Forks and watch a game (and spend money while down there).

A cozy stadium of 5,000 seats in the heart of Saskatoon with affordable ticket prices?  I can see that working.  Especially if we can find a way to up the quality of ball being played to A or AA baseball.

If that fails, maybe the city can build a decent website for the field that makes it clearer that it exists and how to get there.  That would be a good first step.

Mark Messier’s Dilemma

I am not a fan of the The Captain and this post does little to change my mind

But NHL coaches aren’t born, they’re made. Adam Oates is a great example: Extremely intelligent, a student of the game, and a player with name recognition for generations of talent that came after him; but he needed some time as an NHL assistant coach before he could earn a head coaching gig with the Washington Capitals.

Wayne Gretzky is another example, and one Messier shouldn’t follow: He hadn’t coached a game before taking over the Phoenix Coyotes in 2005-06, and proceeded to miss the playoffs for four consecutive seasons – losing 161 games and much of his luster as a man that could master every facet of hockey.

Messier’s coaching experience is limited to coached the Canadian national team in the Deutschland Cup and Spengler Cup in 2010. This hasn’t stopped teams like the Edmonton Oilers and the Rangers from inquiring about his services as a head coach, but in both cases that’s as much about name recognition as it is coaching acumen.

So if the former captain is serious about this stuff, he needs to understand that his name is a foot in the door but that it doesn’t automatically get to appear on that door next to “head coach” just because he’s Mark Messier.

He can take the Oates route and work as an assistant. He could be a rock-star AHL coach, honing his craft and earning experience as a bench boss. He can learn the ropes like any novice and become a better coach because of it.

Or he can just admit that this was about being HEAD COACH OF THE NEW YORK RANGERS and nothing else will do. That’s fine. Leave the other 29 jobs to those with the hunger for the job rather than the job title. Hey, the Rangers will probably be hiring a GM soon.

If you recall, Messier wanted to be named the New York Rangers GM before despite having no experience scouting, coaching or really anything than being a team captain.  He doesn’t seem to be willing to do the work to succeed as an executive that he was as a player.

I know he won those rings but it’s almost as if he forgot how he got them.

The greatest comment in the history of the Internet

It’s in response to this blog post on Yahoo!’s Puck Daddy blog.

Comment on John Tortorella's firing

I challenge you to find one weirder.

Tortorella the worst kind of coach

Michael Grange has a fantastic column on the firing on John Tortorella.

News that he was fired as head coach of the New York Rangers Wednesday was an excellent excuse to collect ‘best-of packages’ of his worst moments. They are fun in their own way.

But they tend not to capture some of the quieter moments such as when he’d look to a guy making a miniscule fraction of his salary and needing a clip for the news about … anything … and respond by using the power of his pulpit and his status as the head coach of the mighty Rangers to make whoever it might be feel about two inches tall for doing his job.

Cut ‘em down, smirk, do it again. Up close it wasn’t fun or funny at all.

He’s been the subject of a Steve Porter remix. His explosive rants about the ‘whiny Pittsburgh Penguins stars’ or his battles with Larry Brooks of the New York Post are YouTube classics.

Good for him and undoubtedly good for fans who enjoy a little pepper with what is normally a pretty bland soup.

But from where I sat during the Rangers-Senators series last season, when Tortorella took his obstinacy to a new — low — level that he carried through the playoffs, he was a bully who enjoyed turning convention on its head for no apparent reason — like a kid picking legs off a spider.

Make sure you read the entire thing.

Updated: Make sure you check out this video with Nick Kypreos on Tim and Sid on Tortorella.  If you are still thinking about the New York Rangers, Doug MacLean, Nick Kypreos and Daren Millard discuss the New York Rangers firing coach John Tortorella and the reaction from the players.

Mike Smith’s Smashing Comeback

As a former goaltender, Mike Smith was totally in the right.

The delusion of the Calgary Flames

Great piece by Eric Francis.  If Edwards’ statements are accurate (rather than just marketing talking) then it is going to be a bad stretch ahead to be a Calgary Flames fan.

Just when it appeared the Flames were finally ready to move wholeheartedly in the right direction, Edwards issued the type of directive that got this franchise into this mess in the first place.

Instead of building slowly towards something the city can eventually be proud of again, comments like that suggest the organization is destined to, once again, ignore the virtues of patience and better judgment by aiming for something that is not only completely unattainable but counterproductive.

Not so, argued president Ken King, who heard the rapid backlash.

“Trying to win and rebuilding are not mutually exclusive,” insisted King.

“We are not straddling the line of trying to balance — we are completely committed to the rebuilding process and should be judged on our recent and future moves.”

To think a team can jettison Jarome Iginla, Jay Bouwmeester and likely lose Miikka Kiprusoff to retirement and somehow snap a four-year playoff drought despite receiving no NHLers in return is beyond nonsensical.

It’s delusional.

Intellectually dishonest.

So, why even float the idea out there?

While it’s important players continue to strive for wins throughout the process, standings should be irrelevant the next year or two. Improving with a re-stocked lineup should be the goal, however long it takes.

Feaster admitted Monday he hadn’t been as intellectually honest as he could have been the last two seasons by mortgaging the future to help a bad team. Edwards’ stated goal promotes more of the same.

The stage finally appeared to be set the last week for a prolonged rebuild fans have been screaming for. Calgarians are willing to sit through the growing pains absolutely necessary for every organization in pro sport to endure before going from the basement to Cup challengers.

The Flames’ age-old mandate calling for a team to challenge for the Cup every year isn’t realistic. Every franchise in every sport has to eventually take a step or two back to take one step forward.

By trying to emulate the Harlem Globetrotters, the Flames have looked more like the Washington Generals by advancing past the first round of the playoffs once in the last 24 years.

 

The real reason Gary Bettman hates Donald Fehr

When Bettman looks at Fehr, he sees himself

Ask anyone who has had to haggle out a deal with Bettman behind closed doors and they’ll paint a picture of a brilliant, calculating and ruthless negotiator, who seizes every advantage, who when presented with an opportunity goes straight for the kill. He understands his opposition’s weak points, he knows his side’s strengths, and with a cool head and cold eyes he calculates the path to victory. That’s one reason why his employers, the owners, love him, and pay him the big bucks.

Consider the last NHL labour negotiations in 2004 and 2005. Employing classic divide and conquer tactics, understanding that hockey players in their hearts still feel darned lucky to be playing a game for a living, seeing the cracks in the infrastructure around Bob Goodenow, Bettman soon enough had the union membership enthusiastically sticking knives in the back of their own leader.

And the tipping point of that process?

When the players offered up a 24 per cent salary roll back to avoid a salary cap, and Bettman and the owners gratefully accepted their generosity as a starting point, and then ground them into the dust.

The players hired Donald Fehr as their union head because he is Bettman’s equal. He is there to guard them against falling prey to their own sentimentality about the game, to protect their interests in a negotiation in which everyone understood that they would be giving back, would be surrendering rights and surrendering money guaranteed in the previous collective agreement.

Clearly a student of history, Fehr began by restructuring the union hierarchy so that there was no longer a ready-made group of potential Brutuses who might be turned against him. Bettman and the owners have attempted the same strategy this time around, contacting players directly, whispering about revolts in the rank and file, suggesting that Fehr isn’t telling the whole truth, that it’s his presence alone that is preventing a deal. But so far, it doesn’t seem to be working nearly as well as it did against Goodenow.

We have now also had “good cop” owners enter the picture, we have had Sidney Crosby ride in on his white horse, we have had numerous propaganda volleys from both sides. But what’s been going on away from all of that staged drama is a hard, grind-it-out negotiation, with Fehr playing the same kind of frustrate-the-opposition defence that the New Jersey Devils employed in the bad old days.

It is going to be tough getting to the finish, though surely that’s still in the cards. Fehr is going to negotiate against a deadline – a real hard deadline to salvage the season , wherever that actually lies – and try to hold back any impulsive moves by his membership. Along the way, he’s going to grab whatever he can.

Like when the owners offered to up their “make whole” offer to $300-million this week, thinking that number would turn heads and shift the emotional tide and lead to the players rushing past the other details in their hurry to get back on the ice.

That’s great, Fehr said. Thanks for the money.

Now let’s negotiate the other stuff.

Gee, where have we seen that before?

How do such stupid people posses such great wealth

Bruce Arthur on the NHL owners statements of the last week

It is not an election, of course, so perhaps the NHL is just ignoring public opinion, confident as ever that any anger will pass. But if they are trying, they could perhaps do better. It wasn’t just Romney-esque gaffes, though if you define a gaffe as accidentally telling the truth, then Jimmy Devellano qualifies. The Detroit Red Wings executive and alternate governor managed to offend players in an interview with something called Island Sports News, in which he could perhaps have spoken more elegantly.

“It’s very complicated and way too much for the average Joe to understand, but having said that, I will tell you this: The owners can basically be viewed as the ranch, and the players, and me included, are the cattle,” said Devellano. “The owners own the ranch and allow the players to eat there.

That’s the way its always been and that’s the way it will be forever. And the owners simply aren’t going to let a union push them around. It’s not going to happen.” Listen, average Joe: it’s too much for you to comprehend that the really rich guys are the bosses, and they set the rules. Never happens anywhere else, especially for average Joes. Some players responded on Twitter by mooing, just as Ted Lindsay would have done.

Devellano then talked about the “unwritten rule” about not signing restricted free agents to offer sheets, and the fact that not every owner follows that unwritten rule might be the only thing that keeps it from being an admission of collusion. Which Don Fehr, having successfully fought collusion in baseball, just might sprinkle into his motivational speeches should the players waver.

The US$250,000 fine the Detroit Red Wings received will probably keep any other owner or executive from speaking their minds, but sometimes you can divine an owner’s intentions by his dealings with Edmonton City Council. As the league attempts to reduce the players’ share of revenues, Oilers owner Daryl Katz was trying to increase the share of public investment in an arena that is already slated to cost almost half a billion dollars.

“In our view, it is the team that acts as a subsidy for a city’s arena, which is effectively infrastructure, not the other way around,” Katz said in an interview with The Edmonton Journal. “For our part, on the other hand, we’re taking a lot of risk by committing to one of the NHL’s smallest markets for 35 years.” Well, study after study shows that sports arenas do not actually spur economic benefits, so no, the subsidy actually goes the other way. And while Forbes is no Bible when it comes to NHL finances, it puts Edmonton right in the middle of the league in 2011 revenues, and shows the team to be substantially profitable over the last five years. Oh, and city councillor Tony Catarina told the Journal, “They don’t want to pay taxes. They want help now in operating the arena. They want a guaranteed ($6-million per year) subsidy. They want the city to be their tenant in a major office building. They want the casino licence.” Helpfully, the NHL has told Edmonton city council that “absent a lease, and with no state-of-the-art arena either being constructed or about to be, the Oilers would be a candidate for relocation,” according to Journal columnist John MacKinnon. The Oilers official Twitter account then retweeted a link to that column, which as social media strategy goes is a hell of a way to connect with your fans. Nice little hockey team you got here. Shame if anything were to happen to it.

Atlanta to Winnipeg

Ever since Winnipeg decided to build the MTS Centre to only hold just over 15,000 people, I have questioned whether they would ever get a NHL team back.  Well it appears they will but the question remains, will it be sustainable in the smallest hockey arena in the league.  The Boston Globe doesn’t think so.

All of which is to say that Manitoba has the kind of open space and passing lanes that could turn even Dennis Wideman into a Norris Trophy candidate. If the NHL is going to land there again, the initial pop will be enthralling, intoxicating. Returning an NHL team to that bit of Canadian soil would be like bringing Paragon Park back to Hull. Initially, everyone and his cousin would rush to the rink.

Until the L’s piled up.

Until Winnipegers realized the sticker shock of $120 lower-bowl seats and $250 suite seats (extra for the handwarmers).

Until American TV interests made it clear that they would prefer to air senior women’s bocce tournaments out of Biloxi to anything happening in Winnipeg. Shortsighted, perhaps, but there is a reason TV is referred to as the small screen.

For all Winnipeg has to offer, in terms of city size and sheer love for everything connected to the vulcanized rubber and carbon stick industry, it remains a real stretch for big-time hockey.

As for stadium size, The MTS Centre (15,015) is smaller than Rexall Place (16,839) by over 1000 seats and is over 6000 seats smaller than many new arenas.  It’s even smaller than the old Winnipeg Arena (although it does have luxury boxes and other revenue streams that it does not).  There also is the question of corporate sponsorship.  While Winnipeg is home to an impressive amount of crown corporations, is there the corporate money to keep paying for the boxes and paying top dollar for sponsorship money?

I think it is going to be tight.  Winnipeg doesn’t have the wealth that Edmonton does and even the Oilers have struggled at times to fill Rexall Place (which is still a great place to watch hockey – not the Oilers but a good hockey team) and the Flames had a hard time filling the Saddledome this year.  I am not talking about the 2011 season but in 2017, things could be a lot tougher than people want to think about.  Oh well, they can always move to Kansas City. via

Ken Dryden on Hockey Violence

In today’s Globe and Mail

I wonder what will make people say that about us 50 years from now. What are the big things we might be getting really wrong? Chemicals in our foods? Genetic modifications gone wrong? Climate change?

In sports, I think, the haunting question will be about head injuries. It wasn’t until 1943 in the National Football League that helmets became mandatory; in the National Hockey League, not until 36 years after that, in 1979. The first goalie mask wasn’t worn in the NHL until 1959.

And in a whole childhood and adolescence of playing goalie, I didn’t wear a mask until 1965, when I had to wear one on my college team. How could I have been so stupid?

A football wide receiver, 220 pounds, cuts across the middle of the field at 35 kilometres an hour; a linebacker, 240 pounds, cuts the other way at 20 km/hour. The wide receiver focuses on the ball; the linebacker focuses on the wide receiver, knowing that a good hit now won’t just break up the pass but will break down the focus and will of that wide receiver for each succeeding pass in the game.

Two hockey players, almost as big as the football players, but going even faster, colliding with each other and with the boards, glass and ice exaggerating the force of every hit.

Boxers, snapping jabs and hooks at each other’s head, round after round. (But no hitting below the belt; that’s not fair.) Ultimate Fighting: Fist, foot, elbow, knee, bone against bone – get your opponent down, get him defenceless and pound away.

In addition, there are the countless mini-collisions that never make the “Highlights of the Night.” They make players feel a little dizzy, but then seconds later, almost every time, they feel fine. So they must be fine.

As he points out in detail, they really aren’t.

During the lockout a couple of years ago, I watched a lot of hockey on ESPN Classic.  The game in the 70s and even 80s was incredibly different and it wasn’t just the mullets.  Even hard hitting physical teams like the Philadelphia Flyers or Boston Bruins played a far less physical than even finesse teams today do.  The amount of violent hits just were not there.  There were ugly incidents but the game was not nearly as physical as it is today.  Part of it was the equipment.  The equipment of the 70s was cloth with just a little plastic on you knee pads.  Today’s players are using a lot of plastic and composite materials that make players not only feel invincible when they hit someone else but magnify the power and intensity of those hits on someone else.  Add the fact that the average player is both faster, bigger, and heavier, you have a recipe for disaster, especially when you consider that the head is still the least protected parts of their body.

One thing that Dryden didn’t get at is this ridiculous idea that is spouted by Bettman is that the players have to govern this themselves.  As shown in the NFL, players won’t clamp down on illegal hits, it has to come from the league.  It has to hurt players in fines and in games lost (which hurts the team as well).  This isn’t about the Zdeno Chara/Max Pacioretty hit (which I didn’t see as dirty) but it’s about a crazy about of players losing not only their careers but being able to function as human beings after they retire.  As comments by Tie Domi about the death of Bob Probert show, players won’t even protect themselves from that fate so they need someone to step in and do it.  The question is will the NHL do it before the Canadian or U.S. government steps in and does it for them?