Tuesday, July 31, 2007

ESPN and NHL are Talking

I never thought I'd see the day.
A return to ESPN could boost the league’s profile on the network’s news shows. According to an ESPN study of its 1 a.m. “SportsCenter” program, the show featured 29 fewer minutes of NHL coverage in March 2007 than in March 2004, the last year ESPN aired NHL games. That amounts to a 28 percent decline in hockey’s allotment of airtime, ESPN ombudsman Le Anne
Schreiber wrote in May.

The move would mark a change at Versus, as well, which is open to giving up its cable exclusivity if it can tap into ESPN’s marketing prowess. Over the past two years, Versus executives have complained privately that ESPN ignored their network. They are hoping for a situation that mirrors the NBA, where ESPN and TNT push viewers to each network’s games.

The league’s talks with ESPN come as it is negotiating with cable and satellite operators for carriage of its planned NHL Network and its out-of-market Center Ice package. Cable sources describe the negotiations as progressing smoothly, with the league taking a page from Major League Baseball by tying carriage of its planned channel with the renewal of Center Ice.
A possible return by the NHL to ESPN and the development of it's very own hockey channel? Somebody pinch me, I've got to be dreaming.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Is Vegas a Good Bet for the NHL?

Adam Proteau writing for the Hockey News.com doesn't think so.
Is the NHL arrogant enough to believe that – in the midst of exotic animal exhibitions, sins of the flesh and oxygen-fueled gambling – the Average Joe is going to shell out to watch the likes of Lou Lamoriello’s Trap-tacular Extravaganza?

Isn’t the idea of the defense-first NHL in Vegas very much like dropping Chastity the Abstinence Clown into the middle of Amsterdam’s red-light district and expecting bonzo box office to follow?

Nobody doubts the first few years of the operation would garner the NHL some of the best publicity it has ever had.

But once the newness of the game inevitably wore off – the way it has in Miami, Nashville, Washington and Long Island, among other places – a half-empty building surrounded by nothing but money-making attractions would make the NHL a laughingstock in a way that NBC and its horseracing fetish couldn’t ever come close to.

If that were to occur, Bettman and Bruckheimer would be losers on one of the biggest stages there is. And you know what Hunter S. Thompson said about a loser in Vegas.

Okay, maybe you don’t. In his famous Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas novel, Thompson wrote, “For a loser, Vegas is the meanest town on earth.”

The NHL doesn’t need any more kicks to its collective junk than it’s already received. But if it were proven Carrot Top and Wayne Newton can turn a profit in Las Vegas yet hockey can’t, the utter degradation of the sport would be complete.
Complete article can be found>>>>>> here.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Grapes of Wrath

Don Cherry, comes to the defense of the Staal brothers.
"I am very disappointed in the Sun because I always thought of it as very fair and not a trash tabloid," he said last night from his cottage near Kingston. "But what you did to those kids by putting their mug shots on the front of the paper was really low."

His complaint was not the only one yesterday, but it was the loudest. Some felt the placement on the front page of the arrest in Minnesota of hockey brothers Eric and Jordan Staal of Thunder Bay was in poor taste.

The brothers and 12 other pals were brought into custody and charged after a bachelor party for Carolina Hurricanes star Eric Staal, 22, allegedly got a little out of control. [...]

Cherry questions why police had to go to that extreme over a party and why they would release their booking photos, but was even more adamant in his defence of the two hockey players and the very game they play.

The headline on the Sun's front -- "NHL Players Gone Wild!" -- was misleading, he said, adding this was not even remotely in the same league as last week's incident with the Chilean soccer team and Toronto Police, and yet received equal or even bigger coverage.

"Those guys spit on the cops," he said of the Under-20 soccer players.

He said he still can't believe the Michael Vick dog fighting scandal or the NBA referee gambling probe did not receive the same front-page treatment.

"I mean they were killing dogs," said the emotional Grapes, well known for his love of the canines and specifically his beloved Blue.

"All of these other sports have all kinds of crazy things happen -- you have got guys up on rape charges, murder, attempted murder, gambling suspicion and guys taking steroids, and you have some kids on your front page who got a little too loud at a party. Come on!"

Still angry, he added that he "knows something that was not on the front of your paper.

"What wasn't there was how 2,600 NHL players took random drug tests and not one player tested positive, but instead you have something about a noisy party."
Go get'em Grapes.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Attack of the Hockey Bots

Notorious B.O.T. faces off against Two Puck...

Finally, a Stanley Cup for puck nerds
For their final exams, 14 teams of engineering students will pit prototype hockey robots against each other on a “rink” surface to battle for control of the puck and score goals in a net.

The event is the culmination of Physics 253, a 13-week crash course in practical design modeled on similar courses at MIT and Stanford. Students learn the basics of electro-mechanical design and then apply that knowledge to construct their robots from scratch.

The students have spent the last six weeks building the autonomous robots to be fast, accurate and, most importantly, capable of taking knocks from their opponents. The robots are preprogrammed and no remote control will be allowed in the competition.

Each match will last two minutes and the robot that scores the most goals wins. Although the students have been encouraged to design their robots to carry on the great Canadian traditions of scoring goals and pummeling opponents, course instructor Andre Marziali, a UBC Physics professor, will call penalties on any hockey-bots that catch fire during the competition.
We may be seeing the early developement here of the real "Blade Runners" of future hockey.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Hockey: The World Greatest Sport

...here's why.

But then again, being hockey fans, you already knew why.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Puck Rock

The Good Old Hockey Game (punk version)...

The Leafs win the Cup? Man, I don't know about that.


NHL and NeuLion hope to bring ultimate online hockey experiences to the fans.
This new NHL online video offering will be powered by NeuLion and will include the following:

  • Live hockey games from NHL Center Ice Online. Paying subscribers of this service will have access to as many as 40 games per week, subject to local blackouts, with the option to view multiple games at one time. Viewers can also zoom into just one game and set their own viewing preferences. The ability to view multiple games is one of several upgrades to last year’s NHL Center Ice Online product.

  • League-wide videos, player information and fan input. Favorite players or teams can be monitored, as well as stats for fantasy league purposes. Fans can also share videos with other fans globally. Specific favorite NHL content can be organized and shared through buddy lists, blogs, e-mail and playlists.

  • Team Channels for all 30 teams plus NHL.com. Fans can have access to the total team experience which feature footage only available through this new service. Footage can include clips from morning skate, pre-game interviews and post-game commentary. Additional content could include off-season NHL highlights and team-specific video-on-demand such as locker room access and mascot features. Fans can also choose game highlights to watch their favorite team or players. Premium content will be available for a pay-per-view or subscription fee.

    (my emphasis)
  • “The popularity of viewing sports highlights and games online continues to grow, especially with hockey fans, who tend to be early adapters to new technology,” said John Collins, Senior Executive Vice President, Business and Media, NHL, in a Thursday statement.

    Collins continued: “This new agreement with NeuLion is another addition to the NHL’s technical platform to deliver unique and exciting content online that is available anytime, anywhere, without geographic boundaries.”
    I think this is a smart move by the league. As we all know the TV ratings for the sport continue to decline and the prospects appear dim that hockey will ever be able to carve out a decent niche in that increasingly over-saturated medium of talk shows, poker and reality garbage. However the web offers wide open opportunities and the NHL is wise to take advantage of the fast developing webcasting technologies that are better able to target the hockey loving audience.

    Smart move.

    Thursday, July 19, 2007

    Fight club… for kids?

    From the... you just can't make this kind of stuff up dept.
    He is the head professor of an old-school ritual outlawed at all levels of amateur hockey and ringleader of a summer curriculum that has generated more scorn than approval among the provincial capital's chattering class.

    The Wild's Derek Boogaard, who towers over most men with his hulking 6-foot-7 frame (6-9 on skates), loves presiding over this controversial family affair in his hometown, as his persistent smile attests.

    Thursday night, about two dozen players ages 12-18 paid $50 apiece to learn from the Boogeyman and his protégé, Aaron, his youngest brother and a former Wild prospect now under contract to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

    The kids learned how to leverage their strength when decking an opponent, protect themselves against punches from various angles and condition their bodies for the physical play that is the cause of, and solution to, the NHL's identity crisis.

    The second "Derek Boogaard Fighting Camp," which includes T-shirts splotched with blood-red dye, was staged inside a stuffy miniature rink with boards, glass and plastic ice.

    Kids separated into two groups and donned full equipment, including skates and boxing gloves, during an hour of supervised training with the brothers Boogaard.

    "The main thing is I'm not teaching them how to hurt each other," Derek insists. "I'm showing them how to protect themselves - where to hold, where to grab and, if you're in trouble, what to do.
    And they say fighting has no future in this sport.

    Wednesday, July 18, 2007

    Cyber Pucks

    Another year, another bunch of upgrades...

    Looks like it's not only the NHL players that will be getting new uniforms to play in for 08... so will the virtual ones.

    Monday, July 16, 2007

    Global Warming Hockey

    Sign of the times...

    Outdoor hockey threatened by global warming

    MONTREAL (CP) - Many Canadians go to their local outdoor hockey rink to skate and live the dream of scoring that winning Stanley Cup goal.
    But this quintessential slice of Canadian life in wintertime is slowly melting away because of global warming, says a collection of young environmentalists.

    "A bunch of us are fairly avid hockey fans and hockey players and we noticed that we were waiting longer and longer every year to play, and then we started phoning rink operators and were told the same story," said Mike Hudema of Global Exchange.

    "It's not only that the season is getting shorter but it's also the (fewer) number of the cold days in a row. Suddenly you get a real warm spell where your entire rink will melt, and so getting a nice clean surface is really hard."
    Hmmmm, I suppose it's possible this issue might affect the outdoor game being planned by the NHL... in the next post.

    Like I said, sign of the times.

    Saturday, July 14, 2007

    Go Outside and Play

    They did it once...

    Now they're thinking about doing it again.

    If the National Hockey League moves forward with its plans to stage another outdoor hockey game, the Buffalo Sabres appear to be the front-runners to host the event in Ralph Wilson Stadium.

    No announcement will be made when the NHL releases its 2007-08 schedule at 2:30 this afternoon, and neither the league nor the Sabres would comment publicly Tuesday.

    Yet sources around the NHL have indicated the Sabres would land the game, probably on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day against the Pittsburgh Penguins, if myriad logistical issues can be finalized by the end of the month.

    Such an event would give Sabres fans a reason to get excited after a deflating week in which co-captains Daniel Briere and Chris Drury left town and management was cornered into signing top goal scorer Thomas Vanek to the richest contract in Buffalo sports history.

    Published reports last month stated the league was interested in offering an outdoor game to be broadcast on NBC.
    Earlier reports indicated a possible outdoor game being played at Yankee Stadium between the Rangers and Islanders. That I think would've been totally cool. Sounds like that possibility has fallen through for now though. This one in Buffalo, particularly if it involves the Penguins or say the Wings would be a great alternative, which I believe couldn't help but generate a lot of interest and publicity for the sport and the league.

    IF they can pull it off... and that's a big if.

    Anyways, as far as that first outdoor game, here's a funny piece by Raj Binder on that contest played by the Oilers and Montreal Canadiens in front of 56,000 freezing fans in Edmonton.

    Personally, I'm hoping there's more of these games to come.

    Wednesday, July 11, 2007

    Is ESPN Killing the NHL?

    The Sports Law Blog explains.
    Since the NHL made the questionable decision to abandon the cable network as its broadcast partner in favor of the fledgling Versus network, many have argued that NHL coverage on the Worldwide Leader in Sports has ranged from underwhelming to disrespectful. Even ESPN’s ombudsman, Le Anne Schreiber, felt compelled to examine hockey coverage on the network. In an article last month, she confirmed that hockey coverage has indeed diminished 28% on Sportscenter over the last three years and that hockey-oriented shows such as NHL 2Night were cut altogether since ESPN’s loss of NHL rights.

    The reduced exposure on ESPN can only be harmful to the NHL. By minimizing coverage and highlights, the network is effectively reducing the imprint of the game on Americans’ collective sports consciousness. Worse still, several ESPN writers and commentators have gone out of their way to emphasize the demise of hockey. Le Ann Schreiber recently noted that during the NHL’s regular season, hockey was only mentioned on-air if there happened to be “some egregious brawl” or if it was being “dissed” for its invisibility and irrelevance. . . .

    Off Wing Opinion offers a in depth analysis of the situation.
    At the end of the day, what we're talking about above are simply the techniques that ESPN is using to attack the NHL and run it down in the eyes of the American sports fan. Why do that? Because every fan that can be convinced that Versus is too hard to find, or that hockey is the sport of the past -- despite the fact that more Americans are playing the sport today than ever before -- means more sports fans who can be force fed whatever ESPN might be fronting at the time -- be it MLS, Poker, or even the WNBA.

    Here's an idea -- why not treat ESPN personalities like Mike Greenburg who run down the sport the same way we ought to treat anybody who has too much power?

    Fight the power. Question authority. Think for yourself. Watch hockey.

    Monday, July 09, 2007

    No Love For Canada

    It's a crying shame.
    Although TSN (Canada’s version of ESPN) reported the six Canadian teams generate one-third of the 30-team NHL’s revenue, it is looking more like Kansas City has a better shot at obtaining the next NHL franchise than, say, Hamilton, Winnipeg or Quebec.

    Canada’s hopes of adding another team weren’t helped when billionaire Jim Balsillie pursued Nashville and quickly began a season-ticket drive in Hamilton, where more than 14,000 season tickets were ordered. The NHL, however, wasn’t at all pleased that Balsillie didn’t show more of a willingness to keep the team in Nashville.

    Balsillie now appears to be on the outside looking in with his bid, even though he reportedly made a larger offer for Nashville than William "Boots" Del Biaggio III, who has a contract to operate an NHL team at Sprint Center in Kansas City.

    On the other hand, Mirtle is convinced a place like Hamilton would better serve the NHL than Kansas City.

    "They could put a second team in Toronto and another one in Hamilton (less than an hour away) and they’d still sell out," Mirtle said. "In Toronto and southern Ontario, the market is underserved. There’s eight to nine million fans. People are dying to get into Maple Leafs games, and the Leafs aren’t that good of a team."

    (my emphasis)
    Hey, I got love for Canada. Big time love. It's the Home of Hockey AND it's the last civilized place on earth. What's not to love?

    It makes no sense to not put at least one franchise back in the Holy Land of Hockey. No sense. Southern Ontario is the most logical but Winnipeg and Quebec should have teams in the NHL too.

    Saturday, July 07, 2007

    Greatest Movie Ever Made

    and here's everything you ever wanted to know about it...

    Here's some more on the history and lasting impact of the movie... Slap Shot.

    It is the rare sports movie that resonates with the athletes whose lives it would presume to reproduce. Slap Shot's passages have entered the lexicon of hockey players, many of whom recite its lines with the fluency, and the passion, of a preacher spouting Scripture.

    Wednesday, July 04, 2007

    The Evolution of Sports

    ...has unfortunately led us to our current sorry state of affairs.

    Yeah,the spirit is not dead... yet. It is in critical condition though.

    Monday, July 02, 2007

    The Best Mullets Available

    ...worn by one of the NHL's best shut down defensemen and one of it's best "heart and soul" players went to the AV's as free-agent signings.
    The Avalanche signed two very good new players Sunday, and two of the NHL's very best mullets.

    The Avs first signed defenseman Scott Hannan to a four-year, $18 million contract, then made a bigger splash by signing star left winger Ryan Smyth to a five-year, $31.25 million deal on a busy first day of the NHL free agency period.

    The additions of Smyth and Hannan figure to give the Avs more of what many critics felt the team was lacking last season: grit and toughness, not to mention talent and some old-fashioned hairdos.

    "We identified the cream of the crop, of five of six players, and we feel we got two of them. I was hoping we'd get one and we got two," Avalanche general manager Francois Giguere said. "At the end of the year, we had to determine what the needs we were looking for, and these two guys fit those needs."
    I love these two pickups by the AV's.

    My favorite Smith clip...