The NHL hasn't landed in Las Vegas yet, but Penguins forward Maxime Talbot is headed there hoping for riches.Read more at the Post-Gazette. And thanks to Paul Kukla for pointing out this article.
Talbot has won his way into the main event of the World Series of Poker, a tournament that draws several thousand players, usually has a $10,000 entry fee and could make the winner $10 million or more.
It starts July 6.
"Everybody's asking me about that," Talbot said when he stopped by the Mellon Arena locker room while it was buzzing with the first day of conditioning camp for prospects.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
The NBA signed an 8-year extension with ESPN/ABC and TNT today.
The previous NBA/ESPN deal was valued at $765 million a year. Something tells me this new deal trumps that.
"This agreement sets a new standard -- it is the most expansive package of rights we've acquired from a major professional league in our 27-year history," ESPN president George Bodeheimer said. "We're thrilled to take a major step forward in our relationship with David Stern and the NBA with this broad, global agreement. The scope of this deal and the new rights we obtained offer us tremendous opportunities to serve NBA fans like never before -- in the U.S., around the world, and through any device."
So on to a sport that literally has too much testosterone (and steroids) running in it... pro wrestling. I'm sure everyone has heard the news about Chris Benoit's cowardly act of strangling his wife, smothering his defenseless son, then using his a piece of his treadmill to end his life (ahh... the irony).
But forget Benoit. The WWE, and other wrestling organizations, are disgraceful. Congress is ignoring a huge problem by focusing their attention on other sports that don't have near the troubles that wrestling does. Simply put, guys in baseball are hitting more homeruns and having ailments later in life as a result of steroid use. Wrestlers committing suicide, killing others, and dying as a result of long-term steroid use. The comparison isn't even close.
And you can point your finger in a number of directions when assigning blame for steroid use in wrestling. And since it's never a problem until someone dies, it's kind of hard to point the finger at the dead athlete that injected themselves.
So my question is, why isn't the WWE and Vince McMahon getting nailed for all of these steroid-related deaths?
Disgusting to say the least. The "don't blame me" response couldn't have come any sooner than it did. I would say that it dishonors Chris Benoit. But I save that for individuals that don't kill others and/or commit suicide.
And point#2 by the WWE?
2. Steroids were not, and could not, be related to the cause of death (asphyxiation). Authorities had no factual basis to speculate as to Benoit's state of mind, and rightly did not do so.
Point #5 goes on to state the WWE's theory as to how the murder-suicide took place. And they want to blame media outlets for speculating? Once again, how much more arrogant can one organization get?
Congress has to get involved. There have been way too many documented cases of steroid invovlement, or alleged steroid involvement, in the deaths of wrestlers.
Sunday, June 24, 2007
Was anyone else as struck by these numbers as I was on Friday night as players were sized up during the NHL draft?
Now I know this is the "new NHL" where speed is of the utmost importance. But some of these guys are bean poles, tooth picks, or as one draft expert put it, "I couldn't see him until he came out from behind his hockey stick."
So I couldn't help but wonder, what goes on at the NHL combine? We've all heard about the NFL combine where guys bench 220 lbs as many times as they can... they even televise each vein popping rep on the NFL Network.
But what about the NHL combine? What are they benching over there? Broomsticks? Veggie Delights from Subway?
Here are some good reads about the NHL Combine:
Some more from The Dispatch:
The true torture is spared to the end: two exercises referred to collectively as "the bike."
From age 12, hotshot players who dream of playing in the NHL start fearing "the bike." Even 10 years after, NHL players still talk about it.
The first "bike" exercise is a 30-second power test. The player's feet are duct-taped to the pedals, the resistance is cranked up to between 15 and 22 pounds -- depending on the player's body weight -- and it begins.
The players pedal madly for 30 seconds. They can't stand up to drive the pedals, either.
"I'm burning up," prospect Brendan Smith said as he finished. "I can't see straight."
"That's normal," he was told.
In 2001, Fredrik Sjostrom, later drafted in the first round by the Phoenix Coyotes, passed out and fell off the bike.
"He was out cold before he hit the ground," one scout said.
And that's only the first bike test. The second looks like a creation out of Frankenstein.
Next to each of the four bikes is a large steel canister, used to measure oxygen output, and two computers used to analyze carbon dioxide and oxygen.
Before a player steps on the bike, a large plastic hose is fitted into his mouth. His shoes are again duct-taped to the pedals.
During the next 10 to 20 minutes, the players are put through grueling tests to measure how much oxygen capacity they possess. How long they last depends on how long it takes them to maximize their oxygen intake.
The viewing of this test could be rated R. In some cases, NC-17.
Players vomit. Mucus flies out of their noses. Their faces turn flush red and sweat pours out of every pore, as they double over the handles of the bike.
But what about the bench press? It looks like 135 lbs... what most football players were benching when they were twelve.
Check out these two great YouTube videos for a look inside the 2007 NHL Combine. You can see the bike test around the 30 second mark in the second video. Can you imagine a offensive lineman doing this?
Friday, June 22, 2007
This after Gary Bettman sqwaked that the NHL should just leave the rules alone for a couple of years to see how they pan out.
But when the Commissioner's grand plan of increasing scoring to bring back fans didn't exactly pan out (scoring didn't go up that much and the NHL's fan base has become the laughing stock of media articles), a "tweak" was apparentely in order.
And, once again, the NHL's brand of hockey will cease to resemble anything that was played in year's past. Forget tradition. Forget the fans. Just shut up and buy a new $300 streamlined jersey and pay the 6% increase in ticket prices that we popped on you. Oh yeah, all the while to watch our "niche/regional" sport.
So let's take a look at the latest and greatest from the "hockey guys."
A player can now be awarded a shot when on a breakaway in the neutral zone. Wonderful... more goal scoring (remember, it's the end all) and more crucial decisions left in the the hands of the NHL referees. Boy I can't wait for a game to be decided on a last minute penalty call that results in a penalty shot goal. That'll make things interesting. And the NHL will get to watch an arena full of fans loiter the ice with whatever is in reach. Brilliant "tweak."
Interference can now be called a major penalty. That's right... interference. Yeah, I wonder how many dives we will see this year when a player is interfered with? Seriously, can we please scrap the "H" from NHL and replace it with "SOI" for Soccer on Ice. I can't wait to see Sean Avery grabbing his knee when he gets clipped, only to get up and skate over to the bench while blowing kisses at Elisha Cuthbert.
The term "gross misconduct" was removed from the rule book. Any "gross misconduct" will now be deemed a "game misconduct." While this isn't really that big of a deal, it seems like the NHL wants to get rid of anything that was unique to traditional hockey. Keep up the fine work.
Now the biggest story of all out of this meeting of "hockey guys" was the the owners shot down the General Manager's (half of whom actually played the game) recommendation to increase the number of instigator penalties to five before a suspension occurs. This would allow players to police the dirty play the occurs during a game and keep the decisions in the hands of the players and not the league disciplinarian.
According to my source, 18 owners voted against this rule change.
According to published reports, the Chicago Blackhawks voted to remove the rule all together.
According to more published reports, the International Hockey League voted to remove the insitgator completely.
Ah, two leagues heading in totally different directions.
Here a few tips to the "hockey guys." Increasing scoring isn't working... it won't work. You do realize that soccer is the most popular sport in the world and most game see fewer than three goals a game, right? Hockey isn't a family game. It's a game where you should wait to take your kids until they are ten and be ready to give a good response as to why those two guys are fighting on the ice.
Stop ignoring tradition. Stop ignoring fan and player polls that consistently say that they want more fighting in the game., that they want the instigator gone.
Stop jacking up ticket prices to watch a niche/regional sport. Stop with the new jerseys... the old ones were unique. And no one wants to pay $300 for the new ones... especially if that leaked Capitals' jersey is what we have to look forward to.
Get rid of this bogus schedule... fans consistently say that they want the old one back, you know the one where they get to see their star players every year?
Pay attention to the Ducks and the way they won the Cup this year. Pay attention to Brian Burke and his ideas.
And I beg of you, stop "tweaking" the rules. I am really at the point now where I think that all these "hockey guys" are trying their hardest to ruin the game.
Monday, June 18, 2007
So when I start putting together an Excel sheet of “% increase/decrease in NHL revenues from the previous season,” and I see that the NHL just experienced the highest percentage of growth (approximately 6.7%) since 01/02 (then 11.5%), I can’t help but wonder how the NHL is growing and how it plans to sustain its growth.
And before I go any further, I will fully admit that league revenues have not decreased in the last 12 years with the exception of the 94/95 when a strike made it a bit difficult to bring in funds. I will say, however, that numbers are only half the picture.
Let’s start with the question, what exactly does the NHL consider revenue? According to a “high-up NHL team official” (that is so Eklund) league revenues come from ticket sales, merchandise sales, and sponsorship sales. After doing some more research, I will say that this definition isn’t as inclusive as it should be. But we’ll take it to start out.
Now let’s take a quick glance at ticket sales. According to the Sports Business Journal:
The [06/07] revenue growth is largely attributable to increased ticket prices. Ticket revenue rose 5.7 percent this season largely due to a 5.9 percent increase in ticket prices. Paid attendance rose only 0.2 percent across the league.So it’s not exactly ticket sales as it is ticket prices. It says it right there folks… ticket prices were up 5.7% while actual ticket sales were only up .2%. Hmm. Makes you wonder who is paying for the increase in the cap and player salaries, doesn’t it? And back to my original question, how long before fans stop paying to see what the Commissioner himself has characterized as a niche/regional sport, especially when average tickets are going up some 6%?
On to merchandise sales – our first quick fix. While Gary Bettman thought it would be a grand idea to implement the first complete team jersey overhaul in major sports history, how many NHL fans are going to feel the same way when asked to pay some $300 for a new streamlined jersey? Streamlined, by the way, means that the beer, dog, and fries guy won’t be looking to good in the newbies. Nonetheless, a quick fix that the fans pay for.
Sponsorship sales? I ask you, who exactly would want to sponsor a sport that has netted Neilson ratings that barely register? I won’t go into ratings as you could search my blog and find some fifty entries on the NHL’s declining ratings.
And what about the other quick fixes?
One that you might have noticed this year (or not have noticed depending on how you want to look at it) is the NHL’s new schedule that was “designed to promote more conference rivalries.” That is depending on who you ask. Those of us the follow the league’s business side all know that the new schedule cuts back big time on travel costs and saves teams money. But in the end, the NHL fans pay the price as they now only get to see their favorite player once every two and three years. Thank you fan friendly “This is OUR game” NHL.
And the rise in the Canadian dollar? Not exactly one Gary Bettman had hidden up his sleeve? But you can't count on the Canadian dollar to increase like it did this past year every year. A tidbit from that article:
While the NHL trumpets attendance increases as the main reason for revenues climbing, Nill feels that's slightly misleading.
"A big reason for the increase in revenues has been the strengthening of the Canadian dollar," Nill said. "That has got a lot to do with this.
"Over the last few years, the revenue of the Canadian teams is up 20 per cent because the Canadian dollar is up. That's a big part of the cap."
The impact of the soaring dollar was seen in last year's financial figures. The six Canadian-based teams produce one-third of the NHL's overall revenues.
Did I miss anything?
The next question is, how will the league sustain the revenue growth? What is the next quick fix?
The league sustained some of it largest years of growth in three consecutive years, from the 98/99 season to the 00/01 season. During those three years, the league also expanded in each year. The three years following saw the league’s revenue cut in half and then start declining as well, of course, followed by a year long lockout and the new CBA.
That being said, the answer is simple – expansion. And with expansion, the fans again pay the price as we get to watch two more teams with diluted talent.
But folks, in case you haven't noticed, this isn’t about the fans… this is a business first. And that is why Gary remains where he is. The quick fixes have worked for years now.
But how long will they work? The league has to lean on its fans to make their business run. And how long before the fans stop paying for that increase in ticket prices to see teams that have diluted talent all while their wearing their new streamlined $300 jerseys?
I’m guessing a few years before Gary has drained the league and its fans… a few years before he has skipped town all the while counting his $2 million bonuses.
You see, quick fixes don’t solve an organization’s problems… they merely postpone them.
While the Caps always maintained that they would wait and learn about the new CBA for a couple of years, it appears that the time has come for Ted Leonsis to open the wallet. And while he is still on board with "the plan" Leonsis and Caps' fans say that they have vacancies for a top-notch center and defenseman and another veteran forward. And with the Caps some $13 million below the salary cap last year and the cap rising around another $4 - $5 million, Uncle Ted and GM George McPhee have roughly $17 - $18 million to play with, more than enough to land some top free agents.
So why aren't the Capitals included in any of these trade rumors?
Isn't it enough to tell a free agent that they will be riding shotgun along side of the Caps' superstar Alex Ovechkin? After all, Nicklas Backstrom may very well be centering Alexander Semin next year.
Isn't enough to tell a free agent that the Caps' time is now, that they will possibly have two of the most talent lines in the NHL next year?
The answer is overwhelming no.
And with all of the other 29 teams in the NHL reaping the rewards of a rising Candian dollar and quick financial fixes, like shaving travel time off of the NHL schedule (much to the dismay of hockey fans), any financially responsible, yet willing spending, team is a contender for atleast one big time free agent.
So, again, how can Washington compete?
Hockey hotbeds like Detroit, Edmonton, and Toronto have tradition going for them. New York and Los Angeles offer the spotlight that every starry-eyed athlete craves.
Washington last made the playoffs in 02-03 and were ousted in the first round by the Lightning. Put that on your marketing DVD George.
So here's my question that I ask of Ted, George, and all of my fellow Washington fans... why not wait one more year and see what the cap does?
I mean, seriously, will NHL revenues climb like they did this past year? Will the Canadian dollar continue to rise? Will there be another quick fix ala the schedule cost cuts of 06-07? Will the new $300 (or however ridiculously expensive I've read they will be) NHL jersies really sell?
I wouldn't count on it. And when teams max out their cap, like the Ottawa Senators have said they will do, what will happen when revenues when don't go up that much or decrease?
You see folks, the NHL has to see increases in revenue each year or else the players will owe the owners a rebate. And when they aren't willing to give that rebate, turnover figures are sure to hit an all-time high.
And that is when teams like the Washington Capitals should land their big names. It's not as if they have a young, talented goalie that is going to lead them to the Cup in the next few years anyways...
Wednesday, June 6, 2007
Fans of the Ducks may not be the only ones praying the Stanley Cup Finals end tonight. NBC executives are likely on their knees as well.Listen up NHL owners. Not only is the NHL out of the top four in sports (and our Commissioner admits that he is okay with that); but the NHL is DEAD LAST when it comes to sports/prime time t.v. ratings.
The Monday overnight Nielsen national ratings for the Ducks' 3-2 victory at Ottawa in Game 4 was a miserable 1.9, with a 3 share.
But that looks like gold compared to two days earlier, after Ottawa's 5-3 win in Game 3 on Saturday produced a 1.1 national rating and two share.
According to NBC's records, that matched the lowest rating the network ever had for a prime-time program - sports or anything - matching a rerun of "The West Wing" on July 23, 2005.
So what can NBC hope for to give the viewers at home any sort of reason to watch from here on out, aside from breaking out an episode of "Deal Or No Deal?"
Some old-time hockey brawling, according to Don Cherry, the iconic Canadian Broadcasting Corporation hockey analyst who appeared on NBC's broadcast during the second intermission Monday to stir things up.
"I hate to get NBC hacked and everything, but I'm told the reason they cut down (on fighting in the NHL) is because they want USA people to watch it. Families! Can you believe that? That is the dumbest thing I ever heard in my life," said Cherry, starting his argument by announcing that if he was the commissioner of the league he'd eliminate the instigator rule.
"NASCAR, where there's crashes ... football, kill the quarterback ... ultimate fighting . ... Who's kidding who? The National Hockey League, NBC and everyone in U.S. television are making a big mistake. We should go back to rock 'em, sock 'em. It would help the game and help your audiences."
Cherry added before he left the NBC airwaves with a reminder to the network's sports division chairman: "Remember Dick Ebersol, more fights, you'll get bigger crowds."
And what happens when the NBC contract expires? Are they going to renew for next year? No chance. Forget NBC. Everyone likes to rag on Versus. But why, in their right mind, would they re-up with the NHL? Some of their ratings are barely registering.
And everyone wants blame Versus. Trust me, a lot of this blame falls on the NHL's great Commissioner.
Sure, keep him around for some short-term successes owners. But there are simply too many short-term failures that have led to the gradual demise of the NHL.
Lion in Oil
Red Blue Nation
One Fan's Perspective
Wisconsin Sports Blogs
Cousins of Ron Mexico
Update - Good stuff over at Sportsmediawatch:
The Sports Business Daily reports that several programs managed to outdraw the first three games of the Stanley Cup Finals. As a disclaimer, the fairness of comparing a sports program to a non-sports program is suspect (as I pointed out in the Spelling Bee/NBA column). That being said, falling to a fairly well-watched event like the Spelling Bee is far different from falling to reruns of Mama's Family on the ION Network.
"Game One ranked 58th among all TV programs on May 28, with its 0.5 U.S HH rating and average audience of 769,000 viewers, ranking just behind Food Network's 'Build a Better Burger' (807,000 viewers) and E!'s 'Sunset Tan' (795,000 viewers)."
"Game Two ranked 74th on May 30 with a U.S HH rating of 0.4 and an average audience of 576,000, placing it just behind a pair of episodes of "Mama's Family" on ION Networks (659,000 viewers and 620,000 viewers) and "VH1 All Access: Celebrity Parties" (578,000) (THE DAILY)."
Game 3 "fell below the movie "Meltdown: Days Destruct" on Sci-Fi Channel, which posted a 1.2 U.S HH rating and 1.963 million viewers from 9:00-11:00pm the same night."
It should be pointed out that Mama's Family aired on ION (formerly i and PAX), a broadcast network.
The most disconcerting part of this for the NHL may be the fact that Game 3 (on broadcast television) could not draw a better number than a movie premiering on the Sci-Fi Channel (cable).
Tuesday, June 5, 2007
Twenty years ago, if you wanted to spark your team after a poorly-played period of hockey, as a captain and a leader you'd go out and drop the gloves and take a guy on in a fight, or lay out a hard hit and try to get the other team called for a retaliation penalty. Why this?
Firing the puck at your opponent? Come on now, that's cheap by anyone's standards. As a member at TheNHLArena.com said, "That's the thing with Alfie. He pulls his s***, never gets suspended for it, and rarely has to pay the price from opposing players for some reason. Ah well, it was a little taste of why he is continually booed by Leaf fans all these years. Honestly, if Alfredsson wasn't the guy Bettman would have to hand the cup over to in the eventuality of an Ottawa win, perhaps cheering for them would be much easier. But in this series, Niedermayer is the classier captain, and deserves to be the player to raise Lord Stanley over his head first."
I can't argue with that. I wouldn't care as much if it were Wade Redden, Chris Phillips, or even Anton Volchenkov wearing the C. But any captain, even any player, who does a thing like this and is considered a leader doesn't deserve to win.
More on Captain Dan:
Pitt Tribune Review
Fans are understandably sick of hearing about financial issues, but a couple of recent revelations bear noting.
One is that it appears that the NHL Players Association will exercise its right to have the salary cap raised to the maximum permissible level. That should push it over $50 million.
Those of you who remember commissioner Gary Bettman's assurance that the salary cap he needed to impose would keep ticket prices down might wonder about this.
Bettman could have prevented the year-long shutdown of the league by accepting a PA proposal that would have set payrolls at approximately $42 million. He refused, saying that such a figure was beyond the reach of owners. Two years later, we're at $50 million.
And if you're wondering how the cap figure can go so high, it's because revenues increased. Where did these revenue increases come from? They're almost totally the result of ticket-price increases.
And another article from Strachan, properly entitled, "Bettman's vision of NHL crumbling." A couple of quotables:
Bettman's dream of major network television was already a travesty, having suffered the ultimate embarrassment last Saturday when NBC dropped coverage of a Stanley Cup semifinal playoff game after three periods with the score tied.
There's only one person to blame for that and it's no one at NBC. It's Bettman himself, who authorized the TV deal knowing full well that NBC was contractually bound to a pre-race show for the Preakness.
Bettman had already embarrassed himself and his league with his overall network "strategy," which puts most of the games on Versus, a nondescript network that hardly anyone seems to get, despite the network's assurances to the contrary.
In 1994, after the Rangers won the Stanley Cup, there existed another universal view of the game, a view that was diametrically opposite to the one held today. At that time, the NHL was seen as the league poised for stardom.
So naturally, Bettman did what he does best. He shut the league down. It was only half a year that time, but it brought the league's momentum to a screeching halt.
And it has gone downhill ever since.
Monday, June 4, 2007
Cherry said that he heard the NHL was trying to cater to American fans by eliminating fighting. He then said that they were making a "big mistake" by doing this and cited Nascar/crashes, football/fill the quarterback, and the success of the Ultimate Fighting.
Brett Hull agreed with everything Cherry said and chimed in that the instigator rule should be removed all together. Hull also said that he would make players take off the visor, with the exception of those guys that have had eye injuries. This, of course, would make players more accountable for their actions.
Cherry brought a clipping from a Buffalo newspaper that advertised the Ottawa/Buffalo series. The clipping highlighted the "bad blood" between the two teams and featured pictures of Ray Emery and Andrew Peters during the Sabres/Sens brawl earlier this year. Now if you remember back, the Atlanta Thrashers actually did something quite similar, adding a 30 second montage to their website of the Capitals/Thrashers brawl from early in the season... this to sell tickets for the next Atlanta home game.
Hull brought up some past enforcer names including Joe Kocer, Bob Probert, Kelly Chase, and Tony Twist. Cherry said that the NHL would be wise to go back to the rock em' sock em' days of hockey.
It'll be interesting to see if Cherry is invited back for Game 5. He even said that "I'll probably get in trouble for this" when commenting that he didn't think Chris Pronger should have been suspended. Hull, again, concured with Cherry's assessment. So we will see if Cherry makes his way back. If it is up to NBC, there is no doubt in my mind he will get to chime in on another game. If the NHL is able to pull the plug on Cherry, I'm sure their reaching for the cord as we speak.
Update - If you'd like to see Cherry back, email NBC at firstname.lastname@example.org
Update Update - NBC ran a poll on whether or not fighting was good in the NHL. Although they don't list the number of votes, after two days, 90.4% say fighting is good for the NHL. Listen up Gary!
NHL Hockey Fights
The Disgruntled Chemist
On Frozen Pond
Detroit Free Press
And fine work by Christine Daniels of the LA Times who wrote, "Don Cherry stopped by the NBC booth during intermission and seemed confused, at usual." It seems Ms. Daniels was confused when she penned that line.
After reading Off Wing's blog that highlighted a sports writer's tirade on just how unprofessional bloggers could be, I can't help but point out some of the blatant grammatical mistakes made by paid writers.
Sunday, June 3, 2007
The Stanley Cup finals lost nearly a quarter of what already was a small television audience. Anaheim's 1-0 victory over Ottawa in Game 2 on Wednesday night got a 0.6 cable rating on Versus and was watched in 446,000 homes in the United States. Versus is owned by Comcast Corp. (nasdaq: CMCSA - news - people )While the owners continue to be satisfied wth short-term successes, they will never fully realize the potential this great game has with Bettman at the helm.
The rating was down 33 percent from last year's second game, a 5-0 victory for Carolina over Edmonton, which received a 0.9 cable rating (600,000 homes) on OLN, as the same network was known then.
Through two games, the Stanley Cup finals averaged a 0.7 rating, down 22 percent from last year's 0.9, and households are down 20 percent, to 485,000 from 606,000 last year.
Sports Business Radio
The NHL has become increasingly sensitive to head shots midway through the season when Thomas Kaberle and Chris Drury were hit with elbows in very close incidents.
I believe that some of these suspensions have been completely unwarranted. I hope that the league will one day learn that they have tall athletes out there and that keeping your elbows low and close to your body is clean play, and certainly not one that should be punishable.
If you haven't seen the hit, take a look:
As with the Drury incident, players need to learn to skate with their heads up. Even Brett Hull stated that McAmmond "admire(d) his shot a little too long."
But what is really bothersome to me is that the NHL obviously hasn't considered postponing suspensions until the start of next season. Why not give Pronger two games next year? Why take one of the top two most recognizable names on the Ducks out of the Stanley Cup finals? Why facilitate what would be called another black eye for hockey by handing down a headline Stanley Cup suspension?
One Fan's Perspective
Andrew's Stars Page
Update - And as was noted in the TSN article, why wasn't Chris Neil suspended?