Thursday, September 30, 2004

Brad Lund figures that the Blazers have the best chance of any CHL team other than Fort Worth and Colorado to land an NHLer. Sure, why not? It's those SPHL players they can't seem to attract.
Robin Costa loses the first round:

A Nashville Probate Court judge has ruled that the transfer of the Maddox Foundation from Nashville to Hernando in 1999 was illegal and that the $100 million foundation should be returned to Middle Tennessee.

The ruling appears to be the opening foray in what could be a protracted court battle involving not only the foundation and its activities, but the judiciaries of Tennessee and Mississippi.

I assume this thing will drag on for several years, but how does it affect the RiverKings right now?
Hmmmh, if Laredo fans are fed up with my jokes and commentary about Game 7, what do you suppose they'll make of this.
At long last, all those UHL fans can shut up: Legault's back in New Mexico.

And Konrad McKay, nice pick-up there.
Sure, we can go around about Game 7 one last time. But before I tackle that, feedback from some off-ice personnel.

One goal judge writes:

Many people volunteer for an Off Ice Official thinking that they will get to watch games for free. I have been doing this for years and you do not get to watch the game, you get to see the game. As a Goal Judge, I am so focused on the puck and my job during the game, I do not even remember which team is shooting at my end. I only realize who has scored once the puck goes in and one team is celebrating. I am not sure if this is the same with everyone though, I can only speak for myself.

This leads me to On Ice Officials all of a sudden switching to Goal Judges for the playoffs. Being a Goal Judge is a different beast than being an On Ice Official. It is a different angle and a different type of focus. So not to have done this all season and to be thrown in to Goal Judge may generate more issues than the way it was before. I think it would have been better off leaving it the way it was, or to use impartial experienced Goal Judges.

And from an off-ice supervisor:

I think this will come back to bite them in the butt, because linesmen or refs don't sit there game after game and 99.99% of the time make the right calls. I believe that there will be a lot of lights that are not lit in time and a lot of very slow lights, because they will be looking at the refs on ice to make the first call.

I don't think there's any doubt that, if change was even necessary, out-of-towners were the way to go. But that costs money (the back-up refs and linesmen are already paid to be at playoff games).

In any case, the league office feels strongly that an experienced, full-time on-ice official is more than qualified to do the job, and probably that's true. But again, as I've already said, if the regular off-ice officials can't be "trusted" with the most important games, does that mean all the other games are not important?

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Greg Rajan confirms: $725 for NHLers.
Chris Chelios is still talking to the Chicago Wolves.
Memphis signs Keith Aucoin and Ted Crowley. Colorado lands Chris Hartsburg. You gotta like how the Eagles are able to reel in those Denver and CC boys.

Of course last year, AHL-caliber talents such as these would have been cannon fodder for the folks who think those teams are cheaters. This year it's just an indication of how hard it is to land a job during the lockout. (I mean, geez -- Dad couldn't even get Chris a spot in Phantoms camp?)

Along those same lines, I hear Fort Worth might be picking up a pretty good player with the initials "BL."

That is, another one -- someone who's related to a former Buck, and played for a team Al Sims was once the coach of (though he didn't play for Sims).
Wasn't hard to guess which paper would have the first story on the addition of impartial goal judges.

Hey, I feel the Mudbugs' pain. And like John Madden says, nothing can undo Game 7. But you also can't go back in time and give the Board of Governors the foresight to think that local judges were a pressing problem.

And what are the odds of ever seeing another play like that? About as high as the odds that all three game officials will come down with food poisoning, putting Rufus Lopez or his equivalent back behind the net.

The thing is, it is an indictment of the off-ice personnel. You are basically saying that they either too incompetent or too biased to perform their duties in the most important games. But if that's really the case, why are they still qualifed to work Game 4 of the first round, or even a regular season contest?

Replay? Still not realistic in my opinion, not in a world where a dozen higher, more prestigious leagues in several sports also do without it. Not to mention that, even if the CHL had NHL and ESPN-quality replay, I believe the ruling on the ice would not have changed (even the Times used the word "inconclusive!").

And frankly, if I was just your average ticket-buying fan (of any team besides the Mudbugs) and found out my team was going to shell out ten or twenty grand for replay, my response would be, "Screw that! How 'bout spending it on salaries, or an affiliation, or upgrading the bus?"

Lately I've heard a lot of people -- even one or two in Shreveport -- say, "well, it's their own fault, they blew two chances to put away the series." This is nonsense, because of course the Mudbugs still deserved the fairest shake. But everybody knows the truism -- you don't want a Game 7, because "anything can happen." Anything did.

As for the NHL stuff, my understanding is those players will count $725 against the cap, regardless of what he actually makes (unless, presumably, he's making more). The average CHL player salary is $472, so I could have seen them going as high as $900 -- clearly one NHL-caliber player is worth at least as much as a pair of second-line defensemen, or a single star offensive guy.

So if I were the Brahmas, for example (since they remain the lone example), I'd just carry 17 -- you gotta figure Lukowich can play so many minutes that a sixth defenseman won't be needed. Then if the lockout ends, you somehow dig up another vet who's worth that kind of money, or you have the option of bringing in two lower-earning guys.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Oops, hold the phone. Fort Worth fans may be wondering what the puck is going on, but the Cotton Kings have let slip with some info: one NHLer per team, no "special accomodations."

And as I've said repeatedly here, I expect there will be some kind of set cap figure for that NHLer, but we'll still have to wait for that detail.

I think the concern about facilities is silly. All these guys played junior. The newer CHL barns are much nicer by comparison.
Aeros training camp: 14 players with a combined 908 games of NHL experience, including 11 players who saw NHL action last year. They've got 9 of the Wild's top ten prospects, and two of Dallas'.

And speaking of Dallas, still wondering about that. Rumor mill says the Blazers are still in the hunt. Another source tells me he's was always heading for the "E." And my common sense (or maybe wishful thinking) says he's gonna want to be in Austin, where his brother Ryan now lives year-round. Who knows, under the right circumstances (a vet on call-up to the Aeros) the two could take the ice together.

As for what the Board of Governors decided, maybe I meant Tuesday. But I'm about to get in the car for eight hours, so don't expect an update here.

Monday, September 27, 2004

You can expect the news on signing NHLers later on today.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Larry Brooks, Mr. Common Sense.

The last thing the league should want is a fan base resentful of, and alienated from, the players, who, after all, are the very inventory the league has to sell. one in the league office or in any team office has promised to cut ticket prices across the board by 28 percent, or cut parking by 28 percent or cut concession prices by that amount. No one has and no one will. Are you kidding? The tickets and the parking and the beer and the hot dogs and the suites are going to combine to give the owners their post-cap windfall margins of profit.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Big news for the Ice Bats?

Friday, September 24, 2004

Hey, The Farm Report is back. Did you know that Jason Bermingham and Tim Findlay were the leading scorers in Arkansas hockey history?

And I know the good people of Harlingen won't like this comparison, but on a common sense level, putting a CHL team there would be like putting a CHL team in Cedar Park while keeping the Bats in Travis County too. I know it's the fastest growing region in the country, but do the Killer Bees and Global really see this working? Or is the vague promise of a hockey team simply a way to give the project legs?

What do you suppose the Governors are talking about right now? Glen Rosales in New Mexico mentions that players paying for their own insurance was a key concern, something the Brahmas were obviously clued in on. I still predict some kind of higher cap number as well as a limit on how many locked-out NHLers teams can sign.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Lockout? What lockout? And Turco and Morrow to the OSHL, apparently.
It must be a Francophone thing, that you never get Quebec League news from the usual hockey web sites. This message board notes that such players as Alex Tanguay, Donald Brashear, Mike Ribeiro, Sylvain Blouin and Marc-Andre Fleury are playing in the "Q" (aka the "other" NAHL).
Bryan Smolinski to the ECHL? Note that the ECHL is still hashing out its policy regarding NHLers too. Funny thing is several fans on the In the Crease board think the league should stick to development.

What I'm wondering is, if the governors decide that NHLers have to count for $625 or more against the cap, will the Brahmas just go ahead and actually pay Lukowich that much?

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Good for Stephane Veilleux. It's one thing for NHL owners to lock out the players, then sneak as many guys as they can into the AHL, but why should the Wild expect someone who couldn't be sent down to sign an independent contract with an AHL affiliate that they own? When you're negotiating with a guy who's free to sign with any team, you can't just offer him the same money (or less) that he would have made on his currently invalid two-way deal.

On the other hand, probably not the most politic career move.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004 headline: Lockout Follies. Geez, Manute got bigger play!

Another reason to count Lukowich or other NHLers at a higher cap number -- for the team's own good. Obviously the benefits of this arrangement far outweigh the drawbacks, but if Lukowich takes up a vet spot and is the number one defenseman making $300 a week, how do you replace him if the lockout ends? At least if he counts for five or six hundred bucks you have the money to pick up a decent player. Perhaps in the Brahmas case that's where Tilson fits into the picture.

Monday, September 20, 2004

This just in... to counter Fort Worth's signing, the Austin Ice Bats have signed Ken Hitchcock. Not to coach... just to heckle Lukowich.

Oh wait. That didn't work at all during the Conference Finals.

Something doesn't add up regarding this whole thing?

I don't think so. I spent 10 minutes on the phone with the guy today and what really struck me -- as someone who has interviewed Stars and Astros and Rockets as well as Ice Bats and Brahmas and Bugs -- was how it felt a lot more like interviewing someone from the latter group. That's true of all hockey players to some extent but in an NHL environment, surrounded by playoff media, they do put on the armor. I think the guy sincerely wants to do this for the reasons that he says he wants to do this, not because Stuart Fraser is secretly pumping up his stock portfolio.

The money issue's not that hard to understand -- you make a million dollars the year before a lockout everyone knew was coming and you probably have a couple of hundred thousand socked away, at least. Hell, the OSHL players, including the likes of Hasek, aren't making anything unless there's profit at the end.

Sure, Lukowich could maybe pull in $80,000 in the AHL, but AHL teams aren't necessarily lining up to clear out their vet spots for players they might not be able to keep. Luckily for him, he has the financial luxury of deciding that spending this year with his family is worth $70,000.

The only issue is, he's essentially a ringer. His actual player value is, if not a million bucks, at least the value of his insurance. It would not be out of line if the league voted on Friday to make all NHL players count $625 against the cap (the highest number affiliated players count) regardless of what they make. On the other hand, despite recent rule changes, the general philosophy behind affiliations has been that they are good no matter what, regardless of fairness or cap loopholes. That same logic would apply here.
Here's the Lukowich press release.
So here's the deal. You'll recall Brad Lukowich is a former Star, one whose Stanley Cup win with the Lightning finally made up for being left off of the chalice in '99. (He was also traded on his wedding day, though if I recall, wasn't too burned up about it, because he knew the Lightning represented opportunity.)

Anyway, Lukowich was scrimmaging in Frisco at the same time Brahmas Adam Davis and Chad Woollard were around.

"I kind of threw it at Davis, 'how many d-men have you got,'" says Lukowich.

"Uh, four," Davis replied.

"Need another one?"


"He was laughing, like I was joking around with him and I said, 'tell your coach to give me a call.' Then as I was walking out, Al Sims was actually at the game. He gave me his card, I called my agent, they called him the next day and it was done."

Sims thought he might have been joking too.

"I didn't believe it until I saw the signed contract," the Brahmas coach says. "But he knows the league, he's seen some games, he knows it's competitive and he knows it's a good place to stay in shape. Brad wants to be ready if the NHL season starts and certainly, this will do that.

Lukowich, whose wife is from Jacksboro, will suit up for league minimum, $300 a week. He'll pay more than that in insurance premiums.

"It's a little pricey, but, bad pun, that's the price you've got to pay to play. I have a family, so it's smarter for me to do it this way. I've got to stay in shape. I don't want to get left in the dust, because there's too many guys out there that want this job."

Officially, Lukowich's contract isn't final -- the CHL plans to come up with a uniform policy regarding the signing of locked-out NHLers at the already scheduled league governor's conference call this Friday (just in case Colorado plans to sign Joe Sakic. And yes, they'll also be discussing goal judges).

More from Lukowich:

"As the lockout date got closer we were just looking at different options and the one thing that was sticking out in my mind was how close this team was to my house, I thought, there's an opportunity there. We really couldn't do anything until we knew, but once the lockout was done it was a no-brainer. I have a lot of friends that played in this league -- one of my best friends, Craig Stahl, was a member of the Austin Ice Bats and then the New Mexico Scorpions. He told me how much fun he had in this league."

Too bad Stahl is now with Columbus of the SPHL.

"He was sour when he found out," Lukowich says. "Oh well."

I asked him what he thought the difference was between a player like himself and CHL regulars he may have played against back in his junior days.

"I went on the league web site, I was checking out some of the guys and there's some
very good players. A lot of times you're just in the right time at the right place, that's the way I look at it. There's a lot of guys I played against when I was younger that were better than me, I just got my break at the right time. Those guys didn't have that opportunity, but they're still playing hockey -- at the end of the day they're still making a living playing the greatest game on earth."

Sims says Lukowich is "probably our top defenseman," but I think it's safe to say the "probably" was just reflexive coaching-speak.

"He'll get played as a number one defenseman, power play, penalty kill, even strength," Sims says. "And we'll be looking for his leadership in the room. It's great to have guys who've won previously, whether it's junior or college or pro. He's won the ultimate prize twice."
Big Brahmas news a-coming. A two-time Stanley Cup champion? Ah, but is his name on the thing twice?

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Have the Blazers lost Michel Beausoleil? He signed with the Quebec league back in August, and if you translate the release it sounds as if he won't be leaving (but what else is a press release gonna say?).
Question --- I know Jeremy Roenick isn't worth $7.5 million a year, but is Gary Bettman worth the reported $3 million a year he makes? The Hockey News also says that, unlike Bob Goodenow, he's not taking a pay cut -- even as NHL and team employees lose their jobs

Regardless of what needs to be fixed about the system, it couldn't be any simpler than Dan Wetzel says: If [Bettman] hadn't failed at his job the past dozen years, hockey wouldn't be in such dire straights.

Another interesting tidbit from THN's yearbook regarding parity:

12 different teams have taken 12 spots in the Stanley Cup semifinals the last three years.

Only 9 teams have been in the NBA and NFL semifinals during that period. Baseball had 11.

Over the past three seasons Anaheim, Calgary, Carolina, Minnesota, San Jose and Tampa Bay have won a combined 19 playoff rounds -- the exact same number as Detroit, Colorado, Dallas, Toronto, New Jersey and Philadelphia.

For the two people who haven't seen it, here's the much-talked about Nike ad that will probably never air in the US -- just like you're more likely to see extra LaSalle-Duquesne basketball games on ESPN2 instead of anything with ice.

And yet he still has more cred than Joe Milano: Meet the Danbury Trashers' teenage owner.

Ok, so the Panthers' actual losses were 17.5 million. That's according to then-employee and current Ice Bats co-owner Jeff Cogen. Funny, you never hear Gary Bettman use phrases like "standard accounting practices" and "amortization." If the Levitt Report used Florida's $64 million number then it really is a sham, just like the Rangers' reported losses of 30-40 million each of the last two years.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Today's big score: Detroit 16, Toronto 13.

I'm still confused: the Levitt Report acknowledges that six teams lost $180 million last year. So the other 22 teams should create a business environment where teams like that can make a buck?

Oh yeah, and H.C. Davos beat Lugano 3-2. First star to Thornton.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Just saw Bryan Lewis plug the CHL on Ontario's CHTV.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Transactions, anyone?
Nice, huh?

Monday, September 13, 2004

When you look at these cutbacks to the L.A. Times sports section, wishing the local hockey team could get a few more grafs seems, no pun intended, minor.
Some sharp lockout analysis and fascinating scoops from Tim Panaccio in Philly, who reports:

1. Union sources seem to indicate that six teams account for 75% of the league's losses.

2. Bettman only needs the support of eight owners to do what he wants, which explains why things have seemed so unified.

All I know is when the dust settles, I'll sneak food into the American Airlines Center before I'll let any of my money go to Jeremy Jacobs.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

CHL Island Time. Think the Bugs fans nominated anybody?
How'd you like to be an AHL player facing Binghamton with Dominik Hasek in the net?
Stuck covering Team USA in Minnesota, the Toronto Sun's Mike Ulmer signs off with a nice anti-American rant.

Here's what's wrong with USA Hockey. Ron Wilson, a guy who you liked less and less with every word that tumbled from his mouth, was eulogizing Chris Chelios' career with USA Hockey after the Americans lost Friday night's semi-final against Finland.

Chelios is 42, a veteran of 20 years with the American program and has probably played his final game for Team USA.

"He has been a fantastic ambassador for U.S. hockey and for the NHL," Wilson said. "He's a class act."

Pardon me while I barf.

The biggest problem for USA Hockey is one of an almost constant delusion, that Chris Chelios is a fantastic ambassador, that Wilson can galvanize talent, that the Americans' win at the world juniors is a preview of a vast new wave of talent.

He goes on to talk about the Nagano Chair Destroying Incident, questions what the U.S. has accomplished since the Miracle on Ice ("miniscule gains") and predicts the team does not have a bright future.

Chelios may not be Gretzky in the class department, but what about the ankle breakers (Bobby Clarke), barroom brawlers (Lindros, Thornton), substance abusers (Fleury), adulterers (Brodeur) and reckless drivers (Heatley) that have proudly worn the Maple Leaf? Point being, most hockey players have their "boys will be boys" moments. The chair incident is not some great historic stain on Chelios.

Funny how you don't see the New York Post taking the time to mock the Canadian national baseball team, or Canadian college football players. If USA Hockey is worth pissing on, they must be doing something right.

Whether they'll have a great team in 2010, who knows, but the World Junior crown -- and the growth of junior hockey and high school hockey and U.S. college hockey overall -- is not to be dismissed so lightly. Does the program really think it's any better than it is? Or are we just proud to be competitive with a lot of other countries that may be smaller, but have been at the hockey thing for longer, and with much greater intensity?

And if the U.S. gains are unimpressive, then every time Canada has failed to win the gold has been an utter failure. Of course, Canada really does feel that way.

And yeah, GREAT game last night. I just wish the Czechs had scored a goal like Brewer did -- Quinn would still be bitching about goalie interference. And in light of the above, here's cranky Yankee Larry Brooks.

So when it was over, I walked into the Czech Republic locker room, whipped out my lasso, and wrestled Jaromir Jagr down to the ground. Just like the Canadians had done all night to No. 68 and to his crafty, speedy teammates.

Wait, someone thinks the Canadians don't play the purest, bestest brand of hockey in the world?

Yes, Brooks is known for his exaggeration, as is the Sun's Al Strachan. But they're both talking big-time sense about the lockout.

Brooks thinks the NHL would actually prefer to cancel the whole season. Don't know about that, but they sure haven't bargained in good faith. As Strachan says, they'd rather bust the union.

Truth is, for all the talk of prima donna players, there's no difference between Jeremy Roenick and Don Parsons, relative to who they work for. CHL fans tend to scoff when owners cite operating losses as the reason to cut down on vets, play a shorter schedule, and stick to a low cap. All to save, what, $100K a year? $200? Half a million?

But some of those guys really can't afford it. I find it much more ridiculous when six or seven of the richest people in America, businessmen whose corporate or individual worth is measured in the high hundred millions, want to quibble over ten or twenty. No, they're not obligated to lose money, but the players don't have a moral obligation to make less either. And frankly, fans of teams like the Stars, Red Wings, Flyers, Avalanche and (cough-cough) Rangers shouldn't be forced to watch a $31 million roster.

People say, the NBA has a salary cap, why can't the NHL? Well, the NBA salary cap last year was $43.84 million, plus exceptions and the "Larry Bird exemption." And that's for half as many players on a team. The NHLPA would take a deal like that tomorrow.

The problem is the NHL's insistence not only on a hard cap, but on a really low one. Obviously that's based on the idea that hockey doesn't generate anywhere near the money hoops does, but somebody had the cash to give these players in the first place.

The worst irony of all is, much of that money stemmed from the owners' willingness to give a team to any city with $50-80 million and an ice plant. Then they turn around and say teams like Columbus, Minnesota, Tampa, Florida, Ottawa, Nashville and Atlanta can't compete with the big markets.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Hey, ya think maybe Brett Hull should have played last night? Somewhere along the way Ron Wilson went from sending a message to laying down an ideology.

Everyone talked about how exciting the World Cup was gonna be -- megastar international teams under NHL rules! -- but by the time the dust settled, none of the squads besides Canada were any deeper than, say, the Flyers or the Avs.

And for all the scoring chances that we saw in last night's game, it could have been the Wild vs. Sens (Hull probably doesn't think he missed much).

I also can't believe Esche said the goals were fluky. You get three guys in the slot and put the puck there, someone tends to get a bounce. You leave Saku Koivu wide open at the back-door five-on-five and so what if the set-up had to get there through some skates?

The intensity should rise tonight with Canada involved, but I'm also not sure anyone can beat them, with or without Brodeur. I think I'm rooting for the Czechs -- would make a better final, both in terms of competition and the passion of a European rivalry.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Oh great, yet another sport (such as it is) that draws a straight flush to hockey's pair of threes.

Alternate Berman-nickname for the new Laredo guy, suggested by a faithful reader: John "Might as well go for the President’s since I’ll never" Winstanley.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

The US team is so old, they're dressing Chico Resch and Walt Tkaczuk.
If I were Chris Berman, which I most definitely am not, my nickname for the new Laredo player would be John "Langer and" Winstanley.
Ron Wilson, rock critic?

If Bruce Springsteen goes on tour and one of the guys playing the guitar isn't very good, he's out of the band the next day. That's how this is.

In truth, if Team USA was like the E Street Band Ron could send Hull and Jeff Halperin out to play the same position on the same line, with one of them just sort of standing there half the time.

Or he could just put Hull on a trampoline.
Hull denies being disrespectful of fans:

It wasn't even an interview. They asked me if I was talking, and I said no. It's completely unfair. . . . Of course I care about the fans. They pay my salary, and it makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up when they go crazy, and it's great to silence a vocal crowd when you're on the road.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Kerry would close U.S. border to Canadian trash? Does that include Matthew Barnaby?
So who do the Stars have to give up to keep the Modano/Guerin/Tkachuk line together?

And speaking of the Stars, Chad Woollard and Adam Davis get to be there for developmental camp, aka "The last 7 Days before the lockout."

Monday, September 06, 2004

Adam Dewan to Amarillo (good mug shot).

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Tough day for Brett Hull.
I know it's irresponsible, to speculate about team salaries, and throw around these wild accusations, but I'm gonna do it anyway.

The Lubbock Cotton Kings? NOT breaking the cap.

Hey, who knows, maybe their last few signings will be big-time. After all, Mark ("we are now in the process of getting him signed") Kolesar is still out there. And rumor has it this guy's in the fold.

Global gets busy. Team tournament squash!

The Harlem Globetrotters of hockey are coming to a CHL city near you (eventually). Maybe they should play the Sport Aid Impact Team.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

No charge for ESPN Broadband's World Cup coverage this weekend. Which still doesn't excuse the fact that we can't get the games on real TV, as if games between Sweden-Finland and Canada-Russia aren't interesting because they don't feature U.S. players. But as with last year's outdoor game, I concede the reality of college football's bigger audience.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

My new idea for a can't miss collectible -- the Talking Pat Quinn Doll. Push the button and it says "they tried to run our goalie" -- over and over and over and over.

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