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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Inexcusable: CCHA Votes Down Alabama-Huntsville

Today saw news that should make college hockey fans across America and parts elsewhere really upset:

CCHA Denies Alabama-Huntsville for Conference Admission

The CCHA has denied Alabama-Huntsville’s application for admission, putting the program’s future in even more jeopardy.

The Chargers are members of the CHA, which is set to disband after the 2009-10 season. The three other members have found other conferences, and UAH targeted the CCHA.

But the CCHA Council, a body made up of athletic administrators and faculty athletic representatives, on Tuesday voted by acclamation to deny UAH’s application for membership.

Well isn't that nice.

The CHA is disbanding because the other three members of the conference have found more convenient homes for the 2010-2011 season. Bemidji State, an enjoyed program of this blog, is moving to the WCHA with soon-to-be former CCHA patron Nebraska-Omaha. Robert Morris University and Niagara University of the lame-duck CHA will move along to the alive-yet-weak Atlantic Hockey Association.

This situation left Alabama-Huntsville on the outside looking in. Given that they're the only college hockey program located in the deep south, their program is one that has always raised eyebrows with casual observers of college hockey.

Hell, even long time college fans weren't always aware of the Alabama-Huntsville Chargers - that is until 2007 when the bottom-seeded Chargers took top seeded Notre Dame to double-overtime in the first round of the NCAA Tournament before ultimately falling to the Fighting Irish 3-2 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Coincidentally enough, it was the same Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids that saw soon-to-be former CHA mates Bemidji State upset Notre Dame and Cornell just this past year in the NCAA Tournament earning them their first Frozen Four appearance as well as the acceptance of the WCHA to join their "exclusive" club of teams.

Fate is one cruel bitch.

"Et tu... All of you?!"

What's fun about this announcement is that the CCHA decided to vote by acclimation so that no one school has to take the heat from the rest of the college hockey loving world for basically sending Alabama-Huntsville's hockey program out to pasture.

Yes, that's right, their hockey program is in a very bad spot right now. Other conferences that could have had UAH join up with them have already filled their ranks. That's not to say that the WCHA was even a possible destination for the Chargers, but at least they were one of the conferences looking to expand.

Atlantic Hockey and the CCHA were it as far as geographic common sense and flexibility go. Atlantic Hockey made their move by bringing aboard the two logical CHA squads in Robert Morris (Pittsburgh, PA) and Niagara (near Buffalo, NY). Both the ECAC and Hockey East are much too far out of the way in the northeast and are set with their number of teams.

UAH is now looking at life, once again, as an independent team. They spent their first year back in Division I hockey as an independent in 1998-1999 but then joined the CHA after that. Previous to that, they were a Division II team for six seasons and a damn good one winning two Division II championships, thus making their jump back to Division I (after spending five years there from 1987-1992 as independents) one that made a world of sense.

Now? Limbo awaits the Chargers. Life as an independent team in Division I hockey is one that doesn't lend itself well to any kind of success, be it on the ice or financially. Having no conference affiliation means there's no conference tournament to play in and win a berth to the NCAA Tournament.

Having life as an independent should, ideally, mean that scheduling gets to be easier as you can pick and choose from any of the other 58 D-I schools. Problem with that is, everyone else is playing in a conference and subject to their own conference schedule dominating their weekly lives and having to live by the scraps of open dates the schedule allows to make games with other schools.

D-I football is perhaps the best high profile way we can look at how UAH may have to handle their new lives, should they choose to keep it up. In the past, there had always been a rather large handful of teams amongst the Independent ranks in college football.

Now there are three: Notre Dame, Army and Navy. What these three teams have in common is playing against each other as well as a hearty mix of cream puffs and menacing world beaters. Hell, even Army football gets a game against VMI each year so they're guaranteed to not go winless.

Obviously Notre Dame sticks out here as the "shining example" of how to be a successful independent program. Then again, Notre Dame football is a beast unto itself having NBC carrying all their home games and a ridiculous legacy that is eternally fellated whether the team is any good or not.

Alabama-Huntsville hockey won't exactly have any of these luxuries. There is no lucrative television contract to give the school money nor are there well-placed media pundits out there to proclaim the wonder and glory of Chargers hockey. It's just how it is but the future is certainly very bleak for the sole Division I hockey program in the deep south.

For what it's worth, the 2012 Frozen Four being held in Tampa, Florida is set to be hosted by none other than the University of Alabama, Huntsville. Given that this location has already been beset by bad press, most of which centered around the owners of the Tampa Bay Lightning bailing out of a college hockey tournament set to be hosted in Tampa last year, Alabama-Huntsville having their program potentially folding before the Frozen Four even arrives in Florida would be a tremendous black eye on college hockey.

For now though, UAH hangs on while the CCHA will have to take their much-deserved lumps for leaving a program out in the cold with little to no explanation:

“The league completed its due diligence of the application for membership submitted by the University of Alabama in Huntsville with careful consideration and discussion of various issues,” CCHA commissioner Tom Anastos said in a news release. “At this time we have chosen to maintain our membership at its current level.

“The CCHA will remain focused on maintaining and strengthening our existing members to ensure the conference’s continued success and long-term viability.”

There's a lot of buzzwords in there but what this boils down to for the CCHA is that they're playing wait-and-see, which in this case, amounts to a game of chicken where they're not risking a damn thing for themselves.

At stake here instantly is the future of Alabama-Huntsville hockey but there are some other things that come into play here. Whether it's the imminent failure of another of its member teams in Bowling Green or the rise of a program out of the club ranks with a huge name to lend further credibility to both the CCHA and college hockey will remain to be seen.

If the CCHA has the ability to see the future and those situations do arise, I am sure they can also handle the responsibility of having the blood of potentially two (or maybe more) programs on their hands while allowing college hockey to become an even less-relevant niche sport on the collegiate landscape.

A year from now we could be just laughing at all of this as an incredible overreaction when the CCHA votes to allow UAH to join up with them after Bowling Green and other struggling CCHA members all find ways to prove their commitments to college hockey for the future and its all fun and games.

Then again, a year from now we could be looking at this vote to exclude UAH from the CCHAs reindeer games as the first domino to fall in what could prove to be a herd-thinning situation in college hockey.

Friday, July 31, 2009

RPI Plans To Take More Money From Fans

One of the collegiate guilty pleasures you're going to have to get better accustomed to if you're a follower here is my fandom of the ECAC's Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI, if you're nasty). The majority of my college hockey watching takes place at Houston Field House and I can virtually always be found there taking in an RPI game during hockey season.

So if you want to get into stalking me, enjoy beautiful Troy, NY.

So if you're curious as to why this latest bit of information from RPI found its way onto my radar, well, there you go. It reads like the standard "season is approaching, get ready to buy tickets" type of news, but this year there's a new spin.

The general public price remains as it has been in recent years for 14 home games, while four games feature premium pricing. The majority of contests will cost $10 for adults and $7 for children & seniors, while the four premium-priced games are $13 for adults and $10 for children & seniors.

The games with premium pricing are those against Cornell University on December 4, Union Coll
ege on December 9, Clarkson University on February 6 and Princeton University on February 20.

That's right, premium ticketing comes to ECAC Athletics. At long last fans can feel like they're part of the big time as they'll pay up more for tickets to the games they REALLY want to be at.


What do you think of this Dr. Horse?

Hmm... No sir, I don't like it.

OK so I'm having some fun here because being dreadfully serious is dreadfully boring and this isn't a topic that deserves to be lambasted, but it is a bit troubling for the future.

Premium ticketing for certain games is something that's not new to sports fans in general (many NHL teams already do this including the Sabres) and, let's face it, the cost for RPI games isn't outrageous by any means. A weekend homestand will run you $20, there's no price for parking and you'll get a good night out of hockey in, at the least, a semi-festive college environment.

What's a bit disturbing about this is, of course, the timing. RPI appears to be a team headed in the right direction.

After a poor regular season, the Engineers found their way in the playoffs upsetting and sweeping sixth seeded Dartmouth in the ECAC tournament first round and then taking ECAC Tournament finalists Cornell to three games in the quarterfinals before losing.

This year, the Engineers bring in two 2009 NHL Draft Picks with forwards Brandon Pirri (2nd round 59th overall to Chicago) and Jerry D'Amigo (6th round 158th overall to Toronto) as well as other forwards C.J. Lee and Marty O'Grady to join an already very young team. RPI has struggled and head coach Seth Appert has, for all intents and purposes, rebuilt the program in the last three years at the helm.

Whether the progress continues to bring success hinges a lot upon what this new crop of players can do immediately and with that the folks at RPI have apparently decided that folks will pony up no matter what, especially for certain games. The games they've got picked out are the traditional big ticket games each year taking advantage of the opponent or the situation.

Puckman wants to see you in Troy... And make you pay for it.

In the case with the game against Cornell, RPI is looking to capitalize upon the swarm of visitors that descend upon Troy from Ithaca each year and looking to make a few more bucks off of the fans from Cornell... Well really, paying more to come to Troy will really stick in their collective craws and that's just fun to make them upset.

Much is the same with the fans coming from Schenectady from Union College. Making those folks pay a few bucks more for the pleasure of visiting Troy makes me laugh because they hate to do it.

RPI's games against Clarkson and Princeton in February actually are premium tickets as far as RPI fans are concerned.

RPI and Clarkson are big time rivals in the ECAC, at least they are from RPI's standpoint. Clarkson tends to have more rivalry-like hate for the likes of St. Lawrence and Cornell. In this case, RPI has chosen their game against Clarkson to be Alumni night and they'll be honoring the 1985 National Championship as it'll be the 25th Anniversary of RPIs last national title and hey, you don't need a good excuse to bring Adam Oates and Daren Puppa back to town now do you?

Putting this event the same night as their game with Clarkson is a really nice coincidence though.

The game with Princeton is a convenient double-whammy as Princeton, traditionally, brings very few fans on the road which will not help them as this game is RPIs annual Big Red Freakout as well as senior night.

As that link explaining the Big Red Freakout says, fans can thank RPI for the NCAA rule banning noisemakers at games as the gift given out to fans in 1987 were horns and well... Wild, rambunctious and boozed up college kids with horns at a hockey game? I can't see how that ever turned out badly.

RPIs record in the Big Red Freakout is something quite remarkable (18-9-5 since 1978) and they'll be looking to get off a three-year winless streak in 2010 as well as avenging their Freakout loss to Princeton two years ago that saw the Engineers lose 4-0 in a game that wasn't even as close as that score indicates.

Four premium ticket games, two of which are actually premium games that will very likely be sellouts. It's a shrewd financially-driven decision by RPI to do this and, let's face it they're going to get the money they're looking for here. It is a choice that I worry will be taken advantage of in future seasons and leading to ticket prices going up.

After all, RPI does have a nice new athletic facility to show off and try to make money off of (not that it has anything to do with the hockey program) but since RPI has made headlines locally for cutting jobs and talking about financial hardships making a few bucks off their only Division I men's athletic program should be no surprise.

That's a whole 'nother rant entirely however.

I wanted to really tear ass about this more, but I can understand why RPI is doing premium ticket pricing for these games, I just hope that this isn't a harbinger of doom for the future.

Sure, college hockey ticket prices are a bit higher in the midwest (Denver University's single game tickets range between $17-$35 for example), but the demand out there is much higher as well so it makes sense. If RPI starts winning again, the long lost dormant RPI fans will come back and the students will be out in force if for no other reason than to be seen at the games.

As it is, the exhibition game with Prince Edward Island on October 3rd is a date most RPI fans cannot wait for just so they can finally get a look at guys like Pirri and D'Amigo on the ice in cherry, white and black.

I'm sure the coaching staff is hoping that the new class is able to inspire more goals and victories and make the fans want to come to Troy on the weekends once again.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Most Interesting Free Agent In The World

Free agency season has died down and while there are still quite a few intriguing names left floating about while teams figure their cap situations out, there's one man out there who remains and his legend now grows as the pickings get slimmer.

His reputation is expanding faster than the universe you might say.

He's a man who has played in the NHL for nine seasons, almost all of them healthy... Except for his most recent when he got injured more seriously just to see how it felt.

He's never scored more than 30 goals in a season but passes with the greatest of ease despite being a left wing.

His blood smells just like cologne.

Darryl Sutter once traded for him because he was intrigued by how he might work with Jarome Iginla.

His hairless face has experienced more playoff success than the San Jose Sharks.

He's been known to cure a struggling offense just by walking into the room.

If you're the GM of the Coyotes, Panthers, or a host of other NHL teams perhaps you too would be interested in the most interesting free agent in the world.

When Alex Tanguay drinks, he prefers something with an umbrella in it.

Or perhaps you'd just rather have a shitty Mexican beer.

Alex Tanguay is certainly getting a lot of attention and sure, much of it is deserved. He played 50 games for the Canadiens last year and scored 40 points. Not bad. Not great, but not bad either. Teams that are in the hunt for him, the aforementioned Panthers and Coyotes could sure use a big point producer to help out. Florida in particular would make for a great destination with the emerging David Booth and the host of snipers situated in Miami right now.

These teams in the hunt for Alex Tanguay had better know what they're getting though.

They're not getting a big goal scoring winger.

Tanguay is a set-up guy and would fit in ideally on a team that has a center that likes to score goals (well hello Tampa Bay) or on a line with enough offensive talent to make sure that Tanguay's short comings (doesn't play physical at all) don't short-circuit the entire line (Ottawa, Dallas, even Phoenix perhaps).

Alex Tanguay is the ideal support piece for a team's offense but he's not the main event scorer. Of course, now that just about every main event scorer is off the market, Alex Tanguay is the last guy out there who has put up big offensive numbers in the past and will, likely, be able to get (over) paid by someone desperate.

Buyer beware because the Most Interesting Free Agent In The World is a lover not a fighter... But he's also a fighter so don't get any ideas He's a total pansy, have at it.

Stay thirsty, GMs.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Bettman's Stick Gets Caught In The Spokes

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

Let's just cut to the quick:

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

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

Wait a second, what was that?

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

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

Un. Freaking. Real.

Suck it Gary, this one's for you!

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


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

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

Leadership: You're (Still) Doing It Wrong

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

Bicycle Ice Polo.

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

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

Future NHL Ticket Purchases: Doing It Really Old School

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

Saturday, July 18, 2009

New Faces In New Places: Smorgasbord

After what a rousing hit the last set of premonition photos were with Tampa Bay and Washington...

...Wait, what's that Professor Frink?

Ahh, yes, good to see yours is working. Well played, sir. Glavin!

Since folks aren't overly entertained by the Lightning nor the Capitals it was high time to step it up in a big way. Again big thanks to EA Sports and XBox Live for providing the means to whet all of your appetites for the upcoming season.

This time the top pick in the 2009 NHL Draft makes his (sort of) video game debut, the New York Rangers unveil an entirely new lineup, Professor Pronger dons the black and orange, Nikolai Khabibulin does his best Andy Moog impression and a guy lets his new paycheck commit to the Indian in Chicago.

I'm going to let these photos appear to be a bit smaller on the page here because there are A LOT of them, but as always, feel free to click on them to make them reasonably life size on your screen.

2009 #1 Draft Pick Jonathan Tavares slips around 2009 #3 Draft Pick Matt Duchene.

This will not end well for virtual Marian Hossa as Chris Pronger steps up in the slot to greet him.

Professor Pronger stays in form: Elbows up at all times

Poise. Grace. Steadiness. Ray Emery. Wait, why are you laughing?

It's John Madden doing what he does best.

Ian Laperriere was called in as a witness in Daniel Carcillo's assault case (background) against Niklas Hjalmarsson.

Tomas Kopecky deals out some beach justice to Chris Pronger.

Marian Gaborik shows how far into the defensive zone he'll ever go.

Nikolai Khabibulin stones Marian Gaborik in close. Gaborik pulls groin in process.

That's just Donald being Donald.

Matt Gilroy shows the rest of the team how to play defense correctly. Take notes Roszival!

How do you know its a video game? When Ales Kotalik is trying to play some defense.

Christopher Higgins is just playing it out until the post-game party starts.

Hey look! It's those two guys that got traded for Ryan Smyth!

What Dwayne Roloson doesn't know is that he's wearing Tommy Salo's number and he'll have to start more games than not. Let's see how he reacts...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

New Faces In New Places: Washington vs. Tampa Bay

Yesterday we debuted, with great help from EA Sports and XBox 360, a fun summer series to help us kill time and show off what all of the new free agent acquisitions and top draft picks will look like in their new duds.

Speaking of duds, today's photo shoot features one team who played like duds all regular season and another one that played like duds, eventually, in the playoffs.

That's right it's time for the, perhaps, much improved Tampa Bay Lightning and the happy-to-stand-pat Washington Capitals.

Tampa Bay's Victor Hedman excuses himself away from new Capitals forward Brendan Morrison.

Kurtis Foster unleashes the beast towards goaltender Simeon Varlamov.

New Capitals forward Mike Knuble dares to deke past Vincent Lecavalier.

Mattias Ohlund tries to escape the pursuit of Alexander Ovechkin.

Stephane Veilleux shows how to celebrate best on an empty net.

Now here's where you folks come in. Who do you want to see next? Red Wings exiles donning the Indian in Chicago? Marian Gaborik in Ranger blues? Ryan Smyth and his mullet in Los Angeles?

You make the call and the top two choices get featured next - just make sure the teams you select have, you know, actually made a move or two. Leave your suggestions in the comments or find your way to Twitter to let me know. I'm pretty easy to find there.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

New Faces In New Places: Montreal and Toronto

Because I'm a video game dork, in particular with NHL games (well, OK EA Sports' NHL game) and the summer leaves a dearth of fun NHL news to talk about, it's time for me to flex my video game photo taking skills and give you an idea of what some of the new players in new places are going to look like in their snazzy new uniforms.

I'll do a few of these photo galleries because I'm that bored and I have that kind of time. Suck it.

This gallery will feature two teams who have done quite a bit this off-season. It also helps that they're huge rivals with each other.

I bring you the newest Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens. Feel free to click the photos to enlarge them at your leisure.

Scott Gomez slams on the brakes in front of Matthew Stajan and Colton Orr.

Brian Gionta celebrates a goal he didn't score.

Mike Cammalleri lets a shot rip from the slot while Mike Komisarek sprawls out to block it.

Paul Mara skates head to head with Colton Orr.

Mike Komisarek lurks behind the net while Garnet Exelby defends. Jonas Gustavsson holds down the fort.

Jaroslav Spacek races through the slot to let a wrist shot fly.

Hal Gill does something other than stand around.

Travis Moen celebrates like a douchebag after scoring a back-breaking shorthanded goal. Francois Beauchemin stands by stoically.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Resurrecting Evil: Devils Hire Jacques Lemaire

I'd like to say that this news surprises and horrifies me, but deep down it doesn't.

The Devils have gone back to the future for their new coach, bringing back Jacques Lemaire as the man to replace Brent Sutter, who resigned June 9. Assistant coach John MacLean, once again passed over for the job, will take over as head coach of the Devils' Lowell, Mass., minor league team.

"When Lou called me, I was excited, especially, it was a great organization, with a lot of people working for the organization, and it's going in the right direction,'' Lemaire said in explaining why he decided to return to New Jersey after stepping down as coach of the Minnesota Wild at the end of last season.

Pardon me for a moment:

There, now I feel a little bit better.

No, you know what? I don't.

I don't feel better because, finally, after what feels like a million years the Devils were getting to be interesting to watch. Zach Parise is a certified star in the league banished to Newark to apparently pay his sins for daring to be a college hockey deity with his partner in crime Travis Zajac. Patrick Elias vanquished his case of Hepatitis Q and was scoring goals again and hell, they even busted out Brendan Shanahan last year to make fans of the 1980s Devils get all warm and fuzzy again.

Bringing back Lemaire to a squad that seems to be two lines of legitimate talent and two lines of guys that should struggle in the AHL makes you wonder just what kind of coach can make a team like that into one that can make the playoffs.

Well hey, Jacques Lemaire has done it since he started coaching in the NHL so why not get him... again?

Listen, I know the Devils won't look like a thorough patchwork squad when the season starts because, as usual, Loophole Lou Lamoriello is waiting to see which players are really desperate to stay in the NHL and Lou will get them on the cheap knowing full-well what awaits the NHL next season and beyond as far as the cap goes. He got caught with his pants down once before and won't let it happen again.

Besides, he doesn't have Alexander Korolyuk to kick around anymore.

As much as I abhor this move by the Devils, I fully understand it. Lemaire gets the most of having the least especially when your general manager purposefully hates acquiring new talent and his name is Doug Risebrough.

There is an aspect of all this that has me petrified and having honest-to-God flashbacks to 1994-1995 once again. No, it's not the threat of a labor dispute after an epic Stanley Cup Final. It's about how, magically, the rule book got ignored setting hockey back even further than that work stoppage after the 1994 Finals did.

Take a look at how the rules were interpreted in this years Stanley Cup Finals. Detroit and Pittsburgh were allowed to do, seemingly, whatever they pleased to play defense on each other. Be it obstruction, interference, holding... All of that stuff that was supposed to become a part of the past after the labor dispute of 2004-2005. It was back and back with a vengeance and on full display by both teams.

What concerned many folks, including yours truly, was that the way the rules were being called in the Finals would become the new norm since a lot of players sounded off being OK with that. Case in point from Stu Hackel and Jeff Z. Klein from the New York Times:

Coming out of the 2004-5 lockout, the N.H.L clamped down on hooking, holding, tripping and interference with the intent of making the game more a show of skill. The referees had stuck to that strict standard for the last four seasons — until this series.

Through the first four games of this season’s finals, referees called a total of 21 penalties, compared with 43 through the first four games of last season’s finals. Obstruction calls also showed a disparity: 13 this season compared with 22 last season.

Some fans have complained about the change, though most seem to like it — including the Detroit and Pittsburgh players and coaches.

“I love it,” the Red Wings’ Kirk Maltby said. “They’re not going back to the old rules, where there’s dramatic hooks and holds. They’re letting guys battle, in the corners and in front of the net. As players and as hockey fans, all you ask is that it’s even on both sides. I’m not really used to this many penalties not being called, but it’s fun. You’re letting the guys go out and play and decide who’s going to win.”

I don't give a damn what Kirk Maltby has to say about the lack of penalties being called because, frankly, he's not the guy wheeling, dealing and scoring out there and having his progress halted with every stride. He's also the guy who'll be out there and trying to make sure the big guns for the opposing teams don't get the space or time to score and having officials look the other way only helps him out all the more.

I appreciate what Maltby has done as a grind line player in the NHL, but he's not the guy I wante to hear from on these matters because the more the whistle gets put away by the referees, the more he stands to gain from it.

Back in the NHL's "Dead Puck Era" I used to think of Mario Lemieux as the world's biggest whiner when he would openly complain about the holding and obstruction going on in the NHL and it made it more difficult to respect him. Learning more about the game and studying it closer I realized he was right all along. Mea culpa, Mario. Look what he had to say back in 1997:

"The game isn't as exciting as it was five or six years ago," says Lemieux, who is quitting after the next few weeks because he has grown tired of the way it is being played.

What I want to know is this: If Mario Lemieux isn't on the edge of his seat before he takes the ice, why should we be any more excited?

"It's really disappointing," Lemieux says "There are so many great players in the league who can't show their talent. It's too bad for the fans. This could be the greatest game in the world, but with the rules as they are, we can't do our jobs."

Lemieux met with NHL commissioner Bettman last summer to plead his case for a crackdown on obstruction penalties. "Stop whining, Mario," he was told. "Just go out there and fight through the checking."

Care to guess which part of that Larry Wigge story I'm going to harp on? I don't think you need a road map to find it.

So what happens next? What happens if the rulebook enforcement goes south again and the heaps of brilliant talent that currently exist in the NHL all find their numbers and progress stunted because a new wave of non-skating, grabby ogres get to turn the NHL into a skating rodeo of sorts where the best skaters are all grabbed onto and ridden to the ice?

That sounds like a bad time had by all.

Lemaire showed how to win with that style and every expansion team of that era followed his plans to the letter to make it into the playoffs and even the Finals. Lemaire now takes the reigns of a Devils team with brilliant offensive talent buoyed by a no-name third and fourth line, a solid but unspectacular defensive corps and the same goaltender he had years upon years ago in Martin Brodeur.

I think I've seen this movie before and it ends with the fans ultimately losing out having their game destroyed both on and off the ice. Instead, let's just hope this ends with a great coach's swan song in the place where his legacy began and our game remains in tact.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Sheer Madness

If I sat here and wrote something psychotic about every idiotic deal that has been signed since the start of the July 1st NHL Free Agency free-for-all I'd never stop writing.


So what did I do instead? I holed up in a bunker while the NHL contract nukes dropped and now that nuclear winter has settled in and things are cooling off (after all the biggest name left to go after is Alex Tanguay), went to New York City to take in some baseball games and now sit here and wait for the NHL schedule to come out so in-season road trips can be planned.

Yeah, it's hockey's off-season all right.

What's particularly special about this off-season is how some teams seem to think the fountain of money is never going to run dry and how the salary cap managed to stay in basic neutral (with some help from the NHL Players Association) despite grim financial stories flying in from around the league's warmer climes.

Chicago appears to be going for it all in the 2009-2010 season even in spite of having three key young players eligible for restricted free agency next season. An epic contract to Marian Hossa followed up by a potential paperwork snafu that lead into Chicago locking up their cast of restricted free agents this year has made Chicago's salary cap in the seemingly doomed-for-dropping 2010-2011 season an incredibly amazing storyline that we're going to have to wait a full year for.

Let's hope this plays out like an old school Heinz ketchup commercial.

That Matt LeBlanc... He'll become something someday.

James O'Brien over at Cycle Like The Sedins did an epic, and I do mean epic, job of breaking down Chicago's hopes and dreams in what they hope is the post-coitus afterglow of the team's first Stanley Cup since the 1960s.

I'll give you the punchline of one of James' scenarios in hopes that it'll tickle you in dirty places and motivate you to click the link to his full rundown that I've so nicely provided for you.

d) So, if the Blackhawks lived in a dream world in which they could rid themselves of Brian Campbell, Cristobal Huet, Dustin Byfuglien and Patrick Sharp ...

... while signing Kane, Toews AND Keith to trio of bargain contracts ...

They would have five forwards and three defensemen for $30 million. This would give them $20 million to fill (at the minimum) seven forward spots, three defensemen and two goalies. To ice a hockey team, they would have approximately $1.67 million per roster spot.

Without a goalie. Without even two full lines of forwards or defense.

This is if the Blackhawks unload a murderer's row of idiotic contracts.

Even if this situation played out with the current cap, they'd have $2.16 million per open spot.

And this the DREAM scenario.

How boned are the Blackhawks if Cristobal Huet, Corey Crawford or Antti Niemi can't carry them to the Stanley Cup this year? "Pretty damn boned" is my amateur in-the-basement assessment.

The one pretty bow I can tie around Dale Tallon's neck for this incredibly short-sighted and reckless means to win it all is that he's at least being ballsy enough to say, "Screw it, we're going for it all and don't give a damn." It's really ballsy, but it's also epically freaking stupid.

Jonathan Toews is their captain, Patrick Kane is the face of the franchise and Duncan Keith is a borderline Norris Trophy candidate and they're ALL ripe for the picking next offseason and at least one of them is likely done in Chicago after this season.

That, my friends, is mind blowing.

After all, this kind of stupid isn't at all like what New York Rangers general manager Glen Sather has done. You know Slats, he's the guy who just a couple years ago signed both Chris Drury and Scott Gomez to ridiculous virtually identical $7 million dollar per year contracts that don't run out until the sun goes supernova.

Glen Sather gave Rangers fans hope for all of one day that he had learned the error of his ways when he packaged up Scott Gomez and some never-will-be prospects to the Montréal Canadiens for Christopher Higgins and two semi-stud prospects. Higgins was a restricted free agent waiting to be signed and off went over $7 million dollars per year until 2013-2014 from the ledger.

An unbelievably stupid move for Habs GM Bob Gainey and a brilliant stroke of genius for Glen Sather to pull one over on a savvy general manager in his own right in Gainey.

Then July 1st happened and Sather used all of that new found cap space on a guy who tweaks and twerks his groin more than just about anyone that doesn't play goal in the league in Marian Gaborik. Goal scoring was something the Rangers severely lacked and they went right out and got themselves a guy that will score in bunches. He's a legitimate scoring superstar who fell out of favor in Minnesota with the Wild for both not doing what coach Jacques Lemaire wanted all the time and for being an oft-injured bitch that seemed to disappear in the playoffs.

Of course when you're the only scoring talent on a playoff team that is otherwise offensively neutered it's not hard to just shut down one guy.

Huh... Maybe the Rangers weren't paying attention to that. Nor did they seem to pay attention to Gaborik's games played over the last few seasons in Minnesota. In his last four years Gaborik has played in 65, 48, 77, and 17 games respectively.

When he plays, he's dynamic - flat out. He's an incredible offensive talent. Problem is keeping him healthy and if fans in Minneapolis grew frustrated and impatient with Gaborik's inability to stay on the ice... Well, New York City won't be rolling out the red carpet for him everywhere.

What's incredible about this is that Gaborik managed to get an even bigger contract out of the Rangers than the one they gave up in Scott Gomez and one that ends the same year after 2014. If Gaborik's next five years go erratically with the games played the way his last four in Minnesota have Rangers fans are going to go out of their minds. Thankfully for them the Islanders and Devils have done next to nothing to improve themselves this off-season.

Even more fun for Rangers fans is the fact that the Philadelphia Flyers managed to only get scummier by adding Chris Pronger and Ian Laperriere and reverting to their old side show ways in goal bringing Ray Emery back from Russia and then getting former backup Brian Boucher to back him up.

At least they didn't lock Professor Elbows up to an obnoxious deal that they'll never be able to get rid of now that he's in his waning years.

Wait, they DID do that. From Ken Campbell:

When Pronger signed his seven-year contract extension Tuesday, it was front-loaded the way almost all long-term deals are. The extension kicks in for the 2010-11 season and carries a salary cap hit of $4.92 million per season. Pronger will make $7.6 million in each of the first two seasons of the deal, then is scheduled to make $7.2 million, $7 million and $4 million in the next three seasons before dropping to just $525,000 in Years 6 and 7 of the deal, which are the 2015-16 and ’16-17 seasons.

Now, nobody in the game expects Pronger to fulfill the terms of this contract. With Pronger earning $33.4 million of the $34.45 million in the first five years of the deal, it’s a virtual certainty Pronger will retire after the 2014-15 season.

Under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, the Flyers would be on the hook for the entire $4.92 million cap hit for each of the next seven seasons regardless of whether Pronger retires or not, because the contract kicks in after Pronger turns 35 (he turns 35 this October). But there is speculation the Flyers believe that since Pronger actually signed the extension prior to turning 35, they might not have to absorb the cap hit if he retires...

But the spirit of the provision is that it governs contracts that kick in when a player turns 35, not when it is signed.

“The league has sent out memo after memo after memo alerting teams about this,” said one former NHL executive. “If this is what they’re doing, they’re trying to drive a 747 through a loophole.”

The league has yet to hear from the Flyers about this and considers it to be unambiguous. And given that Holmgren has said the Flyers are willing to live with the negative ramifications of signing Pronger to a seven-year deal, it might not be an issue.

Whoops. It's almost as if Bobby Clarke is still the guy running the show there.

I don't know about you, but I'm ready to just blow through this next season just to see how things go in the NHL. After all, the league that beats them over the head for attention and media glitz and glam, the NBA, just had their salary cap drop by a cool million dollars recently and they're supposedly awash in cash.

That makes the situation for the NHL, a league without a blockbuster media contract, even stickier and one that bears watching.

Gary Bettman may have been playing the part of Baghdad Bob and saying that everything is OK while we can all see what's on the horizon, but I will enjoy playing the part of Nero while Rome burns mixed in with my consistent ability to keep telling the Emperor that he's got no clothes on.


Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Montréal: Surréal and Unréal

Picture if you will a place where hockey is talked about day in and day out.

A place where newly drafted soon-to-be superstars high-five you for being hockey fans going into a bar.

A place where an NHL head coach could charm the pants off of just about any woman he wants to in the bar while he's just as hammered as you are and you're stuck standing around in awe of the whole scenario unfolding in front of you.

A place where 10 year-olds have no fear, ignore their grandparents and approach a group of hockey-centric strangers just to heckle a Bruins fan.

A place where out amongst the late night drunken revelers, loud and animated discussions about John Tavares erupt out of the blue.

A place where an inebriated 4:30 AM trip to McDonalds turns into a mind-blowing experience when you realize said McDonalds is across the street from what used to be the Montréal Forum.

A place where running into everyone you've ever cited or made fun of in the hockey blog world convenes to share a beer or twelve together.

This is what Montréal was during NHL Draft weekend. Part surreal, part unreal, completely incredible.

I'll say this about Montréal:

It's a city I loved before making this trip. I'd been there a few times before and had some incredible times up there and the city has always left an indelible mark on my memory for about a thousand different reasons.

This time will go down as one of the most incredible experiences for me because not only was this about being somewhat immersed in the middle of the madness that is the NHL Draft, but it also helped that it doubled as an end of the year convention for those of us in the "alternative" hockey media.

Oh sure, most of us may not have press passes and we may be playing the role of angry columnist at times (OK all the time over here), but anywhere you went in downtown Montreal this past weekend had hockey going on with it.

If you were out to grab a beer at a local tavern, you might run into some front office guys from an NHL team.

Need to get some dinner in Old Montreal? You might see folks from the Penguins stroll down the street with the Stanley Cup, much the way some of the other NHL Tweet Up folks did on Saturday night.

Going to Peel Pub to soak in the frat boy type of nightlife? Downstairs you might get high-fived by a celebrating Kyle Palmieri or you could head upstairs and see Puck Daddy's Greg Wyshynski among others.

That's just a sample of how things went down and, even still, there was more going on than all of that. I don't need to break down how the picks went or the backroom nonsense that was going on or any of that, you'll find enough about all of that elsewhere.

What I can say is that I'm glad I'm NOT in Montréal now after the announcement of the Christopher Higgins trade to the Rangers for Scott Gomez that also, seemingly, included the Canadiens top defensive prospect Ryan McDonagh.

The reaction to this deal, for Montréal fans has been, to put it lightly, hysterical. Not the funny kind of hysterical but the manic, crazed and angry kind of hysterical. For a good example of what it's like to be a dyed in the wool fan of Les Habitents, check this thread at Hockey's Future that reads like an Internet car crash turned into rally with pitchforks and torches. As of this writing, the thread based on this deal alone was up to 35 pages.

Now take folks like that and put them all in one city and have them dialed into what goes on with the hometown team 24/7. That's Montréal. Hockey all day, every day.

Heaven... I just don't speak the language in heaven is all. Well, the main language anyhow.

This kind of seemingly moronic deal sets the table quite nicely for the NHLs National Day of Insanity: The start of free agency.

We've already seen one highly-dubious contract handed out to Dave Bolland of the Blackhawks for five years and $3.375 million per year. He's on the young side, but he also notched a mere 47 points last year. The Blackhawks are banking on Bolland improving and making this deal into a bargain in future seasons.

Yeah, good luck on that.

Adding this to the dubious Rangers-Habs trade today you can see why I look forward to this each year, it's just funny that Glen Sather is on the positive end of the spectrum this time around. Perhaps he'll give an asinine contract to Christopher Higgins (a restricted free agent) to make up for it and we can mock him endlessly once again.

Bizarre part about this deal for Montreal is that they had oodles of cap space to work with and instead lock themselves into having Gomez as their top centerman, essentially kiss captain Saku Koivu goodbye and take themselves out of the running for the Sedin twins since Gomez is due over $7 million a year on the cap until forever.

Like I said: Seemingly and most likely a terrible development for the Habs.

For the Rangers, it's an interesting start and one that's rumored to continue into a deal for Senators winger Dany Heatley sooner than later. Should that happen, well, perhaps the Rangers will realize that they dealt the wrong centerman to Montreal as Gomez would work quite well dishing off to Heatley.

Chris Drury? Not so much...

All of this though is just the appetizer for July 1st. I'll be doing a lot of snap judgments through the day tomorrow on Twitter, so follow along with me as idiocy runs wild.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Bienvenue à Montréal

The Gross Misconduct Hockey Road Trip extravaganza gets to close out the 2008-2009 season as well as get you prepared for the 2009-2010 season all at once by visiting one of my most favorite cities in the world:

Montréal, Québec, Canada

Those accents are very important.

Tomorrow morning I'll hit the road, the illustrious I-87, to attend the NHL Entry Draft. No, I won't be giving you a mock draft since that would be amateurish of me to do and would likely end up sounding really freaking stupid because, honestly, what am I going to tell you that you're not going to find more well informed elsewhere? Hell, just hit up the links on the sidebar and you'll find something you'll enjoy - it's out there and other folks are busting their ass a lot more on this than yours truly.

That's just how I roll. I guess.

The one bit of insight I'll give you is this, and these are the things I'll be keeping an eye out for.

Thankfully, one of them focuses in on the first two picks. I'm curious to see if Garth Snow and the Islanders have just been jerking all of us around for weeks and he's going to run to the podium and make it official that the Islanders give a crap about the team's future and select John Tavares first.

Not selecting Tavares would be damn near criminal and that's not a slight on Victor Hedman or Matt Duchene but Tavares was virtually NHL-ready last year. Hell, they tried to bend the rules to allow him to be drafted last year.

Tavares is the real deal and he'll be the guy to resurrect the Islanders back into relevancy, which is good since both Hedman and Duchene are pretty fantastic booby prizes for the Lightning and Avalanche who select after the Isles.

Provided the Lightning don't do something thoroughly insane they should take Hedman and have him starting on the blueline for the Lightning come September. He's big, he's Swedish, he plays defense. That's a pretty good pedigree to have coming to the NHL.

Then again, this is the Tampa Bay Lightning. The team owned by the wackiest pair of terrible owners in the league, a couple of guys in Oren Koules and Len Barrie who were brought into Little Gary's office this week to get their problems figured out. Of course Gary sided with Oren Koules and hey, why not, he deals in real estate that's a really solid industry lately. No problems there at all.

Oh and Koules wants to pare down the payroll and get rid of Vincent Lecavalier. That ought to go over really well for the fans in Tampa who have already had these two jackals ruin what was once the crown jewel of how to be a non-traditional market and thrive.

This is also the team with the general manager Brian Lawton who said in an e-mail to other teams that if you want to talk about the Lightning that you talk to him and him alone.

"Please be advised that in order to avoid any confusion over the next couple of weeks, as GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning Organization I am the only person authorized to speak on behalf of the team with regard to player transactions," the email read.

"No other person is authorized to negotiate player transactions. Any questions, feel free to call."

Oh good.

Of course with the flux in Tampa Bay and not knowing just what they'll do, Lawton has felt it necessary that Tampa will hang on to their pick which would be pretty wise considering a guy like Hedman would help sure up their defense for a good long while.

Then again, if Koules is getting the bigger share of the decisions on what to do, perhaps trading out of the spot will seem more appealing.

Sure it would. Then again, if the Islanders do go against the grain and do something unbelievably foolish like skipping over Tavares in favor Hedman then the power is in Tampa's hands. And if that happens? Hang on to your freakin' pants because Toronto general manager Brian Burke might actually start table dancing like the fine ladies at Club Super Sexe, full-frontal and everything.

Go ahead, go puke. I'll wait.

Feel better? Good.

If Tampa gets themselves into a position where they can use their #2 spot to leverage whatever they want to out of anyone, then perhaps even Burke might feel compelled to give up his BFF defenseman Luke Schenn in order to land John Tavares. Then again, who knows what other teams might want to throw at Tampa in order to get a crack at Tavares.

If, and these are HUGE ifs, the Islanders take Hedman or anyone else not named John Tavares the NHL Draft officially becomes a circus and the time allotted to Tampa at pick #2 becomes the most exciting time of the Draft as the Lightning phones will not stop ringing the whole time and with Lawton having to handle things with Koules and Barrie also calling to get their say in...

Well for chaos purposes alone I pray for this to happen. Then again, for the Islanders to become a relevant franchise again sometime before I'm dead, I hope they take Tavares. The Isles lack a lot but Tavares gives them the guy to build the franchise around and gives Kyle Okposo someone to have fun with out there.

The other things I'll be looking for this weekend come from a sheerly selfish standpoint in being an RPI Engineers hockey watcher and there's as many as four players with RPI connections who may get their names called this Saturday during the 2nd through 7th rounds.

Three of these players haven't suited up for the Engineers yet but two of them will in the 09-10 season in Jerry D'Amigo and Brandon Pirri. D'Amigo is getting a lot of press of late and could find himself getting called late in the second round or early in the third.

Christopher Ralph at HockeySpy has this scouting report on D'Amigo who he lists at #50 on his Top 60 list which includes some pretty high praise:

Scouting Combine Performance: Eug Sorokin observed: “Good looking guy, heard some chatter amongst the GMs and some teams like him a lot.” Sorokin was reminded of Zach Parise with respect to D’Amigo.

If RPI can bring in a guy who is anything like Zach Parise, head coach Seth Appert will do back-flips to celebrate because RPI will improve instantly from his presence.

Brandon Pirri comes into the draft having some questions over his defensive skills, but his offensive talents are unquestionably noticeable. His stats from this season playing for two different junior squads in Streetsville and Georgetown:

44 GP 46 G 48 A 94 PTS

For an RPI team that severely lacked scoring, Pirri will be a God-send for the program and any defensive shortcomings he may have will be picked up by his teammates. After all, when you're showing up as a sniper, worrying about backchecking probably doesn't rank out too high. Pirri also claims to have added 20 pounds of muscle to his frame bringing him up to 180 pounds, he'll need that to deal with some of the bruisers he'll line up against in the NCAA, most notably those at Cornell.

Pirri projects to be potentially anywhere from late third round to early fifth round for the 2009 NHL Draft.

The other players on the potential draft radar are 2010 recruit Jacob Laliberté and current Engineer forward Patrick Cullen. If either or both of them are selected, count on it being in the sixth or seventh round. Laliberté is a small sized forward but worked as a power play maven in the CJHL last year putting up astounding point totals. Cullen was a rookie sensation for the low-scoring Engineers and figures to build strongly on his freshman success getting teammates like D'Amigo and Pirri (among others) to join him in Troy this season.

One other quick note on this weekend. I'll be reaching out from the basement with a host of other tremendous bloggers from across the Internet this weekend at the official NHL Draft Tweet Up.

Yeah, I know, the Twitter name makes it sound sort of lame - deal with it, Twitter has taken over the world.

Nearly 100 folks from across the NHL blogging spectrum are taking part in this in some ways and even some of the big shots (Wyshynski from Puck Daddy, the folks from Pension Plan Puppets, even Eklund) are going to be there. I'd tell folks in Montreal to hide the beer and their daughters but it's too late to hide the beer and, well, who knows who's going to think it's a good idea to hit the "fun" parts of St. Catherine's Street on Saturday.

I kid.

I think.

Either way, this event, something as simple and kind of under the radar like the NHL Entry Draft has evolved into a blogger summit, and even the folks at All Habs have extended a special invitation to everyone's favorite diminutive analyst, Pierre McGuire, to make an appearance and shake hands with some of the folks who enjoy needling him the most.

If he shows up somehow, this turns into an epic gathering of MONSTER proportions.

As if it wasn't going to be already.

Stay tuned to my own page at Twitter
for draft observations, pictures, and other assorted nonsense. Hell, there's even a chance you'll get to see me suited up in my own zebra stripes.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Report: NHL Still NBC's Bitch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Flyers were satisfied and agreed to play.

Pardon me for one moment...

deep breaths

deep breaths

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

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

But I believe every friggin' word of it. Why? This is easy. Look how nicely they handled things with the Pittsburgh Penguins and their outdoor screen. The guys at The Pensblog thought very highly of how they handled things:
NBC, the channel that has used the Pittsburgh Penguins and Sidney Crosby in just about every commercial since the network started airing hockey games, is refusing to let the team show game three of the Penguins/Flyers series on the giant screen outside the arena.

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

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

And just where's Herr Bettman through all this?

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

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


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


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

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

That'll play great on television - silence with mixed jeers from drunken boors.

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

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

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

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

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

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