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Archive for the ‘NHL’ Category

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NHL CBA Summary of Terms

No Apologies

As ratification of a new CBA inches closer and closer, NHL players and teams are rushing to tender fans apologies for the lockout. My response to NHL teams and players is to save the apologies; they are empty, insincere public relations stunts. The NHL isn’t sorry for the lockout. The NHLPA isn’t sorry for the lockout. If either side was truly sorry, a lockout never would have happened as the sides would have negotiated well in advance of the expiration of the old CBA.

The inevitable spin is happening; assuring fans that the new CBA is a win for the fans because hockey is back! Again, something that falls flat. What was really achieved? There’s no plan for the new NHL like there was at the end of the last lockout. There are rumors refs might call more penalties but expect that to die on the altar of whining about too many penalties and the need to let the players play. There’s no economic system so the majority of NHL teams will once against struggle financially and consider themselves lucky to break even. Yes we have to wait to hear details of the new CBA but from TSN reports, fundamentally little has changed. Salaries will escalate as teams that wanted the lockout poke holes in the new CBA like they did the old CBA.

In the end the big losers, as always, are the fans. Shallow apologies and “Thank You Fans” on the ice is just more salt in the wound. It does make you wonder what would happen if the NHL and NHLPA actually cared as much about the NHL as the fans do. Because we’re fans we’ll get over the lockout. Once the playoffs start it will be a distant memory to most of us. And that simple truth is what the NHLPA and NHL bank on: fans are so devoted that no matter what is done to us we’ll still allow people to get rich off our hard earned money because watching hockey games is a pleasant diversion from the rest of our daily lives. It’s what happens when finances collide with the desire and need to be entertained.

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Update on Schedule and Camps

NHL camps can not open until the CBA is ratified. However, camps are still expected to open Saturday or next Monday at the latest. Elliote Friedman reported that the NHL sent out a memo to NHL teams that the NHL season will begin on January 19th but Pierre LeBrun reported that if the CBA is ratified quickly, the season could being as early as January 15th. The NHL Board of Governors will meet on Wednesday. Schedule rumors have the NHL creating a schedule that is focused solely on division and conference play, with no inter conference play.

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Drop Dead Date is January 11

The NHL has set a drop dead date of January 11. If no deal is reached with the NHLPA by the, the remainder of the 2012-13 NHL season will be canceled. The two sides continue to meet in New York, no breakthrough is believed to be imminent.

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Sabres lost $10.4 million last year, Leafs worth $1 billion

Forbes has released its annual list of NHL teams’ worth. It listed the Toronto Maple Leafs’ value at $1 billion, the first NHL team to reach that mark. The Leafs also had a profit of $81.9 million last season. During CBA talks it has been claimed three NHL teams account for 83% of NHL revenues: Toronto, Montreal and the Rangers. Judging by the Forbes’ data it’s not hard to believe.

The Sabres are ranked 22nd on the list with a value of $175 million and an operating loss last season of $10.4 million. I wonder if the NHLPA is willing to take half that revenue?

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Olympic Hockey and why Olympic Basketball isn’t even close.

Another marvelous Olympics has come and gone. I love everything about the Games. The enormous amount of attention it receives, its global appeal, the collection of sports ranging from fencing to field hockey, and just the bringing together of hundreds of different cultures to compete against one another.

The games have always been more popular for their “Olympic sports” rather than the traditional American team sports – which is fair. In America we sometimes like to think our athletics are the most important. The deletion of baseball from the lineup in London 2012 is one piece of evidence that shows otherwise. To be fair the MLB regular season is going on, but either way I don’t think anyone thought it fit to begin with. Id honestly prefer cricket… And with the additional of Rugby Sevens in Rio 2016 you can see the Olympics doing well to add more international team sports.

My biggest issue with this mentality is the lack of parity. What makes the

Olympics so great are moments like the one in the Men’s 800m race. Nijel Amos took home the silver. He comes from Botswana, an African nation which borders South Africa with a population of maybe 2 million. This was the nation’s first medal ever in any Olympic games.

Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver

Basketball in the Olympics to me has always been the least interesting event. Sure to a lot of Americans its fun to see star NBA players dominate and win gold, but that’s the exact reason I dislike it. Whether you think USA got tested by Spain in the finals, or Lithuania early on, the truth is you sat there and watched the game doubting they would lose. They would tease you a couple times but there was nothing more of a lock than USA not only winning every single game in the London, but winning the gold.

This lack of parity makes basketball uninteresting with no real competition. And sure, im willing to hear a case for sports like Table Tennis where China is all but a lock but even in comparison I think the basketball competition is even more lopsided.

When people would ask me if I was watching soccer and basketball at the Olympics the most, I would simply reply no. If I had to pick the team sports that were the most interesting at London I would answer Women’s Field hockey, Men’s Water Polo, and Handball.

All I could think about when watching USA play Spain in the gold medal game is how great Olympic Hockey at the Winter Olympics is. Its certainly another sport that has its best talent and league in North America, but has enough international flavor and parity to satisfy an American sports fan and the Olympic level sports fan.

I don’t have to rewind to Vancouver 2010 to remind anyone of how exciting that tournament was. Even if USA had lost in the final 8, they were already incredibly popular led by new national hero Ryan Miller. Even non hockey fans from Louisiana wanted a Miller USA hockey jersey. (Trust me I know from Ebay!)

But to stay on course here, Olympic Hockey provides much more parity than Olympic Basketball.

Most will say Canada should still field the “Dream Team” at this event. While they are capable of putting together the most solid lineup in the world, it works differently in the sport of hockey. Even since 1998 when NHL players were allowed to participate, Canada has only medaled twice out of four attempts – both being gold against the US. But showing there is enough competition to make the Gold medal chase wide open.

In basketball, to me, USA is tier 1, and then there are a handful of Tier 2 countries which fight it out for bronze and silver. However in Olympic hockey, I believe there are as many as 7 nations who can compete for gold.

Below I have broken down the countries. Consider this also my very tiny preview for the 2014 games in Russia.

 

TIER 1 (The medal contenders)

-          Canada, Russia, Sweden, Finland, USA, Czech Republic , Slovakia

Comments: Like I said before, when the tournament starts, if one of these 7 teams won gold, it wouldn’t be a jaw dropper. This is the main reason why the Ice Hockey competition is so much more fun to follow. I almost made a 2nd tier with Slovakia and the Czech Republic… and even USA actually. However I think its fair to include all 7 of these nations. A team like Slovakia would need more breaks to win gold, but they have enough talent to be considered. With Chara and Sekera on the back end, Hossa and Gaborik up front, and Halak in goal, it’s reasonable if they overachieve. In Vancouver they beat Sweden in the round of 8 and lost to Canada 3-2 in the Semis.

With the Olympics being back on International Ice in Russia in 2014, you have to like Sweden, Finland and Russia’s chances at making it to the finals. I project USA to do well again. Brian Burke is the perfect GM for team USA whether you care for him or not with the Leafs. He picks the right amount of skill and grit for this tournament. When 2014 rolls around, the USA will actually have more quality goaltender depth than I can ever remember. I expect Miller to bounce back and make the team but with Quick, Howard, and others popping up, it should be a good thing for the US.

 

TIER 2

-         Switzerland, Belarus, Norway, Germany, Latvia, Denmark

Comments: This Tier includes mostly nations you can expect to see at the Olympics but perhaps not to medal.

Leading this tier is certainly Switzerland and one of the fastest growing hockey nations. I got to experience for myself firsthand the interest level of hockey there. They get great crowds at the domestic league. At the time I visited the highest attendance in any European league belonged to Bern of the Swiss NLA. You can even enter a bar during playoffs and find multiple TVs showing different games from around the league. Switzerland is the one country from Tier 2 that could steal a medal at a future Olympics. They simply need more top quality talent but everything is pointing in the right direction for them. They are never completely out of a game with their style of play.

Latvia is another country that could see growth. They have arguably the most popular KHL team and outside of Finland, most consider Latvia to be the most hockey mad nation in Europe… where the sport is clearly number 1. Maybe Zemgus can lead the charge for them

Germany is unfortunately always the nation that seems stagnant. Never going forward or backward. It’s a nation that really needs a couple star NHL players to emerge.

 

Again, I could go on and on. I love the international level of ice hockey. I could make a Tier 3 involving Austria, Kazakstan, Slovenia, France or a Tier 4 with Italy, Ukraine, South Korea…. Tier 7 with South Africa, New Zealand and so forth.

But the main point is that the Olympic Ice Hockey tournament is the premiere Olympic team sporting event. The passion, level of competition and amount of competitive nations makes it something special.

Sochi 2014 can’t get here soon enough.

Twitter @derekrenner

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Sabres 2012 Preseason Schedule

Per Sabres release:

9/24 @Habs
9/26 vs Bruins
9/28 vs. Leafs
9/29 @Leafs
10/2 @Blue Jackets
10/5 @Bruins
10/5 vs Blue Jackets

All games start at 7pm EST except for the Habs which starts at 7:30. Obviously if there’s a lockout there will be no games.

Give em enough rope…

Perhaps some level of sanity will reign across the Internet now and into the future after yesterday’s craziness that dealt with Buffalo Sports Daily and a member of the Buffalo Bills.  The story has been quickly squashed by the mainstream media, thanks in part by contacting more appropriate sources, i.e. those in law enforcement.

Some people rambling around in the blogosphere often become trigger-happy trying to “break” a story.  Whether the information they receive is fact or fiction, whether the sources they have are reputable enough, it’s becoming necessary in the minds of some to be the first to break a story.  As is being witnessed now, being the first to break a story can create some unnecessary headaches.

I have worked in the news business for several years.  I know co-workers will go through several different channels to substantiate information / rumors.  They don’t take to reporting that kind of information lightly.  The lack of substantiation that often is associated with online bloggers does more harm and disservice to online media than the perpetrators themselves will care to understand.

Online bloggers need to realize that much of their information and opinions are taken with a grain of salt by the mainstream media.  Sketchy reports and fabrications by bloggers only enhances the disdain that the mainstream media will hold for bloggers.

One of the most important things when breaking a story is that your sources be very reputable and very trustworthy.  Back in January-February 2003, I received information from two different sources that Tom Golisano was going to buy the Buffalo Sabres.  The two sources did not know each other, therefore they couldn’t have collaborated their reports.  I asked for as much information as they had, with the sources going so far as saying the purchase had already taken place and would be announced in a few days.

At that point, I decided to post on the messageboard at this site that Golisano would be purchasing the team.  Three days later the story broke in the mainstream media that Golisano had indeed bought the Sabres franchise.

That is a bit different than what is occurring right now with the Buffalo Bills.  A player’s livelihood is being brought into question.  Bad publicity is being spewed towards a professional sports franchise.  If the information and sources aren’t good, this can become quite ugly.  Why an individual would throw themselves into the fire like this without having the proper and necessary information is outlandish.

This situation is bringing negative and unnecessary attention all because someone wanted to break a story that is quickly becoming a non-story.  It does a disservice to online blogging and brings into question the credibility of online media outlets.  The online community needs to remove itself from the “free-for-all” concept it has adopted in being the first to break a story and then turn around and say “damn the consequences”.

If that childish form of “journalism” continues… well… if you give em enough rope…

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Sabres vs. Soviet Wings: January 4, 1976

1976 Super SeriesIt was the height of the Cold War. The NHL and Russia had an unofficial war over bragging rights for the best hockey program in the world, the echoes of which can still be heard today. The Soviets burst onto the international scene in the mid-fifties and dominated in tournaments held on international ice surfaces using international rules. The Soviets teams were largely professionals who played together year round, most were drafted into the Red Army so they were under the control of the Soviet government.

The Soviets main adversaries, Canada and the United States,  met the Soviets in various tournaments with largely amateur teams. It was rarely the Soviet’s best against Canada’s best, America’s best or the NHL’s best. The NHL fumed at the prestige the Soviets took from the NHL without ever having faced an NHL caliber team. The first clash of the NHL’s best and the Soviets was the famed Summit Series in Moscow of 1972. Paul Henderson scored the “goal heard around the world” to lift Team Canada to victory in the last minute of the eighth and final game. Although many people, myself included, think that victory was tarnished by a delibertate act by Bobby Clarke to break Valeri Kharlamov’s ankle.  Canda’s assistant coach John Ferguson would admit to it. Regardless, it was the first time a professional team from North America had defeated the vaunted Red Machine.  In 1974 the upstart WHA decided to try their luck against the Soviet.  The NHL did not allow its players to play with WHA talent so the rematch between Canada and the Soviet Union consisted solely of WHA talent. The Soviets came out on top, again under a cloud of controversy, this time over the treatment of team Canada on and off the ice.

In 1975-76 NHL owners agreed to arrange a tournament between the Soviets’ best and various teams in the NHL. The Soviets sent the vaunted Central Red Army team and the Soviet Wings team to North America to face selected NHL opponents, a list that included the Buffalo Sabres.  The Central Red Army team went into New York and clobbered the Rangers 7-3 on December 28, the Wings went into Pittsburgh and thumped the Penguins 7-4 the next day. On New Years Eve the Red Army went into the forum of Montreal and held the Canadiens to a tie(the Habs would win the Stanley Cup that year). The Wings prepared for their next game on January 4, 1976.

Enter the Buffalo Sabres. “I don’t know what the Sabres had for a game meal, but they came out mean and tough. Jerry Korab was a man on a mission…. He took it to their big stars, once almost putting Yakushev right through the Zamboni doors. I don’t recall a penalty on the play either.” Ron Wicks NHL referee

The Aud was filled to capacity that night. In school we talked about the game quite a bit. The Sabres were a year removed from a Stanley Cup Final appearance and in the 70′s we were taught to quite literally hate the “evil commies”.  It was a big game, an important game politically and in terms of hockey prestige (most NHL players at the time were Canadian and they were out to prove the Canadian style of play and the Canadian player were the best in the world).  The air along the Niagara Frontier was electric and the Aud rocked as only that grand old building could do. The Wings uniforms were ill fitting, their equipment appeared shabby and tattered but it was a trap. The Soviets’ equipment was top notch, the Soviet government spared no expense for such a propaganda tour. The Soviets wanted to give the appearance of an ill prepared team.  Although the Wings were a step down from the Central Red Army in terms of talent they were still a powerful team (they would beat  the Pens 7-4, The ‘Hawks 4-2 and the Islanders 2-1). The Sabres themselves were at their height in terms of the mix of finesse and brute power with a hulking defensive corps. Buffalo wanted to show the world what NHL hockey, the Buffalo Sabres and the French Connection were all about. Punch Imlach wanted to beat the Soviets badly, he had the Sabres prepared and on edge, especially Jerry Korab.

“The feeling on the way down the QEW to Buffalo wasn’t good. We hadn’t fared well against the Soviets. We should have known better. With Punch Imlach in the background, it was bound to be a battle. For my money it was an outstanding game, probably the best one the Sabres ever played. It had to be a career game for Jerry Korab and for some reason Don Luce sticks out in my mind. I don’t think he was a goal scorer, but he was at his very best. Heading back up the QEW we knew we’d seen a game to remember” – Frank Selke Jr VP Hockey Night in Canada

On January 4, 1976 the Soviet Wings hit the ice in Buffalo’s Memorial Auditorium. It was a small rink and an extremely loud building.  The Sabres came out banging and hitting, a style the Soviets were not used to playing. At 6:10 of the first period the Sabres got on the board with a goal by Josh Guevremont and they never looked back. A minute later Gilbert Perreault blasted a Korab pass into the net. “I remember the Soviet Wings game as if it was yesterday. Imlach told us in no uncertain terms he wanted this game – a lot. Well, he couldn’t have wanted it any more than each and every player on the team did. We had seen the 3-3 tie in Montreal on New Year’s Eve, and it only made us more determined. Punch said we were going to intimidate them. That was the key” – Jerry Korab

The French Connection scored 4 goals and notched five assists. Danny Gare netted a pair of goals and Fred “yes the office furniture guy” Stanfield had a goal and 3 assists. The Sabres outshot the Wings 46-21. By the end of the first period the Sabres led 4-2, by the end of the second the score had ballooned to 9-4. The Sabres won the game 12-6.

The player of the night was the man nicknamed Kong. Korab punished the Soviet players anytime they came into the Sabres zone and his checks set the tone for the game. By the end of the first period the Soviets were reluctant to cross the Sabres blue line, they were that intimidated by the hard hitting Sabres. After four games against the Soviets the NHL’s record was 1-1-2.

The Soviet teams would bounce back to win against the Bruins, Islanders, Blackhawks. The final game was the Red Army against the Philadelphia Flyers. In perhaps the strangest game of my life as a hockey fan I actually cheered the broad street bullies as they manhandled the Red Army for the NHL’s second win of the tournament. The Flyers took a page from the Sabres game plan and unmercifully beat the Red Army. It led to the Soviets leaving the ice in protest of the Flyers’ style of play, although they would return when they were told they would not be paid if they did not finish the game.

The games in Buffalo and Philly made a lasting impact on how North American players viewed the Soviets. The Soviets were now stuck with the label of soft, afraid to hit and would melt in a physical game. It’s a stereotype that has largely lasted even to today as European players are now a large part of the NHL. No matter the great accomplishments of these players they still can’t distance themselves from the beatings handed to the Soviets by the Sabres that in 1976.

Sources

Brewitt, Ross.  26 Seasons in Buffalo’s Memorial Auditorium.  TFB Press, 1997.

“Canada-Soviet Hockey Series”. CBC Digital Archives. <http://archives.cbc.ca/sports/hockey/topics/318/>.

Joyce, Gare (December 28, 2007). “John Ferguson, 1938-2007″.   (ESPN).  <http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=obits/ferguson/071227. Retrieved May 21, 2008>.

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How NHL Teams Selected Their Names

How NHL Teams Selected Their NamesAnaheim Mighty Ducks: Disney CEO Michael Eisner named the team after the hit Disney movie “The Mighty Ducks”.

Atlanta Thrashers: derived from Georgia’s state bird – the Brown Thrasher and the logo was designed to put forth a feeling of speed.

Boston Bruins: Businessman Charles Adams wanted his new franchise to have brown and yellow team colors to match his stores as well as a name equated with strength and power. A fan named the team in a contest.

Buffalo Sabres: The management held a contest and chose Sabres. Team officials wanted a fresh new name not being used in the pros, and something other than buffalo/bison variations.

Calgary Flames: Given to the team when it was in Atlanta to commemorate the burning of the city in the Civil War. When the team moved to Calgary, management held a contest/vote, and the fans chose to keep the Flames name, which also relates to Alberta’s petroleum industry.

Carolina Hurricanes: Hurricanes commonly make landfall in the North Carolina.

Chicago Blackhawks: Original owner Frederic McLaughlin named the team in honor of the Black Hawk Battalion he served with in WWI. The unit was named after a Chief Black Hawk. The name was merged to Blackhawks several years ago.

Colorado Avalanche: COMSAT gave Colorado fans a list of eight names to choose from and let the public respond. Avalanche was the most popular nickname among fans. The Quebec Nordiques became the Colorado Avalanche on August 10, 1995.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Fan contest. Officially the Blue Jackets state the name has to do with celebrating patriotism, pride and the rich Civil War history in the state of Ohio and, city of Columbus. There was speculation the name could have also come from the fact the owner’s favorite color was blue, an insect with attitude logo had already been unveiled or perhaps to honor a Shawnee chief of the same name (there are various legal suits in the United States about the use by sports teams of native nation names and imagery.

Dallas Stars: Dallas is in Texas, the Lone STAR state. Also, when the team was in Minnesota, hockey fans chose the Minnesota state motto “Etoile du Nord” (Star of the North).

Detroit Red Wings: Then team president James Norris named it in honor of a team he had played with – the Montreal Winged Wheelers. The logo was perfect for the Motor City.

Edmonton Oilers: The management held a contest and chose Oilers, reflecting the importance of the oil industry. They kept the name when it moved from the World Hockey Association (WHA) to the National Hockey League.

Florida Panthers: H. Wayne Huizenaga wanted to draw attention to the Panther, an endangered native wildcat of Florida.

Hartford Whalers: When originally in the WHA, club was named New England Whalers for two reasons: (1) Massachusetts seaport towns connected to whaling; (2) the name had WHA in it (WHAlers). Name later changed to Hartford Whalers.

Los Angeles Kings: Two possible reasons: (1) The management held a contest and chose the name; (2) Jack Kent Cooke named them the Kings via executive decision, giving no specific reason.

Minnesota Wild: named in a contest. Six finalists named for new NHL franchise: Minnesota Blue Ox, Minnesota Freeze, Minnesota Northern Lights, Minnesota Voyageurs, Minnesota White Bears and Minnesota Wild. The state of Minnesota is well known for vast stretches of open wilderness, especially in the northern part of the state.

Montreal Canadiens: Representing the nationality of the players on the team. Originally, the team had only French Canadian players.

Nashville Predators: On September 27, 1997, held a season ticker holder event “Ice Breaker Bash”. Fans were surveyed and voted on the “Predators”. The name is linked to the area via fossils found in 1971 of a saber-toothed tiger, extinct for over 10,000 years.

New Jersey Devils: Comes from a legend: a witch allegedly gave birth to a demon known as “Jersey Devil” in 1735. The Jersey Devil was alleged to be a half-man, half-beast that stalked N.J.’s Pine Barrens or the area surrounding Lake Hopatcong for 250 years, causing fear and terror and basically mutilating his victims in an extreme display of guts and gore. Others say the Devil was the 13th child of Mother Leeds, jinxed by gypsies.

New York Islanders: The team is based in Uniondale, Long Island, N.Y.

New York Rangers: MSG President Tex Rickard’s team unofficially known as Tex’s Rangers (a play on Texas Rangers police), but Rangers was the official name.

Ottawa Senators: In honor of old Ottawa Senators hockey team that won 6 Stanley Cups. Originally: as Canada’s capital, the nickname for 1901 amateur team.

Philadelphia Flyers: After 25,000 entries, a committee chose Flyers, although the winning entry by a kid was spelled Fliers, because it went phonetically with Philadelphia.

Phoenix Coyotes: Management held a name the team contest, coyotes are/were fairly common in the desert south west United States.

Pittsburgh Penguins: The management held a contest and chose Penguins, partly because the team is in PENnsylvania.

Quebec Nordiques: Committee named them Nordiques (then in the WHA) because they were the northernmost team in pro hockey at 52 degrees North, 72 degrees West.

St. Louis Blues: Then owner Sid Salamon, Jr., drew inspiration from the famous song by W.C. Handy.

San Jose Sharks: Out of 5,000 entries, officials picked Sharks. 7 varieties in Pacific Ocean, several shark research facilities in area. One part of Bay Area is known as Red Triangle due to its shark population.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Tampa Bay is the lightning capital of the world.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Two possible reasons: (1) Then owner Conn Smythe drew inspiration from an old Toronto team called the East Maple Leaves; (2) when Conn Smythe bought the Toronto St. Patricks, his first act was to rename the team after the Maple Leaf Regiment of the First World War, as well as for the maple leaf on the Canadian flag. Originally, the team was known as the Arenas, then renamed St. Patricks, supposedly to attract the Irish.

Vancouver Canucks: The nickname was taken from a Canadian folk hero. The legend says that Johnny Canuck was a great logger, and was a skater and a hockey player in his spare time.

Washington Capitals: Washington, D.C. is the Capital of the U.S.

Winnipeg Jets: Then owner Ben Hatskin asked his pal Sonny Werblin, then owner of the National Football League’s New York Jets, for permission. The current team (the Atlanta Thrashers franchise) has yet to be officially named.

Sources:

Les Canadiens Magazine, Magazine #6: 1991-92 Season Postings on the Internet Newsgroup rec.sport.hockey

Various history sections on official team sites.

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