Monday, July 30, 2007

Photo Album Has Moved

The Midget B photo album has moved to flickr. The address can be found here.

Girls Hockey Merger

Official Announcement - July 18, 2007

Representatives of the Ontario Women's Hockey Association, Central East Girls Hockey League, North Metro Girls Hockey League and South Western Girls Hockey League have held several meetings to discuss options that will best serve league operations and maximize strengths for the benefit of all teams.

We are pleased to report that there is unanimous agreement to form a southern Ontario girls' hockey league for the 2007-2008 season.

Be advised that there will be a meeting on Tuesday, July 31, 2007 from 8:00 pm to 10:00 pm at Stage West Hotel in Mississauga. The structure of the new league will be presented. Delegates will answer any questions at that time. Ensure a representative from your association is in attendance to take the important information from this meeting back to all teams involved.

Thank you

Bryan Chappell, President, OWHA
Mark Robinson, President, SWGHL
John Chandler, President, NMGHL
Mary Jean Van Dorp, President, CEGHL

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Leafs Targeting Peca

JFJ is publicly stated he would like to resign Mike Peca and Peca has repeatedly voiced his desire to return to the Leafs. So with two willing parties it's likely a done deal.

However in the era of the salary cap, nothing is that simple. Peca will likely sign for less than the $2.5 million he earned last year because of the severity of the injury he sustained. I would guess he will earn between $1.5 - $2.0 million. But Leaf salaries have already hit $48 million and the cap is $50.3 million. JFJ has to leave himself some cap space. As well, the centre spot begins to get crowded. The first two lines will be filled by Sundin and Wellwood. That leaves Peca, Stajan ($875,000) and Pohl ($450,000) for only two spots. Economics seem to suggest Stajan is on his way out.

Trading Stajan who is 23 to sign Peca who is 33 seems to go against youth strategy that JFJ always talks about. But he has no long term contract so what good is a long term strategy (much like the Argo QB strategy). Most people would agree just keep Stajan and let him develop. But the Leafs need help in the penalty killing department. Although Stajan was pretty good there, Peca was much better.

Looking beyond all the rhetoric, the Leafs have not changed their pre-lockout strategy which is go with veterans. Everyone blamed Pat Quinn for this strategy but in fact JFJ full embraces this approach. Trades for Raycroft and Toskala suggest that the Leaf plan is to squeak into the playoffs and pray for some upsets.
EDIT: JFJ was quoted on Aug 2 stating that he was not looking to trade Stajan which would explain why the Peca contract hasn't moved forward.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Al Arbour to coach one more game with Isles

In a classy move, Islanders coach Ted Nolan has asked the former Islander great, Al Arbour, to step behind the bench one more time on November 3rd. Arbour is 74 years old and will mark his 1500th game that night, having gone down in NHL history at 1499 for some 24 years now, he last coached back in 1983 and the wonder years of the Islanders.

Nolan felt it was important for Arbour to reach the milestone. Nolan will also be behind the bench because Arbour admits he doesn't really know the players. They will be going against Sidney Crosby and the Penguins that night.

Sharks' New Logo Unveiled

Don't see much difference except more teal and less black.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Monday, July 16, 2007

Last Day on the Job

Hey Does Anyone Have Punch Imlach's Phone Number?

This is turning into an incredible story.

In one of the more bizarre headhunter searches in recent times, the executives of MLSE have talked to anyone with a pulse and an old age pension in regard to the “mentoring” position for John Ferguson Jr. They have approached Scotty Bowman (age 73), John Muckler (also 73), two relative youngsters David Poile (57) and Bobby Clarke (58) and now apparently Harry Sinden (74).

The Leafs seem determined to undercut any value their current GM may have, by trotting out the elder statesmen of the last century. And while we no doubt suspect that all those considered thus far have a fair amount of hockey knowledge and have probably forgotten more than we’ll ever learn, most of it was forged back when the players could be sent to Siberia or Springfield at the whim of the manager.

The long running saga which first got its legs before the playoffs had even finished, has carried on to comedic lengths, with the only message that doesn’t seem to be getting through is that there aren’t that many people really in a hurry to work for the crazy rich guys guarding the Teachers fund at the Air Canada Centre.

How this whole bizarre scenario is impacting on his ability to run the Leafs is a very valid question. It’s the most foolish thing we’ve seen in a long time from the franchise that used to make Foolish its corporate mantra.

You have to feel a fair degree of sympathy for Ferguson, who may be wondering just what it is that his bureaucratic masters at MLSE really want from him. More importantly perhaps he should be looking to find his parachute and go to a franchise a little less loony in their approach to upper management.

Jim Balsillie's Front Man; Richard Rodier

I noticed how Richard Rodier's name continues to pop up in regards to Jim Balsillie's proposed purchase of the Nashville Predators. He has been a frequent guest of The Fan to discuss what is going on behind the scene. So I decided to Google Mr. Rodier to learn more about him.

He is a Toronto lawyer at Gardiner Roberts practicing corporate/commercial and banking law. Prior to law school he was an economist. Richard's subspecialty expertise is in banking, acting for both financial institutions and borrowers in connection with complex secured lending transactions, including financing of acquisitions, hostile take-over bids (hostile would certainly describe the status of the Nashville franchise purchase), sub-debt financing, and equipment leasing.

The Globe reports that a Toronto-based group has submitted an all-cash bid to buy the Ottawa Senators and plans to move the team to Hamilton back in 2002. Richard Rodier submitted the bid on behalf of HHC Acquisition Corp but declined to provide details of who was involved in the bid.

It was also later reported in The Globe that this HHC group had attempted to make a play for the Buffalo Sabres during that team's bankruptcy - again with Richard Rodier acting as the front man.

Now it's becoming obvious who was behind these "cash offers" for struggling franchises - none other than Jim Balsillie.

Then there was the bid for the Penguins last year that fell through after the NHL included a long list of conditions at the last minute. Jim Balsillie pulled out of that purchase and walked away from a $10 million deposit.

If you include the plays for the Sabres, Senators, Penguins and Predators, Balsillie's been lining up for troubled NHL franchises now for a lot longer that has been reported to this point.

And you can bet he'll be at the front of the line the next time a franchise is drowning in red ink (Phoenix, Atlanta, Florida).

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Is ESPN Trying to Kill Hockey?

This piece is a week old by this point, but premise is fascinating: Is ESPN deliberately trying to kill hockey?

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

Friday, July 06, 2007

Returning on July 8

A History of Backstabbing

Damion Cox covers 40 years of Maple Leaf politics on his blog.

It seems back in the 1960s, Stafford Smythe and Harold Ballard pushed out John Bassett, then Ballard pushed out the Smythes, then when Ballard died Steve Stavros outmaneuvered Don Giffen who had brought in Cliff Fletcher, then Stavros dumps Fletcher for Ken Dryden who brought in Pat Quinn, then Quinn outmaneuvered Dryden, then Larry Tennenbaum pushed out Stavros, then Tennenbaum brings in Ferguson, then Ferguson pushes out Quinn.

Wow that would make a great TV mini-series. So now John Muckler may be brought on board to continue the boardroom antics. Meanwhile the Ontario Teachers' Pension Fund keeps making money.

By the Numbers

Sports Illustrated has compiled a list of top athletes by jersey number. Not that everyone on the list is not deserving but I think if you chose an unusual jersey number, you might have a better shot at making the list. The toughest number to choose was 32 but with 68 the choice was slim. Perhaps if I had played wearing 911 I too could be in Sport Illustrated. Here are some of the numbers:

00 - Jim Otto (NFL)
1 - Warren Moon (CFL, NFL)
2 - Secretariat (horse racing)
3 - Babe Ruth (MLB)
4 - Bobby Orr (NHL)
9 - Ted Williams (MLB) tough to choose between Williams and Gordie Howe
10 - Pele (soccer)
33 - Kareen Abdul Jabbar (NBA)
44 - Hank Aaron (MLB)
55 - Orel Hershiser (MLB)
66 - Mario Lemiuex (NHL)
77 - Red Grange (NFL)
88 - Alan Page (NFL)
99 - Wayne Gretzky (NHL)

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Fire Bettman

There is a website dedicated to bringing together people who agree that Gary Bettman should resign or be fired from his position as NHL Commissioner -

I have to admit there is some merit to this cause. Honestly, it always felt like most hockey fans took a dislike to Bettman on sight when he took office in 1993 and never had a real reason to dislike him. I think that has changed. You always had this sense that he was anti-Canadian although his denials were never convincing (sounded too much like Dick Cheney). But clearly his true colours have come out.

Forcing Predators’ owner Craig Leipold to walk away from earlier negotiations with Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie (who was planning on relocating the team to Hamilton, OT) is outrageous. Now Leipold is in negotiation with William "Boots" DelBiaggio but the offer is close to $50 million less than Balsillie’s, and it is said that he plans on relocating the team to Kansas City once the Predators’ lease in Nashville. The NHL already tried Kansas City in the 1970s and it was a disaster. No reason to believe a second shot will be any more successful than the second round in Atlanta.

"Let's get this straight -- Balsillie anted up $220-$238 million U.S. for the Predators, plus possible indemnity payments to the Leafs and Buffalo Sabres and the costs of a new arena to replace Copps Coliseum a few years down the road. DelBiaggio puts up $190 million and he's apparently going to get the team, in a city where the NBA and NHL have each failed.

Why? To fulfill Bettman's vision to "Americanize" the NHL.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Barry B*nds' long trek to tainted glory

If Barry B*nds has retired after the 1998 season, he might have been happier than he seems in long trek to tainted glory. He would have been spared the disturbing spectacle of his vilified approach to Aaron's 755 career home run record.

Prior to the 1999 season, B*nds would have been guaranteed a first-ballot election to the Hall of Fame. He had 411 home runs, 445 stolen bases, 8 All-Star selections, 8 Golden Gloves and 3 MVP awards.

Since then his incredible stats have earned him 4 more MVP awards and provided him with a chance to break Aaron's record. From 1986 to 1998 B*nds averaged a home run every 16.1 at-bats. Since 1999 (when he turned 35 an age where the power should be falling back) he has averaged a home run every 8.9 at-bats.

San Francisco reporters who follow the BALCO steroid scandal report that the Giant equipment manager testified that since becoming a Giant in 1993, B*nds uniform jersey went from a size 42 to 52, his cap size went from 7 1/8 to 7 1/4 (even though he started shaving his head), and his shoe size went from 10 1/2 to 13.

Baseball unlike other sports has a statistical measure of a player's strength - the home run. For 34 years, 60 homers was the season record. Then for 37 years the record was 61. Then in 4 seasons, from 1998 to 2001, that total was surpassed 6 times.

So in the next week when the record is finally broken, there will be some muted celebrations but B*nds and the game of baseball both lose something in the process.

The Ultimate Revenge on a Telemarketer

The Ultimate Revenge On A Telemarketer
Uploaded by SaveManny

Incidently we're one step closer to having a national "do-not-call" list to curb annoying telemarketers from interrupting us at dinnertime to sell us vacuum cleaners and time-shares in Florida.

The Streak Ends!

In a gut-busting showdown that combined drama, daring and indigestion, Joey Chestnut emerged Wednesday as the world’s hot dog eating champion, knocking off six-time winner Takeru Kobayashi in a rousing yet repulsive triumph.

Chestnut, the great red, white and blue hope in the annual Fourth of July competition, broke his own world record by inhaling 66 hot dogs in 12 minutes — a staggering one every 10.9 seconds before a screaming crowd in Coney Island.

Kobayashi, the Japanese eating machine, recently had a wisdom tooth extracted and received chiropractic treatment due to a sore jaw. But the winner of every Nathan’s hot dog competition from 2001 to 2006 showed no ill effects as he stayed with Chestnut frank-for-frank until the very end of the 12-minute competition.Kobayashi finished with 63 HDBs — hot dogs and buns eaten — in his best performance ever. His previous high in the annual competition was 53½. The all-time record before Wednesday’s remarkable contest was Chestnut’s 59½, set just last month.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Maple Leafs are better but are they contenders?

JFJ spent much of June resigning last year's roster with the exception of Jeff O'Neill, Yanic Perreault, Mike Peca and J.S. Aubin. They have now been replaced with Mark Bell, Jason Blake and Vesa Toskala. I expect JFJ is done although he should try to move one of his many over-priced defensemen to a team that missed out on landing a big free agent and cap space. The Islanders with $20 million in cap space comes to mind.

With limited cap space the Leafs were out of the running for the top free agents and had to look at the 2nd tier. I think they did well in signing Blake who is not that expensive and is a consistent 20+ goal scorer in the NHL. He also come with speed and grit. In fact, he and Selanne are the only free agents that scored 40 goals or more last season and Selanne is likely to announce his retirement. In fact, Briere, Drury, Smyth and Gomez have never scored 40 goals in the NHL. Gomez has scored over 20 goals once in his entire NHL career. So its not how much you spend on free agents but how well you spend it (eg, the Leafs' defense).

Adding Toskala alone should be sufficient to push the Leafs into the playoffs. On most nights last year the Leafs could compete with most NHL teams but for their goaltending. Mark Bell is a big risk considering what they gave up in draft picks. He had a terrible year last season on and off the ice. Past reclamation projects have not worked out for JFJ (Lindros, O'Neill, Allison, Peca) but have been costly. Low risk ones such as Battaglia make more sense.

But the Leafs still have many weaknesses. They have too many rushing defenseman but not enough that are strong in their own end. Their penalty killing is weak and Peca is likely not coming back. Too many key players over 30 and not very many youngsters. There is still no heir to Sundin as the #1 centre. So I don't see them as contenders until there is a considerable improvement in goals against and penalty killing.

But the good news is their divisional opponents have not gotten stronger. Buffalo had to sign one of either Briere or Drury and did not. Montreal lost Rivet and Souray on defense and only able to land Hamrlik. Ottawa is in good shape unless they can't hang onto Emery. Boston also has goaltending help now but has many holes in their line up.

So if only someone other than Sundin scores in shootout that would be great.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Maple Leafs kicks off Free Agent Frenzy

Huge acquisition breaking this past weekend...Ontario Teachers Pension Plan wins bidding for BCE telecom.

BCE Inc., Canada's largest telecommunications company, said Saturday it has reached an agreement to be bought by a group led by the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan for C$51.7 billion (US$48.5 billion), making it the largest takeover in Canadian history.

The Ontario Teachers Pension Plan Board in co-operation with U.S.-based Providence Equity Partners and Madison Dearborn Partners, LLC won out over several other bidders, BCE said in a statement.

The Teachers Pension Plan was already BCE's largest shareholder with a 6.8 percent stake.

The Ontario teachers pension group — with assets of C$106 billion (US$99 billion) in 2006 — invests and administers the retirement funds for Ontario's 167,000 teachers and 104,000 retired teachers.

THIS IS THE YEAR!! Or does this mean Bell will now have higher prices and inferior products?

Day 2 of the 'Silly Season'

This is the part of the year when hockey GMs totally lose their minds. They throw huge contracts at average and good players as if they were superstars.

Several players signed big money and long term deals with new clubs. Likely all this spending did not create any new Stanley Cup contenders. Nobody bought a winner. This is because nobody of significance was for sale. In fact only one of last summer's top 50 players according to The hockey News was purchased at all (Ryan Smyth bought by Colorado).

It has led to the absurd situation that players who were the best of a weak UFA crop like Daniel Briere will get paid far more than the true stars in the NHL (like Sidney Crosby, Roberto Luongo, Nicklas Lidstrom, Martin Brodeur). If one test of a salary structure is that the best players in the NHL are the highest paid, then the NHL fails.

However, the cap prevents any team from buying their way to contention. In fact many of the top signings were by teams that did not make the playoffs. So obviously, although free agents talk about wanting to play for a Stanley Cup contender, when you sign with Toronto, Philadelphia, St. Louis or Washington, that's not going to be happening. They are going where the money is.

Looking at the top 15 contracts signed so far over the past 2 days, 9 players signed with teams that did not make the playoffs last season. A few teams have been weakened considerably - Buffalo, Atlanta, New Jersey and the Islanders come to mind. Obviously the Rangers and Colorado are much better but are not Cup contenders. It's still early and some of the later signings can have more of an impact than the big names.