Friday, May 29, 2009
Jim Balsillie's plans for renovating Copps Coliseum are quite impressive considering what it looks like now (below). It would certainly mean a great deal to the city to have an attraction like that, given that, as it now stands, few if any people from the larger surrounding area are flocking to the city for events. These plans were apparently done up back in 2007, when Balsillie's purchase of the Predators looked to be well underway.
But first he has to win on June 9.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
The next step in the process is for the judge to decide to whom the team should be sold. Right now the only offer is from Balsillie and at $212.5 million it may be the only bid. Of course there is a catch. His bid is conditional on the team moving to the Copps Coliseum in Hamilton. So there is a possibility that on June 12, Judge Baum rules on whether the team can relocate without NHL approval.
If the Judge says yes, this may have similar reprecussions on sports leagues as did the landmark 1975 Andy Messersmith case where baseball's reserve clause was struck down by the courts. In other words, it could provide owners with the free agency. Right now all teams can only be sold and/or relocated with the approval of the other league owners. So if you own a failing franchise in Wichita, Kansas you are stuck losing money. The league can reject any prospective buyer or a proposal by you to move your team to prosperous Augusta, Georgia.
If all you have to do is file for bankruptcy to get around league bylaws, well then who is going to even bother to get league approval. Any owner not happy in his market will look for greener pastures. Communities may begin competing with each other to lure sports teams to move. Islander owner Charles Wang can become the owner equivalent to A.J. Burnett. The Buffalo Bills could just pack their bags and move to Toronto. There would be 5 NHL teams in Toronto competing the team owned by some pension plan.
So please Judge Baum, lets break up these private clubs run by rich guys who soak fans across North America. Force these rich capitalists compete for our dollars.
Detroit's weakness was supposed to be goaltending but Osgood doesn't seemed to have hurt them. Pittsburgh has a slight chance of winning the Cup but it will only happen if Crosby and Malkin continue playing at the same level as they have been over the first three rounds. Either way it will be an exciting series dominated by very skilled players.
Detroit in 6 games.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Former Toronto Marlboro and Maple Leaf Peter Zezel died on Tuesday after a more than 10-year battle with a rare blood disorder. I regularly went down to watch the Marlies play in 1983-84 when Peter Zezel and Steve Thomas were young stars. The team was managed by my father-in-law until the Leafs sold the team in 1889. Zezel scored 133 points that season and finished 4th in OHL scoring.
Zezel went on to score 219 goals and added 389 assists in 873 games over a 16-year career. He played for Philadelphia, St. Louis, Washington, Toronto, Dallas, New Jersey and Vancouver.
For the past 11 years he ran the Peter Zezel Hockey and Sports Camp, and also coached minor hockey with the Don Mills Flyers.
My condolences to his family.
If Balsillie wins, it could set a precedent that impacts all sports leagues. His ability to buy and relocate the Coyotes out of bankruptcy could inspire other owners to file for bankruptcy protection in order to circumvent league rules and sell their teams to a buyer who might be willing to pay more if the franchise can be relocated. Just in the NHL, the Islander and Thrasher owners must be watching these developments closely. Both owners are considering relocation and/or selling their teams. And lets not forget the Sabres, Stars, and Canadiens are for sale. Nashville is on life support.
Therefore the Judge Baum has a big decision to make. A bankruptcy judge's first responsibility is to the creditors and $212.5 million will certainly address their needs. But will Baum create instability in major league sports where all teams are experiencing reduced revenue. Somehow I can't see a bankruptcy judge creating such a precedent. A hearing is set for June 22.
I still believe the NHL will make a deal with Moyes which will lead him to reject Balsillie's offer. It happened with Nashville so why not now?
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
The Globe and Mail reports that Coyotes ticket sales for next are at about $20,000. At the ACC that will get you a pair of golds for next season and leave enough for a couple of beers per game. Last season at this time the Coyotes has sold about $1.5 million in tickets. So obviously bankruptcy proceedings are not conducive for selling hockey tickets. Their core fans are waiting to see what the courts decide before committing to renewing their seats. This past season, the Coyotes had a 0.4 TV rating. That translates to about 7,210 homes. The team also struggled to even meet minimum standards to qualify for full shares of the NHL's revenue-sharing program, which takes money from rich teams and distributes cash to poorer teams.
But lets not forget that the team has been terrible and has failed to make the playoffs for six straight years. Glendale, the site of the arena is far from downtown Phoenix. This is a marketing nightmare.
I would have to say that the death watch is on. Millions in liabilities and no revenue. You can't cut salaries since the team is already at the minimum salary cap. I'd say prospective buyers are lining up to put a bid on this cash cow.
When the team finally folds up the tent and leaves, Glendale and taxpayers will be left with some big bills to pay. Glendale borrowed $180 million to build the $220 million arena. The city will also lose rent income and ticket surcharge revenue. What do you do with a 17,000 seat arena in the middle of the desert?
As I suspected he would, Judge Baum did not make any decisions yesterday in the bankruptcy proceeding for the Phoenix Coyotes. It was obvious that issues around sports team ownership and relocation are beyond the jurisdiction of a bankruptcy court. Had the matter of ownership been clear cut (and my suspicions were the documents were at best ambiguous) then at least the judge could have concluded who owned the team - Jerry Moyes or the NHL.
But even had Moyes proven he was still owner, the judge could not have made a decision on the sale. Jim Balsillie has made a conditional offer to purchase the team - the condition being that the franchise relocate to Hamilton. Afterall, Balsillie is not interested in owning a team in Phoenix but then who is. Relocation of a sports franchise is not within the court's jurisdiction. So Judge Baum sent the parties off to mediate these issues and then come back so he can continue to work out a plan to pay off creditors of the Coyotes. However, these parties are so far apart than one has to wonder if an agreement can be reached.
The NHL continues to embarrass itself by not dealing with Balsillie. There differences could have been resolved in 2006. Instead he continues to wait in the weeds ready to pounce on the next failing franchise. Unless the NHL is willing to make some compromises, there may only be 29 teams next season.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
So here is a recap of the battle as I see it:
- New gets out during the winter that the Coyotes have not been paying their bills and the NHL has stepped in to keep the team operating.
- At various times during the season Gary Bettman declared that the Coyotes were not in financially trouble at that there were as many as 4 (unnamed) potential buyers.
- Coyote owner Jerry Moyes and Basillie have been talking since February on how to sell the team the Balsillie bypassing the NHL process since Balsillie's last two attempts failed.
- They come up with a scheme where the Coyotes file for Chapter 11 bankrupcy and Balsillie immediately makes an offer to buy the team for $212.5 million. That may be $100 million more than its worth but allows Moyes to walk away with money in his pocket.
- The NHL files documents with the court indicating that ownership had actually transferred to the NHL in November but to protect Moyes from embarrassment it was never publicly disclosed.
- The city of Glendale cries foul because they have a 30 year lease with the Coyotes and see the bankrupcy filing as a ruse to get out of the lease and relocate.
- Balsillie goes on the offensive and accuses the NHL of being either opposed to him personally or a team in Southern Ontario.
- Balsillie works out a deal with the city of Hamilton to bring the Coyotes to Copps Coliseum.
- Bettman suggests on the weekend that if the Coyotes were to relocate it wouldn't be to Ontario but back to Winnipeg. This is declaration is either intended to generate some competition for Balsillie or to split the Canadian public on relocation.
- Balsillie suggests that he would keep the team in Phoenix for one more season with financial support from the league.
I hope at the very least someone will be appointed to operate the franchise. If the NHL wins today then they own a hockey team nobody wants. If Moyes/Basillie win then there will be appeals. We are about 4 or 5 weeks away from the Amateur Draft and 7 weeks away from a large number of contracts expiring and free agency. If someone doesn't take over the team then it will likely not be operating next season.
So stay tuned.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
- Couldn't help but notice that 3 of the 4 surviving teams fired their coaches in mid-season (Chicago, Pittsburgh, Carolina). Even coaches on good teams have problems surviving.
- Not sure if Pittsburgh or Carolina would have both even made the playoffs without a coaching change.
- There are no Canadian teams remaining but there are 37 Canadian players remaining in the playoffs which is 43% of the players still playing.
- In terms of Canadian representation, Chicago has 13 players, Pittsburgh 11, Carolina seven and Detroit only six.
- I wonder who Mrs. Staal is cheering for? Eric has already won a cup so maybe she is slightly partial to Pittsburgh.
- Best playoff beard belongs to Johan Franzen.
- Leading candidate for the Conn Smythe right now is Sidney Crosby.
Pittsburgh vs Carolina
Well frankly I have never seen Sidney Crosby play such inspired hockey and if he keeps it up then it will be quite difficult to the Penguins this year. Carolina has been the surprise team in the playoffs but then they finished the season as the hottest team in the league. There has been no goalie that has dominated during the playoffs though Cam Ward has come the closest. The two teams split their season series.
Penguins in 6.
Detroit vs Chicago
In the first round I picked Columbus to upset the Wings and in the second round I picked Anaheim. So do I keep bashing my head against the wall or acknowledge the Wings are the cream of the NHL. They have had little offense from Datsyuk or Hossa but it doesn't really matter. Players like Hudler and Franzen are playoff monsters. Chicago does it with blazing speed and solid goaltending from Khabibulin. Someone recently commented to me that Chicago will win the Stanley Cup in 3 years. With the salary demands of their young stars and the salary cap I would have to say if its not this year or next year, then it won't happen. The Red Wings have tons of Stanley Cup rings while the Chicago lineup has just 3. Detroit won the season series 4-2. I'm going with a rematch from later season's Stanley Cup final.
Red Wings in 6.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
For at least a month there have been rumours that the Leafs would be picking up Ryan Malone's salary from Tampa Bay. Malone is under contract through the 2014-15 season at a salary cap hit of $4.5-million US a season for each of the next six years. In exchange the teams would sway first round draft picks. That would allow the Leafs to move up from 7th pick to 2nd overall. Tampa Bay is denying the deal and suggesting that the Leafs would have to throw in Luke Schenn and Tomas Kaberle. It is strange that the Lightning would negotiate through the media but then they also revealed players being discussed in a potential trade with Montreal for Vincent Lecavalier. My guess is that trade talks are going on but obviously the team are very far apart.
Monday, May 11, 2009
Former Maple Leafs tough guy Kevin Maguire met recently with NHL VP Bill Daley and is fronting a group that is interested in a NHL franchise in Vaughan. Jim Balsillie is trying to buy the Phoenix Coyotes for $212.5 million and move them to Hamilton. Another group headed by Vancouver developer Tom Gaglardi would like to move the Atlanta Thrashers to Hamilton as well.
However, Jim Balsillie's bid and the league's response has created an incredible amount of negative PR for the NHL among Canadians (especially in Southern Ontario). There's always been a large anti-Bettman faction in this country, but in recent days, it seems to have grown considerably. There's growing bitterness in Toronto over the fact that the league has become all but inaccessible for everyone but the wealthy elite and the business community, and that could have long-term effects on the fan base in this part of North America.
It seems everyone would like to own a hockey franchise in hockey mad Toronto. Let's face it, at least 20 NHL teams would make more money if they could relocate to Toronto. But don't expect the NHL to approve a move to Toronto. If Toronto is such a lucrative market, then why would the NHL allow someone to move into the region without the league getting something out of it.
After the dust settles in Phoenix, Tampa Bay, Atlanta and other troubled franchises, the league will have to eventually turn its attention to Southern Ontario. There is big money to made here by selling an expansion franchise to the highest bidder. That could be anywhere between $250 million and $400 million.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Friday, May 08, 2009
Jim Balsillie has threatened to file an antitrust lawsuit if he is prevented by the NHL from moving the Phoenix Coyotes to Hamilton. The NHL would prefer not to have their bylaws challenged in court because anything can happen there. But history is clearly on their side.
Following expansion in 1967, the original owners of the California Golden Seals quickly soured on the Oakland-San Francisco area and wanted to move the team to Vancouver. The owners led by Barry van Gerbig launch a lawsuit under the Sherman Antitrust Act and the case was finally decided in 1974. The US District Court determined that the Act did apply to professional hockey but that teams were not in economic competition with each other. Therefore the NHL's restrictions on relocation was not an illegal attempt to monopolize trade. Of course the league would not agree to move the team during the period that the issue was being litigated (something Balsillie might want to take note).
However, the NHL thought a team in Vancouver was an excellent idea and added the Canucks as well as the Buffalo Sabres in 1970. In 1976 the Seals were finally moved to Cleveland and renamed the Barons. Two years later the team merged with the failing Minnesota North Stars and eventually moved to Dallas in 1992.
Thursday, May 07, 2009
All eyes in Canada are focused on a bankruptcy court in Phoenix where Jim Balsillie battles the NHL to repatriate the Phoenix Coyotes back to Canada. I refer to it as a repatriation because at one time the Coyotes were the Winnigeg Jets. One of the reasons that Canadians despise Bettman is that he openly dismisses Canadians' claim to their national sport.
His misguided attempts to establish hockey in the U.S. Sunbelt is laughable. He's not fooling anyone down their into thinking its football on ice. Instead he has weakened the financial viability of the entire league. He desperately attempts to keep teams in bad markets while he never once intervened to keep the Jets in Winnipeg or the Nordiques in Quebec City.
If Basillie wins he will be a true Canadian hero and may open the door for more Canadian franchises.
Meanwhile the Toronto Maple Leaf owners are stewing silently. They have relentlessly milked their loyal fans for every dollar they could for decades while providing an inferior product. To publicly oppose Balsillie would only drive a knife in the hearts of hockey fans in Southern Ontario. As they stumble to rebuild the last thing they need is a public backlash for opposing another team in their huge market.
Wednesday, May 06, 2009
Round 3 of the ongoing battle between Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie and NHL czar Gary Bettman has officially begun and it will be vicious. Round 1 and 2 were easy takedowns by Bettman.
You may recall that back in 2006 Basillie had put in a bid to purchase the Pittsburgh Penguins from Mario Lemieux. However, before the deal could be closed the NHL requested that a number of new conditions be added to the deal including one that would have closed the door on relocating the team. Balsillie walked away. He returned in 2007 to attempt to purchase the Nashville Predators. A tentative deal was reached but suddenly Predator owner Craig Leipold backed away and accepted less money. Subsequently Leipold was able to acquire the more viable
So here we are again but now the drama is taking place in
The Globe and Mail is suggesting that Balsillie has finally got the jump on Bettman. But it’s not a slam dunk. A few hours after the announcement, the NHL removed Coyotes owner, Jerry Moyes, from all decision making regarding the future of the Phoenix Coyotes. Essentially giving the NHL full control over the bankruptcy and purchase proceedings. That might not stop bankruptcy proceedings. However, the Balsillie offer is conditional on moving the franchise to
I believe Bettman has successfully painted Balsillie as a dangerous maverick. His threats to move a franchise even without league approval is a potential threat to all owners. If a court agrees with an unapproved relocation then every owner understands that the next maverick owner might move a team into their territory. The Flyer owner does not want a team move to South Jersey and the Bruin owner wouldn’t want to see another team in
As in the past, the other NHL owners are totally silent which suggests that Bettman continues to run the NHL with an iron fist.
Tuesday, May 05, 2009
The media has reported that Pierre McGuire has been short listed for the general manager's job in Minnesota. The other candidates mentioned are Pittsburgh Assistant GM Chuck Fletcher, former Leaf GM/Coach Pat Quinn, Nashvillie Assistant GM Paul Fenton and Minnesota Assistant GM Tom Lynn.
Many people I've spoken to are intrigued by the possibility of McGuire managing the Wild. I'm just not one of them. The GM job in the NHL has become very complicated. Just read the collective agreement and you'll know what I mean. It's over 450 pages. You need to be a lawyer to understand it. Actually a growing number of GMs are lawyers (Brian Burke, Scott Howson, Peter Chiarelli, Ray Shero and Dean Lombardi) and there just as many assistants who are also lawyers. Meanwhile fewer and fewer GMs have playing experience in the NHL. Twenty years ago most GMs had played in the NHL at one time.
So what does it take to be a GM in the NHL? Well it appears a good business acumen. Many GMs were previously assistants either in their current organization or with another team. A smaller number jumped from being player agents to the front office. But you could argue that they have a good exposure to the business side of the game representing players.
That brings me back to Pierre McGuire. As a broadcaster he gives the impression that he is very knowledgeable about the game. He has seen enough hockey in his life to be an expert but what experience does he have running a business? None. He has had minimal experience on the management side. In 1991 he was hired by Scotty Bowman as a scout with Pittsburgh and the following year made an assistant coach. In 1993-94 he coached Hartford to a dismal 23-37-7 record. For the past 15 years he has been up in the broadcast booth which is miles away from the executive offices of an NHL franchise. Remember the short lived experiment of Barry Melrose as coach of the Lightning. I suspect McGuire wouldn't do much better.
The Penguins have really failed to slow down Ovechkin who had 12 shots on net and is responsible for 1 out of every 3 shots taken by the Capitals this series. Those shots are not just coming on the powerplay. Eight shots last night were taken while even strength. Pittsburgh needs to prevent him from getting the puck or separating him from the puck before he gets a shot away.
It doesn't help that Pittsburgh hasn't not been able to win very many faceoffs in their own end. Washington operates a puck control offense so allowing them to take control of the puck after most faceoffs is going to lead to trouble. One of Ovechkin's goals was scored right off an offensive zone faceoff.
Sidney Crosby has also been outstanding but has been overshadowed by the extroverted Russian. Those goals he scored close in were just as marvelous as the rockets fired by Ovechkin. He didn't help his cause by asking the officials to announcement that fans should stop throwing hats on the ice following Ovechkin's hat trick. Crosby has a reputation as a whiner and this episode which was quickly picked up by the media will only reinforce that perception.
Crosby has not had much support from his teammates. Malkin has disappeared in the playoffs as he did a year ago. If he becomes a Russian version of Joe Thornton (i.e., big numbers in the regular season but little to show during post-season) then the Penguins may need to consider whether they can afford to carry both big salaries. Replacing Malkin with proven playoff performers may get them more bang for their bucks.
Lets hope this series stays close because I can't get enough of this kind of hockey.
Monday, May 04, 2009
Sunday, May 03, 2009
Saturday, May 02, 2009
Well the Jays haven't run into the Rays, Red Sox and Yankees so those predictions might still come true. Or maybe the Jays intentionally lowered expectations. If that is the case then it may have backfired on them since they have the second lowest home attendance in the AL, averaging just over 22,000 per game.
If you look at the online MLB power rankings, the Jays are getting a lot of respect:
TSN: #1 (ok they are homers)
Sports Illustrated: #3
Fox Sports: #1
CBS Sports: #4
Everyone of course is talking about the hitting. They are first in the AL in batting average, hits total bases, runs, RBIs, doubles and walks. They are third in home runs. They have so many hits that they also lead the league in men left on base. But it's not just the hitting. They bandaid pitching rotation is fourth in the AL in ERA (4.29). That is a drop over last year but still respectable. The staff have given up the seventh fewest hits and lead the AL in strikeouts.
So how long can the starting rotation get by with fill ins? Well as long as they have to. Rickey Romero is out with a strained oblique which shouldn't take long to heal. Casey Janssen has been pitching in the minors so hopefully he will be back this month. Jesse Litsch has begun to throw must with a forearm strain, I'm not too optimistic.
In the meantime, enjoy it while it lasts. The Red Sox are coming.
Friday, May 01, 2009
Right now he is one of 3 goalies the Swede brought to the World Championships. His numbers there may you wonder about how ready he is for the NHL. His goals against average is 4.90 and his save percentage is .873. Although he had a strong game against the Austrian, he game up 5 goals against the Americans and 3 goals in just over half a game against the Russians.
Sounds like another long term project for the Leafs if they sign him.
Not only were the numbers high but so was the skill level of players . I think it speaks volumes of what is happening in girls hockey in this country. The girls are getting better and better. Over the past 9 seasons we have seen a vast improvement in the calibre of hockey at the B level. We never used to sign players out of houseleague because the players that came out did not have the skills necessary to play at this level. However, this is now the third year in a row where a houseleague player has earned a spot on our team. So congratulations to Skye who came to us from Goulding Park.
Also, welcome (or in some cases welcome back) to the Storm organization to Alexa, Alex, Genevieve and Emma. We care about our players here and you will have fun.
Thank you to Madeleine A, Amanda, Allie and Gabby for doing a terrific job at recruiting friends to the team. Brian Burke may be looking for an assistant some time in the future. We will put in your names for consideration.
Next season's team will be younger, bigger and maybe even faster than last season's team. Which means more exciting hockey. The team is made up of 7 first-year Midgets, 6 second-year Midgets and 4 third-year Midgets. So here is the new Midget B lineup:
It is really getting silly around rumours regarding the Phoenix Coyotes. Not only has the NHL loaned the franchise money above and beyond its advances on revenue sharing, but Glendale City Manager Ed Beasley claims the League has actually been running the team since February.
According to the Arizona Republic, the NHL has promised Glendale that "it would reimburse the city for parking fees and security costs owed by the team." However the Coyotes management has gone on the record denying the claim: "We are not reporting to the league." Who knows where is right.
If the city manager is correct and the NHL has been running the team since "around the time the rent payment was made in late February," when exactly did they take over and what is their role in operating the franchise?
If it was before the trade deadline, how much autonomy did the Coyotes' hockey operations have in making all those deals including the blockbuster trade of Jokinen to Calgary?