Kukla's Korner

Kovalchuk Update- Thrashers Owner Involved

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (reg. req.),

In an effort to move along negotiations with All-Star left wing Ilya Kovalchuk, Thrashers owners Bruce Levenson and Ed Peskowitz met with Kovalchuk's New York-based agent Jay Grossman on Friday in Washington, where the two Atlanta Spirit part owners are based. Levenson, who acts as the group's governor to the NHL, said the meeting came at the suggestion of general manager Don Waddell, who also was present. Levenson said the meeting was of the "get to know you" variety. Grossman has made it clear that it is Kovalchuk's intention to play a full season either in the NHL or in Russia. Once a player plays in Europe after the NHL season starts (Oct. 5) the player must clear waivers before he can return to his NHL team. Kovalchuk would almost certainly not clear waivers, and the Thrashers, would lose him to another NHL team. Thus, if the Thrashers have not signed Kovalchuk by Oct. 5 and Kovalchuk plays a game after that date, it would be impossible for him to return to the Thrashers this season. Waddell has expressed confidence the Thrashers will sign Kovalchuk before the deadline. "The meeting hopefully will be a stepping stone towards moving this process in the right decision," Grossman said.

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Touching All The Bases

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

The Maven of MSG Network provides us with bits like this from around the NHL:

Stephen Walkom’s early run as ref boss has received superb notices from those with whom we talk. Distrust in the zebra ranks has given way to trust. According to The National Post’s Mark Spector, under Andy van Hellemond, 20 officials were fired during his four years in charge of the zebras, “Only to see nine of them reclaim their jobs through an appeal process.”

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Looking Out West

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from John Buccigross of ESPN

, Well, here goes nothing. The annual Bucci NHL-musical-new zoo review column. This is my favorite column of the year. Although this year, it's probably the stupidest column to write. Let's face it, it is an entirely different sport now: the rules have radically changed, players have retired, rosters have dramatically changed and goaltenders have had their equipment reduced. The game will be faster then it has ever been. Let me say that again: the game will be faster than it has ever been. The best players will be the young players, which is how it should be. There hasn't been this much of a makeover on something since Sally Jessy Raphael's dreadful facelift. It makes it nearly impossible to predict and forecast each team, but we'll try our best and do it anyway. Remember, I love all 30 teams equally. There are no haters in this house. How the West will be won will be covered this week. Next week, we'll rank the East. As usual, we count down from 15-1:

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A Long Time Coming

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from the Canadian Press via the Montreal Gazette,

New rules, new faces and new hope - the NHL drops the puck for real on Oct. 5 having undergone a major face lift after the 301-day lockout that wiped out all of last season. "It's been a long time coming for a lot of people," said star goalie Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils. "I know a lot of the players are real thrilled to get back at it. In New Jersey, the level of excitement is huge."

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Caps Get Friesen

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from the Washington Capitals,

The Washington Capitals have acquired left wing Jeff Friesen from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for a conditional pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, vice president and general manager George McPhee announced today.
more In case you missed the official word, Datsyuk has signed with the Wings for $3.9 million a year for two years.

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Forsberg & Hatcher Back

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from the Phildadelphia Flyers,

The two biggest off-season additions on the Flyers finally got to do more with their teammates than just sit in meetings and chit chat in the dressing room. Peter Forsberg and Derian Hatcher, both sidelined since the beginning of training camp with injuries, took part in their first full skate with the team since signing a day apart during a fruitful couple of days for the organization in early August.

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Wooing The Fans Back

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from Shawn P. Roarke of Fox Sports,

The NHL is trying, in a myriad of ways, to change that undeniable fact. The league office understood from the day it canceled last season — the first time a major North American sport lost its entire season to a labor dispute — that there would have to be a serious outreach program to potential customers to put the product back on the radar of the average sports fan. Partially taking for granted the loyalty of the hockey junkie, the NHL tailored much of its welcome-back initiative to embrace those that have nothing more than a passing interest in the sport; believing that the lockout-induced clean slate could provide the perfect opportunity to woo a whole new fan base to supplement the diehards whom welcomed the NHL's return unconditionally.

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OLN Pumping Up NHL Coverage

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from Media Week,

In order to prime the pump for the return of the National Hockey League after the lockout that scrapped the entire 2004-’05 season, OLN is offering the opening night telecast of the Rangers-Flyers game free of change to all cable and satellite operators that don't carry the net on an analog tier of channels. While OLN will provide cable and satellite operators with the requisite information on how to access its Oct. 5 NHL feed, it is unlikely that the network will get many takers. The network is telling carriers that a minimum of 40 percent of their subscriber bases have to have access to OLN in order to continue getting NHL games past Oct. 10. At particular risk of losing OLN’s slate of 58 regular season hockey games is Cablevision, which carries OLN on a digital sports tier. Of its 3 million subscribers, less than 25,000 presently have access to OLN.

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Be Patient Fans

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from Scott Burnside of ESPN,

There's a welcoming sign on the ice at the Nassau Veterans' Memorial Coliseum that reads "Thank You Fans!" It might just as well read, "Be Patient, It's Going To Be Better. Honest. Maybe Not Tonight, But For Sure, Later On. Really." In many ways, the National Hockey League couldn't have asked for a better restart to its shattered operation than what's taken place in the past two months. Since the capitulation by the players' union and the end of the 10-month lockout that cost the league the entire 2004-05 season, there has been unprecedented buzz surrounding the game, a buzz that continues to grow as the start of the regular season approaches on Oct. 5.

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Ticket Sales

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from Sports Business Journal (paid sub.), NHL season-ticket renewal rates are already 3 percent ahead of where they were on opening day in 2003, with more than a week to go before the start of the new season, according to the league. In the surest sign yet that hockey fans are embracing the sport following the 310-day lockout that canceled the 2004-05 campaign, the league reports that season-ticket renewal rates stood at 87.7 percent as of early last week. In 2003-04, the last NHL season, they were below 85 percent. The league expects 23 clubs to have renewal percentages of 90 percent or higher, compared to only eight two years ago. Eighteen clubs already have a higher renewal percentage than for 2003-04 and another seven will likely match their previous numbers by opening day. Several of the league’s weakest clubs in terms of past attendance — ones many thought would face the worst fallout from the lockout — report that sales are at least equal to previous years, and in many cases better. The Phoenix Coyotes report a renewal rate of more than 85 percent. The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim report similar success, with their season-ticket base growing from slightly less than 8,000 in 2003-04 to more than 9,000 as of last week. Their renewal rate is higher than 91 percent. The Florida Panthers, among the league’s most aggressive teams during the lockout, say they expect to hit 9,000 by opening night, compared with 7,200 at the end of the 2003-04 season. That’s courtesy of a 93.5 percent renewal rate and more than 2,000 in new sales. The once moribund Chicago Blackhawks are at a 95 percent renewal rate. The Nashville Predators, who have seen attendance drop every season since they entered the league in 1998 and were third from the bottom two years ago, report a renewal rate close to 90 percent, a step up from previous years. The club in the cellar, the Pittsburgh Penguins, has experienced a complete turnaround in the wake of winning the first overall draft pick in a lottery and selecting phenom Sidney Crosby. By mid-August, the Penguins had sold more tickets than they did in all of 2003-04.

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