Kukla's Korner

REL (Russian Elite League) Threat to NHL

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from TSN,

NHL agent Mark Gandler says he expects a number of players to sign with teams in the Russian Elite League this season. Gandler, who represents a number of Russian-born clients, says a combination of the new collective bargaining agreement and improved financial picture of top Russian teams could have players thinking twice about playing in the NHL. "There's no question this is the biggest threat from outside the NHL has ever had," Gandler tells the Palm Beach Post.

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It’s a Lock

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

Could this be true?

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More on Spike TV

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

via the Star-Telegram,

Could Spike TV, the home of Ultimate Fighting Championship, become the next cable home of the NHL? "We've had conversations with the NHL, and we're taking a wait-and-see approach," said Kevin Kay, Spike's executive vice president of programming and production. "I don't think we're in the business of paying huge license fees for sports rights, so we would be really interested in a kind of revenue-sharing deal." That's the type of deal the NHL made with NBC, but the league refused a similar opportunity with ESPN after the network opted out of its contract to televise games next season. Stars president Jim Lites has said he would prefer to see the NHL stay off cable next season rather than accept a no-rights-fee deal. "We're just coming off our highest-rated quarter in the history of the channel, so it feels like we have a great viewer base," Kay said. "I think we could do them a lot of good and they could do us a lot of good if we ever got to that place." Spike would love to add live events to its sports lineup. The network airs a weekend Major League Baseball highlight show, Maximum MLB, plus a reality program that followed the trials and tribulations of NBA rookies. Another reality-based program, Super Agent, is coming soon, taking an inside look at the cut-throat, multi-million dollar world of sports agents. The show features Dallas-based sports agent Scott Casterline.

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NHL Agents Irked

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

via Larry Brooks of the NY Post,

While the NHL yesterday completed its CBA team seminars, player agents are livid that they aren't scheduled to get their first look at the document until Wednesday night at the earliest and won't meet with PA executives to begin their review until late Thursday afternoon — after the players hold their ratification vote. "It's an outrage that the agents weren't sent an outline of the critical points over the weekend," one well-connected player rep said yesterday, echoing a sentiment shared by numerous of his colleagues who spoke with The Post. "Not only won't our players have the ability to consult with us before the ratification vote — obviously it's going to pass, that's not the point — but we're going to have a day or two to try and become familiar with this before Saturday, when teams can begin issuing qualifiers, signing their own free agents and buying out players. "Explain to me how the Players' Association thinks it's fair to the players that the teams essentially have a one-week start on us to map out their plans. This affects our players' lives. What are they thinking about? "Every [agent] I've talked to is furious." A PA executive told The Post that the CBA itself was still being proofread over the weekend and was not ready in any form for distribution, but that the union hoped it might be able to overnight a critical-points memo into agents' hands by this afternoon.

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Parity Everywhere

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from the Toronto Globe and Mail,

"Overall, the deal is pretty much what we expected," said Edmonton Oilers governor Cal Nichols, who heads the Edmonton Investors Group. "Not being there during the negotiations, you understand there will always be some giving and taking. It came out differently. "But when you shake it all down to the bottom line, it's to the point where it should provide long-term stability for us and allow us to compete for high-end players," he said. "I think now, because we won't have three to five high-end players on the same team, we'll get back to a better balance [in the NHL]. We'll get back to a better game." An anonymous team official added: "It has to be a better game, otherwise we lost an entire year for nothing."
This may be the first time I have read a team official, althought anonymous, say something like that; interesting

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Defending the Lottery Decision

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from the Toronto Globe and Mail,

NHL executive vice-president Bill Daly, however, said yesterday that, despite the concerns expressed, the draft lottery will still be held behind closed doors. "That continues to be the plan, yes," he said. There is a method to the NHL's madness. First of all, its draft lottery process is going to take longer than the 20 minutes the NBA uses to dole out the order of its 14 selections. The NHL lottery, this time around, will be a time-consuming procedure because each of 30 clubs has to be slotted in the slightly weighted lottery. Also, when the draft lottery will be played out behind closed doors and in front of the league's board of governors on Friday, the draw is only part of what will be an extremely hectic "relaunch" day for the NHL. The new collective agreement, tentatively agreed upon last Wednesday, needs to be ratified in New York by the board of governors and the players, who will gather in Toronto. Next on the agenda would either be the draft lottery or debate over proposed rules changes. By the time the process is completed, it could be late in the afternoon before NHL commissioner Gary Bettman emerges to announce the lottery winner, the rule changes and the ratification of the new six-year collective agreement. After which, Crosby, the Rimouski Océanic star and consensus No. 1 pick in this year's draft, will address his thoughts on the NHL city that will become his new home via a satellite video conference from Cole Harbour, N.S., his agent, Pat Brisson, confirmed yesterday.

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The Savior

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from Macleans,

Walk into any of Canada's six NHL arenas and you'll soon see them: portraits, rafter banners and statues memorializing the lions of hockey's past. For years in Vancouver, fans on their way to their seats at the old Pacific Coliseum passed beneath a looming, sepia-tinged photograph of Fred "Cyclone" Taylor, the rushing defenceman who in 1915 helped bring the city its only Stanley Cup. At the Saddledome in Calgary, it's colour shots of the redoubtable Lanny McDonald, moustache in full splendour, holding his 500-goal puck. In Edmonton, fans and scalpers gather beneath the statue of Wayne Gretzky hoisting the Stanley Cup. Now picture, if you will, some likeness of Gary Bettman in any of these places. A smaller effigy, perhaps, to reflect both the NHL commissioner's physical stature and the fact that, so far as anyone knows, he's never laced up a pair of skates. But there nonetheless, alongside the game's great heroes, its builders and its keepers. Gary Bettman, Saviour of Small Market Canadian Franchises. Who'd have thunk?

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Spend Less

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

Al Strachan of the Toronto Sun writing about the balanced schedule,

Under the new NHL order, the sensibilities of Canadian fans are of no great concern. The league is run by lawyers who, naturally enough, think like lawyers. In their minds (one uses the word loosely), all rules must be equally applied. There is no room for emotion, only the enduring fiction of "equality under the law" and the all-important bottom line. While there's no doubt that new balanced schedule will heighten rivalries and can be rationalized on that basis, a significant aspect in its favour, as far as the owners are concerned, is that it reduces travel costs. It is not inconceivable that some eastern teams could go through the entire regular season without having to spend 10 nights on the road. The teams would therefore spend less on such things as hotel rooms, players' per-diem allowances and various other travel costs. If you want to grab someone's attention in the new NHL, no phrase does it as successfully as "spend less."

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NHL and Comcast

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from The Phildadelphia Inquirer,

When Comcast Corp. named former Fox cable guru Jeff Shell as president of programming in February, the idea was to expand the company's national portfolio in a big way. He might just do that with the NHL. According to sources inside and outside the company, Comcast is preparing an offer to televise NHL games for the 2005-06 season. Comcast has not made a formal proposal to the league, but the company has informed officials that it intends to become a major player in the bidding rights. "Talks haven't reached a price figure, but there is definite interest there on Comcast's part," one source said. In April, ESPN chose not to exercise its $70 million option to televise the NHL for 2005-06 and 2006-07. Some confusion remains about whether ESPN still retains those rights. The NHL has a two-year agreement with NBC to televise games when play resumes this fall. In Canada, the league has deals with the CBC and the Sports Network. The league's previous five-year TV deal with ABC and ESPN was worth $600 million. Because of the lockout and canceled season, media observers don't foresee a deal approaching that figure in the league's immediate future. Comcast spokesman Tim Fitzpatrick declined to comment on the company's interest in the NHL yesterday, and Shell could not be reached. "The Comcast networks are always interested in compelling new content, including sports," Fitzpatrick said. "But our policy is not to comment on programming rumors or speculation." Locally, Comcast, which owns the Flyers and 76ers, televises both teams, as well as the Phillies, on its cable channel. To facilitate national telecasts in areas where Comcast does not have a presence, it would have two choices: Create a new national network or use one of its other networks - E! or Style or Outdoor Life, among others - to telecast games. Because the discussions are in the preliminary stages, the source said, Comcast has not decided which avenue it would pursue. "It's not something we can talk about right now, at this stage," said Jack Williams, president of Comcast's regional sports television.

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Friday is the Day

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from the AP via TSN, The action heats up again on the NHL front this week with players and owners set to vote on the agreement reached between the two sides. The ratification vote and news conference has been set for Friday. By the end of the week Sidney Crosby should know his future home, fans will know what rule changes are being brought in to open up the game and a new collective bargaining agreement should be rubber stamped so the league can re-open for business. Colin Campbell, the league's director of hockey operations and executive vice-president, will meet with the newly created competition committee Tuesday to narrow down a final list of recommendations that owners will then vote on at a board of governors' meeting in New York later this week.

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