Kukla's Korner

Kukla's Korner Hockey

The Savior

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

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

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

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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Could it Be

A long time, regular reader of this blog is not going to like this. I happened to find this classic picture and did not do any touch up to it.

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Busy Week

from the Canadian Press via Slam,

The action heats up again on the NHL front this week with players and owners set to vote on the agreement reached between the league and union last Wednesday. 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 officially ratified 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. The NHL Players' Association kicks off a packed week in Toronto with an executive committee meeting Tuesday: president Trevor Linden and the rest of the crew - Vincent Damphousse, Bob Boughner, Bill Guerin, Daniel Alfredsson, Arturs Irbe and Trent Klatt - will get an update and oversee the week ahead.

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NHL Winners and Losers

from MSG Network,

At last, the NHL’s long lockout appears to be over. In the lockout postmortem, the vast consensus amongst commentators is that the players ultimately collapsed and the owners’ have scored a major victory with this new CBA. By the end of this proposed six-year agreement, however, we will learn whether this "New NHL" will be profitable and will allow all involved (players and owners) to make more money. As a lawyer, I can honestly advise that labor negotiations can be a long and difficult process. The key is to strike a balance between resolve and reasonableness. The danger is that your side will crack if you push your side’s agenda too far. This seems to be the case with the NHLPA and its negotiating team. The NHLPA did not properly understand the resolve of the owners. Specifically, the owners were willing to shut down the league without a time limitation. The league, beaten before in prior CBA negotiations, was not giving in this time. Prior to the lockout, the owners had commissioned the Levitt Report concerning the state of the league’s dire finances and it had become the bible of their bargaining position. The owners’ point of view, as set forth in the Levitt Report, depicted a league is serious financial trouble and in need of a complete salary reform. According to the owners, part of a potential NHL rebirth required a hard salary cap.

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Leafs Lunch

Talking with a writer from The Hockey News about the NHL Lottery not being televised. The writer says Bettman is fearful a televised event would not be fully covered by the media. The guys also mentioned this is the main reason why the players did not want to create a partnership with the NHL, they just don't do a good job of marketing the game. The entertainment dollar is up for grabs; the NHL needs to come out with guns blazing and yet they are not. Bettman has been a failure in marketing the game, what happens if Crosby goes to a team like the Blackhawks, they must be prepared to market the game. THN writer thinks Bettman does not have the forward vision to handle all of the major roadblocks the NHL faces.

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Marketing Experts Speak Out

“You can’t rest on those who know what the [NHL] brand is. My view is that with any sports there are hard-core fans, but you’ve got this constituency of fence-line [NHL] fans and a lot of extra work has to be done to bring them back into the fold.” JULIE ROEHM DIRECTOR OF MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS FOR DODGE, A LONGTIME NHL PARTNER “Their image is gone, so this is a very unique window for them to recast the sport with a blank slate. They need to get back to the real concern of hockey and not overkill or overproduce it. I’d invite fans to come to the arena to talk about hockey and have apologies from both the players and the owners. They need to ask fans for input and, most importantly, listen to the fans.” RICHARD LUKER PRESIDENT OF LEISURE INTELLIGENCE GROUP “They are going to have to spend a lot of money to win back fans and they have to make that very visible. For sponsors, it’s like an opportunity to buy a stock in the low.” LARRY NOVENSTERN SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT OF DEUTSCH INC.

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Market the Stars

via SportsBusiness Journal (paid sub.),

“Right now, I can name more soccer players than I can NHL players,” said Larry Novenstern, senior vice president of media buying agency Deutsch Inc. “They need to get [player-name] recognition back and be very aggressive about getting a television deal in place as soon as possible. Fans don’t care about labor issues, and [teams] need creative deals to bring them back into the arenas.” Before the lockout began, the NHL put together a detailed relaunch plan that included a new logo and other marketing initiatives. A league spokesperson said the NHL will wait several weeks before unleashing a major marketing push, but that when it does, it will focus heavily on players, an outgrowth of a labor deal that gives clubs a direct incentive to grow league-wide revenue. “The NHL will see a lot of season-ticket holders stepping down just to see what the new product looks like, and only when their confidence is regained can you get them to step up in ticket plans.” Dodge, one of the NHL’s longtime sponsors, wants to see the resurfacing league develop some star power. “The NBA has its key players, and that’s been lacking in the NHL for a long time,” said Julie Roehm, marketing communications director for Dodge. “The league has to make players more accessible, identifiable and create more personality. It’s essential to know that they will bring players to the forefront and that there is not a rift between the players and owners anymore.” “You learn from the other leagues, and the lesson first and foremost is you sincerely apologize,” said Bernie Mullin, president and CEO of Atlanta Spirit LLC, which owns the Thrashers. “A central element of our marketing plan will include more player interaction than ever before. Hockey fans aren’t as broad-based compared to other sports, but they are incredibly loyal. We need to have creative marketing that broadens our reach. “The biggest mistake we can make is to take our fans’ support for granted.”

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About Kukla's Korner Hockey

Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

Email Paul anytime at pk@kuklaskorner.com

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