Kukla's Korner Hockey
By George Malik TSN's Darren Dreger delves into the recent accusations that the NHL's crackdown on obstruction has weakened:
Over the past few weeks a number of NHL coaches and managers have observed what they call a "shift" in how the game is being called. Some are being even more specific by saying less is being called now than prior to last month's general manager's meeting where the topic was openly discussed. The brain-trust inside the NHL's hockey operations department grimace at the mere suggestion the league is backing off the standard. Statistically, penalties have declined marginally compared to last year and so has goal scoring, by less than half a goal. Is this a big deal?
By George Malik: I just don't get it. The Red Wings just installed a beautiful set of LED displays on their scoreboard, finally updating the video system after using big-screen TVs for almost fifteen years. You'd think that the organization would utilize that scoreboard to at least show some replays, or maybe tap into the rink's Center Ice package to show some highlights from around the league. It can't be that difficult to call down to the Fox Sports truck and ask, "Hey, can we see that last play on the board?" Right? Wrong. The scoreboard rarely shows replays. In the instances of controversial calls, reviewable goals, and even hard hits, fans attending games may as well bring an AM/FM radio with them, because the in-game production crew spends its time telling its rink-side camera crew to do crowd shots. Little kids dancing? You bet. Uncomfortable shots of fans who are told to "make some noise" but are unenthusiastic? Yes, indeedy. Awkward pauses, with the cameras pointed at an empty rink? Of course! It can't be that hard to splice into the Fox Sports feed to show replays on a regular basis. Yes, when we're talking about controversial hits, borderline penalties, or reviewed goals, showing those replays might get the crowd incensed, which steps on the NHL's toes ever so slightly, but isn't getting the crowd worked up the entire point of having that big video screen?
By George Malik The "head-shot" debate has turned into the latest gripe-fest between those who believe that hockey is becoming a "soft" sport every time a physical blow is made illegal, and those who want to prevent injuries. Both sides of the argument generally have put forth thoughtful and considerate arguments (relatively speaking), but they're also using the debate as the latest battle upon which the very fabric of the game and future thereof depends. Come on now, let's be honest. When the commentators get involved, it becomes a contest of power and a gripe-fest. The hockey establishment and its representatives in the radio, TV, print, and online media try to proffer their arguments into gains in terms of power and influence; an element of "stewardship of the game" remains, but we all try to look after our own interests when we argue with one another. In this case, it's the "old school" against the "new school," and that old school's got a hundred years of history behind it, so the case of blows to the head has become a fertile battleground for both parties. Let's cut the rhetoric out for a moment. Let's talk about the physics involved instead.
By George Malik: The Red Wings have made some great strides over the past month. The broadcast that Fox 2 produced earlier this month was tremendous. It broke away from the stale recycled clips from Red Wings Weekly that the FSD production crew sees fit to use over and over again for a month as pre-game, intermission, and post-game content. Instead, we were treated to at least one player interview per period, multiple post-game interviews, multiple interviews with the coaching staff, and a fascinating game-long feature on the insides of the Red Wings locker room, something that we in Detroit have (for better or worse) never seen before The broadcast teemed with an enthusiasm that's lacking from the FSD broadcasts, and gave us a sense that, at least when the game's on Fox 2, we'll get some locally-produced must-see Red Wings television. While the Wings mentioned it offhandedly during a road game, the arena is finally getting rid of the 3x3 blocks of big screen TVs from 1989, and it's replacing them with LED displays. That's a substantial investment in making the in-game experience better, which is encouraging. It's not charging less than $15 for parking (that's a real deal-breaker), but it's a good start back on the right track. The Wings also made Henrik Zetterberg available for an autograph signing at Hockeytown Authentics this past Monday that simply required the donation of a working smoke detector with batteries for low-income families in Detroit. In years past, they'd simply mention that it was smoke detector time, and that the player involved had signed a jersey and a puck which two of the however many people who donated at the rink could win in a raffle--which they did this year as well--and left it at that. Progress is progress, especially when it's for a good cause.
By George Malik: The CBA (will open pdf file) is a strange bird. In two weeks, Sean Bergenheim (NYI) is stuck in Sweden because he's a restricted free agent. If Pavel Vorobiev (CHI), Mika Noronen (VAN), Timofei Shishkanov (STL), Denis Grebeshkov (NYI), Niklas Nordgren (PIT), or Evgeni Artyukhin (TB) are having second thoughts about their decisions to head over to Europe--in Bergenheim's case, specifically, to get contract leverage--they're simply not welcome in the NHL. Restricted free agents can't be re-signed after December 1st. Given the hold-outs staged by Yashin, Khabibulin, and Fedorov, the December 1st stipulation's well-intentioned, but it is a bit strange in its execution.
By George Malik Welcome to "The Gearhead!" As your resident rink rat and equipment nut, my goal is to give you an inside look at the tools hockey players use by talking to the ladies and gents who make hockey gear. Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking to Warrior Hockey's marketing director, Neil Wensley, about the Warren-based manufacturer's expansion from making lacrosse equipment to producing hockey sticks as well. He and I spoke for over an hour about Warrior's stick-making processes, and I think he had as much fun as I did--there's nothing like two equipment geeks talking shop!
By George Malik: As one peruses the Forbes report on NHL franchise values, something stands out immediately--21 of the league's 30 teams made less than $5 million in operating income, and most barely broke even--before taxes. The Atlanta Thrashers and New Jersey Devils lost over $5 million apiece, and yet their teams experienced 21% and 19% increases in value, respectively. Why? Larry Brooks, love him or hate him, was right about one thing: the NHL's owners don't get make their financial hay from gate receipts and operating profits. It's all about equity.
By George Malik: When the GM's meet in Toronto later today, they're going to discuss potential rule changes as they canvass the GM's for their opinions as to why both attendance and ratings are down this year. They'll toss around the usual crap that GM's do--bigger nets, letting more penalties go to bring "passion" and "intensity" back, according to some pundits, mandating wood sticks and/or visors, etc; in other words, they'll look at the easy changes, the tweaks that don't require much forethought, any idea what players want, or what fans would like to see changed.
The Wings' PR arm doesn't just blow off its paying customers; it stiff-arms the media as well. The Red Wings and Islanders are the only teams in the NHL that don't release their media guides to the NHL's media, their press releases are sparse, the team's inaccessable. "Headshots," which look suspiciously like "first day of school" pictures, are important as they add faces to the names that newspapers or websites write about. They're seen as simple, easy-to-provide references that should be made available by, at the latest, the beginning of the season. The Wings don't buy into the concept of having "courtesy" for anyone, whether you buy a ticket, watch games on TV, buy team merchandise, or write about the team, and that attitude's symbolized in the "when we feel like it" approach it takes to making these beauties available:
By George Malik Two articles from the Globe and Mail caught my eye recently: First, Ken Campbell does a nice job of debunking the IIHF's study on the NHL's "detrimental" effects on European player development:
The motivation behind the IIHF report was to try to convince the hockey powers to allow players to play longer in Europe, not only so that they’ll ultimately develop into better NHL players, but so they’ll fill more European rinks, and elevate the quality of play and the teams over there will make more money.
The fact is, playing as a teenager in a foreign land might not be for everyone. But is it that destructive for a player to come to North America and learn the language, culture and style of play before embarking on an NHL career? One of the stats in the study astounds me, quite frankly. It points out that 79.4 per cent of the Europeans who came to play in the CHL as 16- or 17-year-olds never went on to play in the NHL. That means, then, that 20.6 per cent of them did. That’s a phenomenal number!
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.
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