ith a big Game 5 looming around the corner, it seems like Hawks fans are ready to throw Brian Campbell and his mega contract to the wolves. Some pretty nasty stuff is being said; some are calling it the downfall of Dale Tallon while others simply just throw out expletives. You’d think that Campbell is the worst thing to wear red and black since The Master in Manos: The Hands of Fate.
Let’s take a step back here. So Campbell’s not the second coming of Nick Lidstrom or Scott Niedermayer…is that actually surprising? Yes, Campbell’s one of the highest paid defensemen in the league, but Dale Tallon even admits that he overpaid for Campbell to make a splash in the suddenly hot Chicago marketplace.
All this talk about the Phoenix Coyotes and legal documents and lawyer arguments is making my head hurt (though I’m not free of blame as I’ve written about it quite a bit both on posts and comments). I think we all need to take a step back and look at it from a slightly lighter perspective.
Presenting Phoenix Legal, a new dramatic interpretation of the real-life courtroom battle unfolding in front of us starring Patrick Stewart, Bruce Campbell, William Shatner, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the dudes from Office Space. It’s kind of like when E! had actors re-enact the Michael Jackson trial in semi-real time, except with movie clips.
For both supporters of both sides regarding the Jim Balsillie/Phoenix Coyotes debate, there’s one point I kindly ask you to drop. It’s a major sticking point, a PR agenda, but ultimately it’s nothing but empty jingoism. So please, drop any sort of national interests in this because while Balsillie’s PR team has cleverly wrapped up his intent in the Canadian flag, it ultimately has nothing to do with nationalism.
Think of it this way. When the Ottawa Senators were in financial trouble back in 2002, scuttlebutt had Balsillie ready to catch the proverbial ball if Eugene Melnyk’s group dropped it. If this whole thing was about Balsillie trying to “make it seven,” wouldn’t he bypass the opportunity to purchase a Canadian franchise and stick with trying to relocate an American one? When I asked Balsillie’s team about this very notion, they didn’t answer the question. Instead, they just said that they didn’t want to talk about the past and they wanted to focus on the current venture.
Fair enough. But by avoiding that issue, Balsillie’s team failed to really refute that argument and, in a way, cement their nationalistic argument. Sidestepping it pulls the curtain back on the Wizard of Blackberry.
And really, his true intentions are nothing to be terribly ashamed about. He simply wants to own a team from his favorite sport in his backyard. He’s a billionaire, so he’s got every right to do that. It’s his execution that’s flawed, arrogant, and screams more of an attention-getting brat than a clever businessman.
When I sent Jim Balsillie’s spokesman the question about how a Hamilton team might affect the Buffalo market, they declined to directly answer. However, Jeff Klein of the New York Times gave it a good thorough look:
But the Sabres are always in a very precarious financial position, given Buffalo’s shrinking size and awful economy. The Sabres (company name Niagara Frontier Hockey, L.P.) depend on the roughly 15 percent of their business that comes from the Niagara Peninsula, all the way up the Golden Horseshoe to Hamilton. Never mind that after almost 40 years most of the Canadians who attend Sabres games do not root for Buffalo; the main thing is that they’re helping to fill the HSBC Arena.
It would take an enormous indemnification payment to the Sabres to make them give up as much as 15 percent of their annual business — an amount that Balsillie is trying to get out of paying by trying to strike down the N.H.L. territory rules in a Phoenix court. Unless the Sabres — who were themselves being operated by the league and at risk of folding before Golisano bought them in 2003 — get that kind of big money, they will never approve a Coyotes move to Hamilton that could easily drive them out of business.
Anyone interested in the situation—or if you’re a fan of the Buffalo Sabres—should read the entire thing here.
Oh, those wacky Tampa Bay Lightning. Oren Koules and company are lucky that there are riveting second-round series going on this week; otherwise, more people in the hockey world might have noticed his bit of public idiocy (and a bit of contempt, really) when it comes to previous Lightning GM Jay Feaster. From the Lightning’s open house (courtesy of Raw Charge):
This is where the Cowboy moniker was earned by OK Hockey. And it showed up on Monday night during the Q and A forum when Oren Koules declared to the world that Jay Feaster had never had the nerve to say he wouldn’t trade Vincent Lecavalier:
“Feaster probably said that after he was fired. He didn’t have the guts to say it before.”
Um…Oren? You might want to pull out your Saw DVDs and pop in the Lightning’s championship DVD where—on film, digitally encoded, preserved until the end of freakin’ time—Jay Feaster says that he didn’t want to be remembered as the guy who traded Vincent Lecavalier. Yes, he said it, and yes, he said it in public. He also said it in print and the story’s been around for years. And here’s a first-hand recount of the tale courtesy of Feaster’s blog at The Hockey News.
What’s sad about this whole thing is that Tampa Bay built up a pretty solid fan base since the start of the decade and OK Hockey’s arrogance and foot-in-mouth syndrome are killing any confidence the public has about the team’s management. Here’s hoping that Jacques Lemaire does end up in Tampa Bay as rumored so an old-school hockey guy can hopefully beat some humility into the team’s upper management.
On XM Home Ice this morning, a Blackhawks fan called in to talk about how he wanted to face the Red Wings in the conference final. As an aside to that, he went on about thanking Rocky Wirtz and company for reviving the team.
This got me to thinking: what if Bill Wirtz was still running this team? Since his death hasn’t really changed the on-ice product (GM Dale Tallon has acquired all of Chicago’s key pieces through drafting, trades, and signings), so it’s really about off-ice perception. The one area where that might be different is with Brian Campbell; while Tallon knew Campbell was a talented puck-moving defenseman, he basically acknowledged overpaying him as a means to keep market momentum going.
So let’s say that theoretically, the Hawks reproduce this on-ice success but have done it under the black cloud of Bill Wirtz. That means no local TV of home games, no bringing back legendary players, no Blackhawks Convention, and probably no Winter Classic. Last season, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews probably would raised an eyebrow for the Chicago sports public but nothing more—after all, the non-playoff Hawks probably would have been viewed as the same old, same old.
Yesterday, I asked readers to let me know what questions they’d like to ask the spokesman for Jim Balsillie’s Make It Seven team. Here’s what he had to say.
Saw this today courtesy of the boss, and somehow I think the Boston media is overlooking the fact that the Carolina Hurricanes have a pretty good team.
The B’s can talk all they want about execution. But their problem in losing the last two games was that the relatively no-name Hurricanes looked like a team that wanted to win more.
Forgive me if I’m taking this out of context, but I’m constantly confounded at the lack of respect the Hurricanes have received this playoff. Did any of the Canes’ critics watch Carolina down the stretch? For a while, they were the hottest team in the league, and Cam Ward was one of the hottest goalies in the league.
Let’s look at this “relatively no-name” squad, shall we?
When you see a headline like “Sports bosses say economy forces more price cuts,” one has to be skeptical. But some part of hell has frozen over as the New York Yankees are actually cutting ticket prices.
The average price of a home-game ticket for a Yankees fan this season, for example, will run about $72.97, up more than 75 percent from last year, according to research firm Team Marketing Report.
Across sports, even more cuts could be coming as teams reverse the increases they put in place to help pay for expensive new arenas and stadiums.
“There are going to be adjustments based on the economy. We’ve seen that in our teams,” David Stern, commissioner of the National Basketball Association, said at a panel discussion hosted by The Wall Street Journal. “They’ll do fine, but they’ll do less. As we come through the economy, I think there will be some re-pricing mechanism built in.”
Now, all of the head honchos are saying the right thing about adjusting for the economy, but really, what are they going to do? I’m no expert on the business machinations of the NFL, NBA, and MLB, but for the NHL, teams dictate their own prices based on supply and demand. And because of that, a handful of markets are actually raising prices. James Mirtle’s got a nice table that shows what’s going on; you can see that the bulk of teams are freezing prices, a few are lowering them, and some are undecided.
Last night, I got an email from the folks behind Make It Seven —the official website of Jim Balsillie’s efforts to bring the Phoenix Coyotes to Canada. I’ve asked if they’d be open to taken questions from readers both for and against the move, and they’ve agreed.
So, whether you want the Coyotes to stay in Phoenix or you want Shane Doan and company to head up past the border, if you have questions for Jim Balsillie’s team (note that Balsillie himself will not be answering it; instead, all communication will be coming from Bill Walker, his spokesman for this initiative), leave it in the comments below. Mr. Walker won’t be able to answer all of them, and given the nature of the situation, we may just get PR spin on the whole thing, but let’s gather your pro and con questions and see what happens.