World Cup, Olympics, and Euro leagues
What’s going to happen when snarky Ron Wilson, explosive John Tortorella, and Scott Gordon get together to run Team USA? Here’s a secret transcript from the future as the three coaches have their first meeting to discuss playing style. Let the wackiness ensure…
We’re about a year out from the big Vancouver Olympic games and I’m seeing folks like James Mirtle and the Puck Daddy crew making their various picks for the different teams. The more I see of Team USA, though, the more I’m surprised at the lack of love for one Joe Pavelski.
Now you could call me a homer or claim that I’ve got a west-coast bias, but I’m guessing a big part of Pavelski being overlooked is that 1) he’s overshadowed by some dudes name Marleau and Thornton and 2) he plays on the west coast so a lot of people miss out on his games. But his numbers show that he’s effective in all situations, and for those who haven’t seen enough of him, he’s wickedly crafty with the puck.
The great thing about Pavelski is that he thinks the game extremely well and he’s got a great work ethic. That means that if the pucks going into the corner, he’s not afraid to go fight for it, but he’s also shifty enough to often come out with the puck and take an odd-angle shot that surprises the goalie. His stickhandling ability, along with his ability to protect the puck, get overshadowed with some of the talent on the Sharks roster. He’s got a great wrist shot too, and all of that makes him highly effective in one-on-one situations (check out his career shootout percentage).
Some key stats:
For an inside peek into what’s bankrolling the resurgence in Russian professional sports (the KHL and beyond), Sports Illustrated had a fascinating story on one of its key players. This man’s involved primarily with basketball but you get a good sense of what’s happening over there.
Imagine Mark Cuban with three times as many teams and five times as much money. He’d still be a piker compared with the Russian zillionaires who offer a life of luxury to lure world-class athletes and are bankrolling a new national sports machine…
...“There is a very big difference between having $100,000 and a million,” says Kalmanovic, who goes on to hint at the extent of his own wealth. “For sure there’s a difference between having $1 million and $3 million, but after $150 million or $200 million, you’re just rich. So if you understand that you can’t eat breakfast twice, and you can wear only one tie at a time, there might as well be something else. There still isn’t enough of a middle class in Russia for sport to pay for itself. And you cannot deduct expenses on sport [from your taxes]. So you need to have a very big heart and very big balls, and need to be something between a fanatic and a patriot. And a little bit crazy.”
“O.K. Like me.”
Whether they’re fanatics, patriots, fools or some combination of the three, sports sugar daddies like Kalmanovic have surfaced all over Mother Russia. Virtually every prominent sport and prestigious club team has a patron—if not one of the oligarchs (the well-connected, early-moving businessmen who became billionaires after the collapse of the Soviet Union), then some arriviste multimillionaire minigarch or well-placed politician with the influence to flush out cash. “Russians by nature are a people intrigued by the idea of power,” says David Blatt, the American-Israeli coach of Dynamo Moscow and the Russian national men’s team, who in 2007 delivered Russia’s first title since Soviet days at Eurobasket, the biennial competition among European national teams. “It’s culturally ingrained—whether fear of power or enjoyment in having it. These guys use sports to amuse themselves and further their own interests. Russia is steeped in the tradition of sports, and they combine that passion with money.”
Read the entire piece at SI’s website.
With word that the NHL and NHLPA are looking to extend their “Premiere” series to include more teams, people are going to start talking about an “inevitable” European expansion. I don’t think that’s the case at all. In fact, I think you have to realize that for all practical purposes, having European teams is impossible until either Star Trek-like transporters are invented or supersonic commercial flight becomes a reality. The wear on a player’s body, along with the travel time, just aren’t feasible. Ask any North American player that’s played in the Russian leagues and they’ll tell you that a cross-continent flight from one end of Russia to the other is way worse than a charter plane from New York to LA—and that doesn’t even cross an ocean.
However, no one’s gonna argue the popularity of hockey or the recognition factor of the NHL in Europe. Just like American-born soccer players recognize European leagues as the place where the best competition goes, there’s a reason why the best European players wind up competing for the Stanley Cup rather than the Swiss Elite championship.
So, you can’t expand over there but you’ve got an entire continent of untapped revenue. What’s the happy medium?
(Cue Ted Dibiase’s Continue Reading »
Point #1: Nothing brings out the anger in a sports fan like betrayal. Just ask a Ducks fan what he thinks of Paul Kariya, or listen to an Oilers fan spout off about Chris Pronger. It ain’t pretty.
Point #2: Nothing amplifies a sports fan’s passion like patriotism. Sports generally remains free of the political arena and acts as a uniting force for fans despite their political leanings.
Which brings us to young Alexander Radulov. It’s time to give him a history lesson because if he does return to the Nashville Predators, he’s going to be under fire for both points #1 and #2. Alex, I suggest you examine the sad, strange tale of a fallen American hero named Sergeant Slaughter .