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Simmons: Atlanta-Winnipeg deal’s all about red tape

The Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons’ weekly notebook, acerbic as always, takes not of a very simple fact—the reason there’s no “agreement” between the Atlanta Spirit, the owners of the Atlanta Thrashers, and the NHL and/or Winnipeg and/or True North Sports and Entertainment involves the reason the Thrashers are laving Atlanta to begin with: the owners can’t agree on a thing without their lawyers present:

There are nine partners involved in the ownership of the Atlanta Thrashers, not to mention two or three times that many attorneys. When you add in the Winnipeg True North side, the National Hockey League side, what you get are enough legal minds in a room that no one can determine what day of the week it is, let alone how this deal is going to get finalized.

It will be done, just as the 2004 sale of the Thrashers got done, and that took 372 signatures on contracts that were so thick they needed to be placed in binders. It’s one thing to agree on a price, it’s another to agree on terms when so many different parties and agendas are involved.

Another problem: It’s hard to find agreement when there is clear animosity between some of the Atlanta owners and there is definite animosity between some of those owners and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. It will all be settled, but not necessarily within the next few days or minutes.

Continued with talk about everything from the likely rise of the salary cap to $62-63 million (it’s not a rumor when SportsBusiness Journal’s Liz Mullen quotes Bill Daly as she is an impeccable source) to the Atlanta Flames’ divorce rates, and if you want to watch Rick Dudley talk to Sportsnet about the uncertainty with which he’s approaching his everyday job, enjoy:

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Red Wings afternoon news: Meech cuts ties, Mule recovers and ‘Bras for a Cause’

The Red Wings planned to submit qualifying offers to all of their restricted free agents and hoped to attempt to retain their unrestricted free agents-to-be who wish to to return, but the Free Press’s George Sipple reports that Derek Meech, who spent the season on the Grand Rapids Griffins’ blueline, has informed the Wings that he’d prefer to leave the team:

“It’s time for me to move on and explore some different options,” Meech said. “I’ve been in the organization for seven years. It’s been unbelievable. I’ve learned a ton.”

The highlight was being part of the Stanley Cup champion team in 2008. The Wings successfully petitioned to have his name on the Cup, although he didn’t appear in the playoffs and played in 32 regular-season games, eight fewer than the minimum for Cup consideration.

“Just fortunate to be part of something like that,” Meech said.

Meech harbors no regrets about spending the 2010-2011 season with the Griffins…

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Let the wild rumors and speculation regarding realignment begin

Ugh. This was supposed to be simple—regardless of whether the Thrashers move to Winnipeg or Mars, they’d play in the Southeast Division and we wouldn’t be talking about realignment until next summer’s Board of Governors meeting as the Board, which meets on June 21st, has the final say as to whether the Thrashers go. ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, being a diligent and studious reporter, says that it’s messier (not Mark) than one could possibly imagine when it comes to realignment:

Realignment would very likely wait another year, meaning Winnipeg would play one season in the Southeast Division, because the league believes all board members deserve a say on the matter. All kinds of scenarios are in play. This might be a chance to do a massive overhaul of the league’s divisions and conferences, not just switch one team with another, a source told ESPN.com Friday.

In the words of Linda Richman, “discuss.”

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Chris Chelios tells WDFN’s STK show that the Red Wings have big plans for Ericsson

As previously noted, Chris Chelios, the Wings’ Red Wings special assistant to the GM (his full title), engaged in a fascinating interview with WDFN’s “Sean, Terp and Killer” show, admitting that the Red Wings’ front office is in fact busy and bustling to the point that it almost floors Chelios to watch its machinations:

Download file

Here’s the transcript, minus several, “Uh’s,” “Um’s” and, “You know’s” for clarity:

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Blair defends Brunt’s case for WInnipeg

I got, ahem, taken in by Mr. Stephen Brunt’s “Winnipeg is happening now, now, now!” story, so it’s within TMR territory to offer Brunt’s defense of his position via [colleague Jeff Blair] of the Globe and Mail, which is of course owned by David Thomson:

True North owns the MTS Centre, the NHL has a salary cap, the Canadian dollar is stronger. Manitoba’s economy has been on a roll, boasting $53-billion in gross domestic product last year. The province generated 11,500 jobs in 2010, its best showing in eight years. Economists are forecasting that Manitoba’s unemployment rate will dip this year to 5.1 per cent compared with 5.4 per cent last year. While Manitoba has a population of 1.23 million, the Winnipeg hockey club will also draw from Saskatchewan, which has enjoyed its own economic renaissance.

“Everybody thinks about Alberta growing, but the western region has benefited from economic growth, too,” said Barry Prentice, a business professor at the University of Manitoba. “As Calgary and Edmonton have grown, so has Winnipeg. Manitoba and Saskatchewan used to be losers, but now we’re gaining. It’s a fabulous thing to have the NHL back.”

University of Manitoba finance professor John McCallum noted that Winnipeg will draw fans from Saskatchewan, northern Ontario, northern Minnesota and North Dakota. He added that manufacturers in the Winnipeg area have thrived on their proximity to the Canada-U.S. border, sending goods south.

So if this is a risk, then it’s a risk worth taking, in a place that actually cares about the game enough to have missed it when it was gone. That’s our story, at least. And as expat Manitobans, we’re sticking to it.

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Kubina’s o-u-t out for the Lightning-Bruins series, whether he’s willing to admit it or not

The St. Petersburg Times’ Damian Cristodero reports that while Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Pavel Kubina hopes to make some sort of playoff return from a concussion suffered during the second round, there’s no way in heck that he’s realistically going to make a miraculous recovery given the symptoms he’s experiencing:

Pavel Kubina said he did not want to get into too many details of the symptoms he is experiencing. But the Lightning defenseman, out the past six games because of concussion-like symptoms, revealed enough to paint a grim picture.

“I always watch the games (from the coaches’ office),” Kubina said Friday. “I can’t even go watch from the press box. It’s too loud and too many lights. It’s hard, but it’s something I can’t do anything about.”

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Red Wings remain busy planning for free agency, draft, prospects-signing, and more Dick (Axelsson)

The Chief and most Red Wings fans have probably readjusted to the concept of not watching hockey a little over a week after Red Bird II touched down at Metro Airport and unloaded the Red Wings for the last time for the 2010-2011 season, but between Ken Holland’s talks with the media and Jimmy Devellano’s always well-placed barbs, the Red Wings’ front office has politely let it be known that they remain incredibly busy evaluating their players, including potential free agents and/or retirees, via exit interviews, and while the team waits to make moves until Nicklas Lidstrom makes his decision as to whether he wishes to continue playing…

The Wings’ players and bench will undergo a makeover this summer, the team’s about to prepare for the draft, which is only a month away, and free agency on July 1st, and as Holland has stated and now reiterated to the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan, the team does not plan on making a marquee signing:

“I’ve found there are two different (free-agency periods),” Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “From July 1 to July 7, you have the premium guys who are getting premium dollars. After that, you have guys who are waiting for deals.”

The waiting strategy has actually worked for the Red Wings — Patrick Eaves, Ruslan Salei and Mike Modano were signed as the summer faded into early fall. Plus, the Red Wings need to watch their dollars this offseason. They currently have 15 players locked up next season for $46.8 million. The salary cap, yet to be announced, is projected to be around $62 million.

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The bottom line regarding franchise relocation

For those of you who’ve been thinking in red, white as royal blue as the sky over the Manitoban prairie, the CBC, Yahoo Sports’ Nicholas J. Cotsonika, ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun and even the Globe and Mail’s (!) David Shoalts and James Mirtle are doing their best to remind everyone that the machinations, egos and bucks involved are in fact quite complicated…

And the Canadian Press’s Chris Johnston provides an article which we may need to bookmark down the line, outlining the Board of Governors’ bottom lines regarding the sale and/or relocation of a franchise:

The league’s constitution requires any sale to be approved by three-quarters of the board of governors—which translates into 22 owners—before it becomes official. A majority of the board must also support an application for relocation. Winnipeg-based True North Sports and Entertainment is reportedly close to buying the Atlanta Thrashers and bringing them north of the border.

The league’s constitution includes specific language about the “transfer of membership or ownership interest in a member club” and spells out territorial rights for where each team plays. Section 36.1 of the NHL bylaws states that an application for relocation must be submitted by Jan. 1 of the year prior to relocation “unless a majority of the member clubs consents to a later filing date.” If the Thrashers are to move to Winnipeg before next season, that will need to take place.

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Can the Canucks overcome losses of Ehrhoff, Rome?

The Vancouver Canucks nearly rallied to tie the San Jose Sharks on Friday night after Jamie McGinn knocked the second of two Canucks off the ice and possibly out of the series, incurring a five-minute penalty for boarding after demolishing Aaron Rome, which NHL.com’s Dave Lozo reports that neither coach was particularly pleased with (in a rare occurrence where both coaches looked at a segment of video and agreed upon its interpretation)...

“I had a chance to watch it on the video,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. “Referees probably made the right call on the ice, there’s no doubt about it. I don’t think there was any intent on Jamie’s behalf. We hope that Rome is healthy. We don’t want to see that happen to anybody. That could very easily be one of our players in that situation.”

“If I was Aaron Rome, I’d be upset right now,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. “But I know that they got the right call on the ice.”

But the hit was nothing less than vicious:

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Welcome to Canada’s Detroit? Not exactly, but reputation-wise, Winnipeg’s close

I’m still hoping that the Thrashers stay in Atlanta. I don’t think it’s fair for any hockey fan to feel the pain of “losing” their team because their owners are morons.

That being said, if you’re a Red Wings fan, you’re familiar with the concept that those outside of Detroit think that the Red Wings play in front of a crowd that’s just come in from post-industrial-wasteland blighted and battered terrain, probably without their wallets, which have been pilfered ten feet from Joe Louis Arena’s doors by roving gangs of thugs, and you want to, well… Bop the people who harbor such opinions on the head and explain to them that yes, Detroit, its metropolitan area and the state are still struggling mightily, but just over five million people live in an incredibly diverse and rich Metro Area and region basically bounded by Flint, Chelsea and Monroe, and that the Wings’ Alumni Association is teeming with both one-time Wings and plenty of guys who’ve never played for the team but have chosen to settle in—gasp-Metro Detroit!

In terms of demographics, Winnipeg, Manitoba is more like Green Bay, Wisconsin—so the Ottawa Sun’s Chris Stephenson isn’t off by suggesting that the NHL’s taking a “step back” in leaving the media, technology and population-drawing mecca that is Atlanta for a comparative speck on the TV ratings map.

That being said, Ilya Bryzgalov and Alexandre Burrows’ portraits of Winnipeg aren’t quite right, either. Yes, it’s Calgary or Edmonton cold, gets as much snow as Montreal and isn’t a particularly big city, but as the Toronto Star’s Paul Hunter suggests, should an NHL team find its way to “Winterpeg,” it’s got its own charms (and parks!)

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About The Malik Report

The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.


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