The Malik Report
by George Malik on 12/24/11 at 02:49 PM ET
Updated 3x with another Wings Christmas story and details of an event at the Hockey Hall of Fame at 4:56 PM: Despite suggestions to the contrary, the Detroit Red Wings’ organization and players are pretty flexible in terms of accommodating requests from the NHL to engage in the kinds of promotional activities which involve playing on holidays or sloughing through particularly nasty travel schedules to give the league a TV ratings boost, but the Wings have consistently stated that there is one date that they never want to circle on their calendars for anything other than rest and relaxation—Christmas. Kris Draper and Chris Osgood used to speak out particularly bluntly about the fact that they’d fight at the collective bargaining table to ensure that the NHL does not ask its players to indulge in a ratings bonanza on the 24th or 25th, and the Red Wings’ current players hold similar sentiments, as they told MLive’s Ansar Khan:
“It’s fun to watch sporting events on Christmas Day, but I’m glad it’s not us (playing),” forward Cory Emmerton said.
While the collective bargaining agreement prohibits games or practices on Dec. 24-25, it was traditional for the NHL to play on Christmas from the 1920s to 1971. The Red Wings played many games on Christmas, the last in 1971 (5-3 loss to Toronto). But it’s been 40 years since the league played on Christmas, according to NHL.com. And several Red Wings said they hope it stays that way.
“It’s great because it’s one day out of the year that we deserve to spend time with our families,” goaltender Jimmy Howard said. “We’re constantly on the road going back and forth all over the country, and to get these three days off (including Friday) is going to be great for us.”
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told USA Today that the league has been looking to schedule games on Christmas Day for more than a decade. The recent success of the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day might further whet the NHL’s appetite for a game or two on Dec. 25 in the not-so-distant future. It would increase exposure and revenue for the NHL. But players, if a handful of Red Wings are any indication, would adamantly oppose it.
“I understand the purpose of having games on Christmas, it’s going to create a lot of attention,” defenseman Brad Stuart said. “People are home and they want something to do and turn on a game. But I’d much rather have my day to enjoy my family. One day off isn’t going to hurt anyone, but I certainly see why leagues feel they have to do it.”
Also of Red Wings-related note: The Wings don’t exactly hold an enviable playoff spot in the Western Conference right now. They sit in sixth place, three points ahead of Monday’s opponent in the Nashville Predators, and one point behind Tuesday and Saturday’s opponent in the St. Louis Blues. NHL.com’s John Kreiser suggests that there’s something to be said for at least remaining in the playoff mix on one of the NHL’s milestone-marker holidays:
Of the 16 teams that held a playoff berth one year ago, 13 still owned one when the season ended on April 10. That’s just about the average during the past 10 seasons—since the NHL expanded to 30 teams for the 2000-01 season, 128 of 160 teams (80 percent) that were in the top eight when the season broke for Christmas were still there at the end of the season. In addition, 12 of the 32 teams that were on the outside looking in were two points or less out of the top eight when they reached the holidays—several had the same number of points but were below the top eight on tiebreakers, and others had better winning percentages but had played fewer games.
• In the promotional department, like right now: Per the Red Wings’ Twitter account:
For $35, get a ticket to DET vs. PHX on 1/12 AND a spot at our @MotorCityCasino Party on 1/3. Order: http://www.detroitredwings.com/socialsaturday Password: eaves
• In the promotional department, over the next couple of days: DetroitRedWings.com’s Greg Monahan notes that, should you wish to buy some Wings tickets as a post-Christmas gift, it will be cheaper to do starting on Boxing Day:
The Detroit Red Wings and Ticketmaster are closing out the year with a six-day special on 2012 tickets, as fans can buy tickets online without service charges for all Red Wings regular season home games from January through April.
The deal starts December 26th at 10 a.m. and runs through the remainder of the calendar year, ending on December 31st at 11:59 p.m. This is the second time this season that the Red Wings and Ticketmaster have teamed up to eliminate service fees, after online charges were waived during the ‘Black Friday’ promotion in late November.
• In the promotional department, “Way down the line” version: the Traverse City Record-Eagle’s James Cook reports that the Wings have officially confirmed the dates upon which they’ll hold their summer prospect camp, next fall’s prospect tournament and the Wings’ main training camp in Traverse City, MI:
The Detroit Red Wings Development Camp will be returning to Centre ICE Arena next summer for its second Traverse City installment, and the event will occur in the same week as Cherry Festival. The announcement of the Red Wings’ return to Traverse City comes on the heels of another big year for the franchise — with is No. 9 on the Record-Eagle’s top sports stories of 2011.
“It’s great for Traverse City,” Red Wings Training Camp director Ann Reeves said. “We’re trying to get right up there with the Cherry Festival and Film Festival. We’re not there yet, but we’re working on it.”
The 2012 Development Camp is slated for July 6-14, nearly identical to the Cherry Fest schedule of July 7-14.
“So they’ll do the same routine as last year, around 40 prospects from around the world, focusing on a lot of kids that are from the Swedish Elite League teams,” Reeves said.
The Prospects Tournament is slated for Sept. 15-19, with one off day in the middle. Red Wings training camp kicks off with the annual golf outing at the Grand Traverse Resort on Sept. 21, followed by three full days of practices, workouts and scrimmages before the Sept. 25 Red & White game. The players will have a morning skate on Sept. 26 before leaving for an exhibition game in Pittsburgh and coming back to TC for one last practice session Sept. 27.
Cook reports that there’s good news in the TV department for Wings fans who can’t make it up to Traverse City next fall—though the broadcast expenses would have to be paid for up front by Centre Ice Arena, and then theoretically repaid via broadcast advertisement revenues (in other words, if sponsors don’t step up and lend a hand, Centre Ice can’t afford to invest in broadcasting games and practices):
Last year’s four New York Rangers games were broadcast on the Madison Square Garden Network, and picked up by the NHL Network. This time around, Reeves said the camp is working on having the NHL Network pick up games other than just the Rangers, and Fox Sports Detroit could be a possibility.
“That would be huge,” Reeves said. “We don’t want to take away from our fans that come up from Detroit. But for those folks that just can’t get away, it’d be nice for it to be on Fox Sports Detroit.”
• It looks like things might be a little slow today, so I’d encourage you to take a gander back at the overnight report for talk about the Wings’ shaky play during their West Coast swing, some planted Ales Hemsky trade rumors and other tidbits;
• And finally, I want to thank the Red Wings for naming me their Social Saturday blog of the week on Twitter and Facebook. Their mention leaves me feeling something that I rarely can profess to experiencing—a bit speechless. Wow!
Update: We engaged in a little daliance into the realm of trade talk yesterday, but in all honesty, I don’t believe that Ken Holland’s going to make a “big move” unless the team suffers a catastrophic injury. It’s just not his modus operandi to give away roster players and high-round draft picks for the sake of a 2-to-4-month rental.
That being said, I can’t help but admit that Teemu Selanne is one of my favorite players (even though he plays for the hated Ducks), and if the Orange County Register’s Mark Whicker’s NHL-related prediction for 2012 came to pass, as incredibly unlikely as it may be, I certainly wouldn’t complain:
June: Teemu Selanne and the Detroit Red Wings eliminate the New York Rangers in 6 games to win the Stanley Cup. NBC petitions the NHL to give the Rangers an automatic bye into the 2013 finals.
Update #2: This is a little late, but Sportslines’s Brian Stubits weighed in on Ryan Kesler’s assertion (backed up by the Canucks’ GM) that his only recourse after getting smoked by Niklas Kronwall was to challenge Kronwall to fight him:
So why is it that when a player delivers a clean but vicious hit in today’s NHL, they have to “answer the bell” as Ryan Kesler of the Canucks put it? I understand fully the concept of a guy having to answer for a bad hit. After all, that’s one of the biggest arguments people use for justifying fighting in hockey, the enforcers are out there to discourage the other team from taking cheap shots at your teammates. If any liberties are taken, then you’ll have the liberty of meeting the other team’s tough guy.
As long as fighting is “allowed”—I’ll play along with Gary Bettman’s semantics game that fighting isn’t allowed, it is punished—I have no qualms about a player having to answer to somebody’s fists about a bad hit. That’s a case of reaping what you sew when you add a couple of the bad stitches into the equation. But enough is enough with fights after good, clean hits. Nothing is going to take hitting out of the game faster than players having to face a fight for every good check they deliver.
Could the Canucks have some beef with the hit? OK, a little. Kronwall did leave the ice to make the hit, but it was a man coming at him with the puck on his stick. Also, right or wrong, there was no penalty given on the play. Still, Kesler was revved up and obviously wanted a piece of Kronwall.
“I like the hit, but my only problem with the hit is that he doesn’t stand up for himself,” Kesler said. “If you’re going hit guys like that, you’re going to have to drop the gloves. I gotta get my head up. Obviously you see him backing up and you know that’s his move there. I think you have to put the blame on the ‘hittee’ a little bit, but I also think he’s gotta stand up for himself.”
The always vocal Kevin Bieksa put his two cents in on the situation as well.
“Because how sneaky it is, it’s a little bit dirty,” Bieksa said after the game. “If you’re going to do that, you should pay the price and he hasn’t paid the price yet. So he loses a little respect in my book.”
So let me get this straight: Kesler had no problems with the hit and even implicated himself for part of the responsibility but thinks Kronwall still needs to put his dukes up? Why? Because, as Bieksa puts it, it was sneaky? If you have no problems with the actual hit, then requesting the guy to fight isn’t the answer. You guys still have more time to play, you are free to hit Kronwall in return.
Bieksa, of course, suggested that Kronwall needs to be “jumped ” and “beat up”...
Now I wasn’t taught to play hockey in a highly formalized environment—instead, I learned to play on the street and on tennis courts across from my high school, where we didn’t have referees and would police ourselves—and one of our biggest rules regarding a nasty hit was simple: after being warned that you might get kicked out of the game, you were encouraged to take a number and remember the hit for next time instead of dropping the gloves, which was more or less seen as a foolish move. Otherwise, you were expected to suck it up, tell your opponent, “Good hit, I’ll get you next time” and skate away.
That was something that Vladdie Konstantinov did relatively regularly. As nasty as he was physically, and as vicious as his temper was, Vladdie often understood that part of playing a physical game involved absorbing as many hits as you doled out, and Vladdie would occasionally get knocked into next week…And then he’d get up and skate away.
That’s how I was taught to play, how many of the game’s more physical players play, and it’s an “old time hockey” axiom: you get the number of the bus that hit you, and then you dust yourself off and get back into the play. Players shouldn’t have to “answer the bell” simply because they’ve delivered solid bodychecks.
Update #3: DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose also spoke to the Wings about their Christmas break, placing their comments in historical perspective as the Wings pretty much played on every Christmas back in the Original Six and Original Twelve days, not earning Christmas off until 1972:
“We’re always looking forward to a couple of days of rest at Christmas,” Lidstrom said Thursday night, as he packed his equipment bag following the Wings’ 3-2 loss to Calgary at the Scotiabank Saddledome. “Usually, as far as I can remember, we’ve always had road games right before Christmas, and they can be a little difficult,” Lidstrom continued. “It seems like we’ve always played the 23rd on the road. It’ll be nice to have that extra day off before Christmas this year. We’re certainly looking forward to the break.”
Between 1926, when Detroit was granted an NHL franchise, and until 1968, Christmas Day was just another game day at Olympia Stadium. During that time, the organization played 38 times on Christmas with 30 of those games at the old Red Barn on Grand River Ave. Guys like Ted Lindsay, Sid Abel and Alex Delvecchio played nearly every Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve of their illustrious hall-of-fame careers. For Gordie Howe that meant playing 21 Christmases and 22 New Year’s Eves. Then there was 1955 and ’60 when [Gordie] Howe’s Red Wings played back-to-back with road games on Christmas Eve followed by train rides back home just in time to play Christmas night at Olympia.
“It’s your work and you really don’t have much of a choice, you just do it,” said Wings forward Tomas Holmstrom, referring to the NHL life in a much earlier era. “Not much you can whine about. But now we as players get a couple of days off and that’s good.”
“I don’t want to play on Christmas. To me those are days that you should have off,” Wings defenseman Brad Stuart said. “I understand the purpose of having games on Christmas; it’s going to create a lot of attention, but for me those are days that you should have off and I’m glad that we still do.”
“I think for the most part, everyone tries to avoid playing games on Christmas, though there are a lot of Boxing Day games, definitely,” said Emmerton, from St. Thomas, Ontario. “I just don’t ever remember playing on Christmas, but there probably were sometimes when I had to leave for tournaments on Christmas Day. I think it’s great for families to celebrate as much as they can. It’s fun to watch sporting events on Christmas Day, but I’m glad it’s not us.”
“In Sweden we get probably two weeks off from hockey at Christmas, so I never really played on Christmas,” Ericsson said. “For me, holidays like Christmas have always been about family, but now that I live over here it’s kind of different. I wish we could have a few more days so I could go home to Sweden and see my family more, see my nieces more, but right now it’s not possible so I try not to think about it too much.”
“I’m sure that [Christmas games] would generate a lot of interest and revenue for the game, people are home and they want something to do and turn on a game,” Stuart said. “But for myself, I’d much rather have my day to enjoy my family. One day off isn’t going to hurt anyone, but I certainly see why leagues feel that they have to do it.”
I’m nodding in agreement with Pro Hockey Talk’s Joe Yerdon on this one:
The Red Wings could use the break after having a miserable trip to western Canada. Losses to Vancouver and Calgary following a narrow win over Edmonton have the Wings happy to get a break before going to Nashville on Monday to face the Predators.
Getting Christmas off is something the fans eager to have hockey to watch is something that leaves them feeling a bit hollow, but hockey players are people too. Cut ‘em a break and let them get a fat on egg nog and gingerbread.
As much as I love to watch hockey, I’d love to see the NHL give teams both Thanksgiving Day and “Black Friday” off, and I’d love to see them increase the Christmas break from the 24th and 25th to the 23rd-26th. Now that I follow these guys for a living, I can tell you that time off to recharge the batteries barely exists, and given that while the players and coaches get a few days off, Paul Boyer and the Wings’ equipment managers got off Red Bird III at 4:22 AM on December 23rd and headed right to Joe Louis Arena for a good chunk of time spent airing out equipment and doing laundry—something tells me that leaving wet hockey equipment in Red Bird III’s cargo hold for about 30 hours, even if it’s in a climate-controlled hangar, isn’t a good thing—and they may very well head to Joe Louis Arena after Christmas dinner to get the gear packed back up and loaded back into Red Bird II for a Monday morning flight to Nashville.
We don’t think about how hard the people behind the scenes work long after we’re sleeping, and I can only imagine that the Wings’ support staff and front office have to do in terms of working through holidays. I don’t mean to sound cheesy, but they more or less work 7 days a week from late August to whenever the Wings’ playoff run ends.
• Also, per the Wings’ Twitter account:
EVENT: Come join us at the @HockeyHallFame before our game against Toronto on 1/7. Details: http://www.facebook.com/events/306113119429441/
Here’s what the Hockey Hall of Fame’s Facebook page says will go down:
When: Saturday, January 7, 2012 Time: 4:00pm until 7:00pm
Description: We know that Hockeytown isn’t just in Detroit, or even Michigan. It extends across the globe.
And with Stevey Y, Mark Howe and Dino new to the Hockey Hall of Fame in recent years. Not to mention Shanny, Mike Modano, Cheli and Nick soon to follow, why not make our next Social Media Event at a place that honors the sport’s finest.
This is our opportunity for you to meet each other, meet the social media team here, win a few Red Wings prizes along the way and explore one of the great palaces of our sport .. The Hockey Hall of Fame.
We’ve successfully pulled this off in Boston, Nashville and St. Paul, Minnesota. This event however, is a tad different. Stop by. Meet your fellow fans. Check out the exhibits. Talk about your favorite team. And hopefully, bond over hockey.
Note: Fans of all teams are welcome!
WHERE: The Hockey Hall of Fame
WHEN: Saturday, January 7th, 2012 - 4:00 P.M. - Time subject to change.
WHAT: Red Wings on the Road Social Media Meet Up
WHO: Wings fans, hockey fans, lovers of social media
WHY: This is a celebration of hockey and a way to bridge our digital love of the greatest sport on earth to a great night out.
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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.