Archive for February, 2005

More on Steve Shannon

The New York Times had more in yesterday’s edition on Steve Shanno, the former coach of the Motor City Mechanics who placed a $200 bounty on Flint Generals player Kevin Kerr. The most interesting part is that Derian Hatcher spoke up after Shannon had made the offer and left the room. He t, “No. This will not be done.” Derian has downplayed it since, but if he did in fact say that, I think he deserves a lot of credit.

Apparently, Shannon was not popular with the players and they are not sorry to see him go. 14 of them testified to the UHL about what happened. Shannon still adamantly denies that he offered a bounty and holds that the players conspired against him with their former coach, Gary Unger. That may be but, if so, the players really have the UHL sold on it. UHL President and chief executive Richarch Brosal had some more harsh words about Shannon:

“This man is a menace. He is deplorable. He made a mockery of all coaches. He deserved what he got and then some. This gentleman is a disgrace to hockey.”

The Mechanics fans do not agree, if their actions are any indication (from the NY Times article):

Moments before the opening face-off Friday night, some Motor City Mechanics fans threw a dozen rolls of Bounty paper towels on the ice in the Flint Generals’ zone.

Those were thrown in support of Shannon, apparently. So, Motor City fans have a good sense of humor and are grossly misguided in their lending of support. More classiness. Ugh.

Update (Brian)

In other bounty-related news, the NCAA college basketball world was shaken with news that Temple coach John Chaney sent in a “goon” player to rough up Saint Joseph’s squad during their game last Tuesday. The resulting rough play left Saint Joseph’s senior John Bryant with a broken arm off of a more-than-flagrant foul by Nehemiah Ingram, Chaney’s self-described goon. The play occurred with just under 8 minutes to go in the second half, Saint Joseph holding a commanding 50-34 lead. Ingram did not shake hands with any SJU players following the game. Chaney has been suspended by Temple for the final three games of the regular season, and he has also decided not to coach during the Atlantic 10 tournament in respect to Bryant’s inability to participate. Chaney has apologized to Bryant and his family, and offered to pay the medical bills.

Bob Wojnowski gives us the next 11 months

The Detroit News columnist has a very humorous roadmap of the NHL’s lockout (extending all the way to January 20th, 2006) in today’s edition.

Highlights include:

• March 1: NHL Board of Governors meet in New York; NHL Players Association meets in Toronto. The Hockey News and ESPN, citing sources close to someone who knows Mario Lemieux, report a deal is done and the season will start March 2.

• March 2: It’s revealed the Board of Governors actually spent most of the meeting in the hotel game room, smoking cigars and playing video golf.

• March 4: Union executive director Bob Goodenow, in a letter addressed to commissioner Gary Bettman, lowers salary-cap demand from $49 million to $48.95 million. Bettman responds by dropping owners’ offer from $42.5 million to $12.3 million, Canadian.

….

• March 20: The Hockey News and ESPN report a deal is done and a nine-game season will start March 21.
….

• March 27: Carolina owner Peter Karmanos denies small-market hard-liners are out to get big-market spenders.

Karmanos makes a multimillion-dollar, front-loaded offer to a key Mike Ilitch pizza executive. Ilitch matches it, promptly raises pizza prices.
….

Jan. 11: NHL commissioner Wayne Gretzky and union executive director Brett Hull meet for beers, hammer out agreement in 35 minutes.

• Jan. 20, 2006: Season starts. Red Wings fans complain about their goaltender.

Really, the whole thing is funny. I wouldn’t be surprised if half of it actually happens. This whole thing is frankly that unbelievable. It’ll make a great book someday, if anyone decides to write one.

The resolution Wojnowski proposes may not be that far off. I think this has become a personal war between Goodenow and Bettman and everyone would be a lot better off if both of them were handed the pink slip. I wouldn’t be shocked if someone else has the reigns of both organizations before the end of this thing.

I’m not sure how I feel about Brett Hull as the top guy at the NHLPA, though. That would be interesting, to say the least. The Great One leading the League is something I can see (and hope for).

Recommended Listening for all readers

On Sunday, CBC Radio’s show “Cross Country Checkup,” asked Canada this question: “What’s your reaction to the cancellation of the NHL season?” The responses they got were very interesting, to be sure. I highly recommend listening to the show, despite the fact it is almost two hours long. A lot of good stuff was said and I definitely enjoyed listening to it today.

I would like to remind our friends north of the border that, although hockey may be your game, there are some serious fans here in the US too, as I think this site and others have shown. I love hockey as much as anyone and it hurts when Canadians make a blanket statement like “No one in the US cares about hockey at all.” It sucks enough being a hockey-starved passionate fan here in the US without being told you’re not a real fan just because you’re not Canadian.

I thank the show’s main guest, Tom Harrington, for pointing out early on that there are serious fans in the US. Mr. Harrington was probably the best part of the whole show and was very informative throughout.

It was good to see the variety of perspectives from average Canadians from all over the country as well. It was said often that the NHL is not the only hockey available to them and that it would not be missed as much as you’d think. That’s great for them but here in the States, the NHL is just about all we get, if you want any level of quality. If I could watch the WHL or QMJHL or CHL, I definitely would. I’d give an awful lot right now to have TSN or Sportsnet here. I do have four tickets to the Grand Rapids Griffins I can use next month, though (thanks SoBe NoFear and CU vending machines!).

Another thing I noticed was that there is a lot of optimism among Canadian fans. That’s not what I’ve been feeling but that probably has something to do with the fact that there is a significant hockey presence in Canada that is able to act as a quality replacement for the NHL. Not so here. To me, the prospect of a dead NHL is real and scary. I have sort of the snobbish attitude Jes Golbez wrote about today but that’s because the NHL is the only hockey I’ve ever known. I don’t want to have to watch the AHL! The NHL is hockey to me, as long as we don’t have such a great major junior system here in the US.

Anyway, be sure to check the show out. Click here for the MP3 version and here for the RealPlayer version. It’s a big download (25.8 MB) but well worth it, in my opinion.

Thanks to HockeyNation for the link.

Totally unrelated update:

I didn’t want to do a separate post but this is worth mentioning.

As already pointed out by Christy on her blog, the Wings’ official site has been redone. It looks a lot better than before and might actually be useful now. Perhaps the best part is a written history of the team. Check it out.

Motor City Mechanics coach suspended

The head coach of the Motor City Mechanics has been suspended for the rest of the season by the UHL after placing a bounty on Flint Generals player Kevin Kerr. Steve Shannon offered his players $200 to take out the veteran UHL player, and all-time minor league goal leader, in the course of the Mechanics’ February 2nd game in Flint. Apparently, it was a reaction to Kerr’s comments protesting the signing of NHL players by the Mechanics.

Thankfully, none of Shannon’s players took him up on the offer, though Kerr did fracture his elbow in what he called a clean hit during the game.

Nonetheless, the UHL understandably took action against Shannon. Commissioner Richard Brosal said Shannon has not yet admitted to having offered the bounty but confirmed that it was for $200. “I don’t care if it was $5. You do not put a bounty on another player’s head.” Brosal also said that Shannon will not automatically be reinstated for next season: “I would review that again if it came up. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

Shannon will miss the last 24 games of the season. Taking over the last place Mechanics (17-33-6) will be Garry Unger, who has coached the Mechanics in the past.

The Mechanics and Generals have another game on Friday.

I think the UHL handled this very well and I hope they deny Shannon re-entry into the league for next season. That sort of thing is absolutely disgusting. Obviously the man has not been paying attention to major hockey event sin the past year. Maybe then he would have remembered what happened with the Canucks. Great job, Mr. Shannon. Way to run your team with integrity. Classless.

Quote of the Day

Reflecting the urgency to get a deal done in the next few weeks, or the gloves may come off and each side will then wait for the other to cannibalize itself first:

“The issue here is not whether we can solve this in time to play a meaningful season. The issue is, if we don’t solve it now, we’re not going to solve it because it’s like dividing a wheat harvest after a hail storm. There’s not going to be enough left to make a deal. This is the window. If we don’t do this now, it is not going to happen. Not gonna happen. With catastrophic consequences for both sides. They have got to solve this now, or we’re not playing until Christmas-time.”

–Brian Burke, “TSN NHL Insiders”

It’s a very good point. While the fans want closure and a break from this drama, this might be the time to get a deal done. We have the momentum of both sides giving up major philosophical foundations of their stance (linkage and salary cap). The longer we wait, the more the NHL’s economic prospects crumble, and then the NHL will be offering a cap at $20-30 million based on loss of revenue due to the lockout. So I wouldn’t discourage both sides from meeting now, just to not flaunt their negotiations in public and make the fans think a miracle is going to happen until you know it’s going to happen.

Pissed off at small-market owners & the media

WARNING: This entry is a pure venting and ranting session for me. If you don’t want to hear me get mad over small-market team owners and the media, please skip this entry or come back later.

After Wednesday’s announcement of the cancellation of the season, I was sad and frustrated that they could not come to an agreement to save the season. After hearing the result of yesterday’s session, I am angry, pissed off, and really frustrated that an agreement was not made. As you could probably tell from previous entries, I always placed more blame with the owners, specifically Bettman for the mess we’re in. After today’s fiasco, my “belief” in who to blame has increased at least tenfold.

But first, I want to vent my frustrations over the media. I realize that many used sources who believed that this deal was going to happen, but then things changed at the last minute. When usually credible media like The Hockey News, TSN, and ESPN said the deal was imminent, I was excited but remained cautious. EJ Hradek kept guaranteeing a deal and said that in principle they had agreed and it was going to be done Saturday or Sunday. Same with Eklund. I wish they had reported them as rumors and to remain cautious instead of “the deal is going to happen this weekend, we’re just waiting for them to announce the un-cancellation of the season.” I got really excited around 3:45 about the prospect that in a couple hours they would be un-cancelling the season. In 30 minutes when the meeting ended, fans were in for a big surprise. The talks ended with sides further apart before and pissed off and angry players.

Talk about a roller coaster ride and I’m totally sick of it. If I didn’t love hockey so much and my Red Wings, I’d be gone from the sport forever. I’m truly worried about the state of this league whenever it returns (which who knows if we’ll even have it by this fall).

I feel that Bettman is pushing for a cap to “save” the teams in the non-traditional hockey-loving regions (ie. Miami, Nashville, etc.). Well after this lockout (and all that the fans have been put through in the past 4 days), the casual fan will probably be gone. That wipes out a majority of fans in those ‘problem’ regions putting us right back at square one even after an agreement is reached.

On top of that, these problem areas actually veto the only deal/chance we had to truly save the season! According to Fan 590, the owners of the Preds and Panthers totally opposed increasing the cap by $2.5 million to $45. They then whined to 6 other teams and convinced them to veto the deal. Now no further talks are scheduled and they are further then ever. Fellow Wings fans in the LetsGoWings.com forum voiced some opinions following that report:

- Further reason to contract the Preds and Panthers.
– How can two owners who don’t even deserve teams call the shots of the entire league?
– “It upsets me that hockey is canceled because owners who have no right to have a team are ruining it for fans who go out and support their teams. It’s not fair that owners like Carolina and Nashville, even Chicago can’t draw fans because of fan apathy have ruined hockey, possibly forever, for fans who can and strongly support their teams. So I apologize for my outburst, but I do hope you understand the anger directed at owners like Nashville’s who have ruined it for every hockey fan…over $2.5MM dollars no less.” (Barnes52)

I couldn’t agree more. I’m sorry that you two owners were stupid enough to agree to a franchise in an area that most likely wasn’t going to work- it’s not my fault. I’m sorry that you aren’t getting enough attendance and can’t afford the expensive payrolls. But hello- a salary cap of $45 million does NOT mean you have to spend that much. Seriously, that’s the MAXIMUM and not the minimum.

And I also have problems with some of the teams who were rumored to have also taken part in the “veto 8.” (1) Boston. Stop being cheap and deal with it. You are in a region that loves hockey and you can afford $2.5 more in a salary cap. Once again, you don’t HAVE to spend up to that limit. (2) Chicago. We all know Wirtz is not making the most of a great sports city, much less a hockey-loving one. If you actually made wise business investments, you’re franchise could be doing amazing. (3) Edmonton. I don’t mind as much that they opposed this. They do have many small business owners owning the team and are not rich like the single person owner who has millions or billions of dollars. But Canada loves hockey, why would you want do axe this season because of $2.5!? (4) Carolina. Even after they reached the Stanley Cup finals in 2002, attendance was still poor. I’m not denying there are some passionate fans there, but the region just doesn’t support hockey.

The result of today’s meeting only reaffirmed my beliefs for a need of contraction and my blame for the owners. I don’t really blame the Wings’ owner, Ilitch. Yes, he certainly most helped play a role in the quick increase of player salaries. However, he could afford to pay these contracts. Even if he faced a loss after the end of the season, he was willing to continue to cough up money for the star players. Owners who can’t afford to cover or aren’t willing to cover those expensive contracts (whether it be b/c of a bad region or poor attendance or whatever) should not get those players. It’s a matter of simple business, really.

“At this stage of the lockout, the fans are licking their wounds and trying to find some closure in knowing the season is cancelled. So all talks should’ve been via email, phone, and totally secret from us. There is no reason for them to be publically meeting right now…You don’t make your loyal fans believe something is going to get done when that is as far from the truth as we’ve learned. It is totally irresponsible and shows a lack of respect to the fans and everyone that cares. The damage they did by holding this public meeting this morning is huge. By waking up the fans and giving us hope again, we expected a result other than what we’ve seen for the past 9 months.” – Brian at On The Wings

After today’s bizarre roller coaster ride, I’m disgusted with how they (NHL/NHLPA/Media) did things. This only worsened the image of the league and crushed the (at the time) realistic hopes of thousands of fans. You ruined your chance at ESPN picking up the option to the TV deal or keeping some of your big advertisers. You’ve cost restaurants/bars/businesses based on hockey or surrounding arenas money and lost jobs. You’ve turned dedicated fans away from the sport and you even have players pissed off at the owners, not just frustrated anymore.

Why would you have a meeting only 3 days after cancelling it if it wasn’t to save the season (and be fairly confident to do so)? You know the fans needed time for closure and let the wounds heal. It’s like they put salt on an already open wound. Thanks a lot.