Archive for March, 2005

3/23 Notes

NHL & Steroids
The Ice Block had an entry on the NHL and its steroids/stimulant usage. David Singer pointed back to the 1998 Nagano Olympics when the use of Sudafed and similar stimulanets in hockey players were in question. Sudafen is estimated to have begun appearing in NHL dressing rooms in the mid-to-late 1980s.

The exact number of players who use Sudafed, a nonprescription drug that contains the stimulant pseudoephedrine, in an effort to boost their performance on the ice, is unclear. Two NHL trainers estimate that before a game 20% of the league’s players routinely take over-the-counter medications that contain pseudoephedrine, not to combat the sniffles, as the manufacturers intended, but to feel a little buzz.

A former coach says one of his players built up such a tolerance to the medication that he had to gobble 20 pills to get the desired boost. “There are all kinds of overdose stories—guys not being able to finish the first period because they get the shakes, paranoia, anxiety,” says Detroit Red Wings athletic trainer John Wharton, who’s been with the club since February 1991. “There are some guys who have been able to tolerate [large doses of pseudoephedrine]. The most I’ve seen a player take is eight pills. That dose would put some people in the hospital.” Wharton says he has seen four or five abusers in the last seven years.

Dave Morissette’s book, Memoires d’Un Dur a Cuire (Memoires of an Enforcer), told his story about his start with steroids and then stimulants. Through this book he hopes to “make my little contribution towards stopping these dangerous practices.” I suggest reading the article I just linked to so you can learn more about the book and Morissette’s thoughts – it was a good read. In the article, defenceman Stephane Quintal of the Los Angeles Kings said the following at the Morissette’s book launch.

When asked if doping was common in the NHL, Quintal said: “Sudafed is something a lot of guys use but steroids, I’ve seen it a couple of times but on tough guys, but not on skill guys.”

Red Wings Prospect: Evan McGrath
FOXSports.com conducted an interview with Red Wings prospect, Evan McGrath, about his junior team and being drafted by the Detroit Red Wings. Here’s a small portion of the interview:

FOXSports.com: You were draft eligible last year and wound up being selected by the Detroit Red Wings. What was that whole experience like for you?
EM: It was mixed (feelings). I thought I was going to go earlier (than the fourth round), but things worked out with Detroit. It’s a great organization and a great team and great people all around and I’m proud to be a part of it.

FOXSports.com: It had to be exciting, too, going to a team like the Red Wings considering the success that the organization has had over the years?
EM: Yeah, they’re awesome. I couldn’t ask for anything else from the team. Hopefully one day I’ll be wearing the jersey like the players on the team now.

FOXSports.com: Last thing, with the NHL season recently being cancelled, give me your thoughts on the NHL lockout.
EM: It’s pretty unfortunate. It’s tough. Everyone wants to see the NHL, even if you don’t play. Everybody growing up in Canada watches it and without it this year is tough but I think people are going to deal with it by coming to junior games and hopefully next year they’ll be back.

NHL vs. Tilt Ratings
Paul at Breaking Sports found this sad piece of information regarding hockey. NHL’s ratings lost out to ESPN’s Tilt.

The inaugural season of ESPN’s “Tilt” averaged a combined 0.97 Nielsen cable rating for airings Sunday and Thursday from 9:00-10:00pm ET, up 28% over the 0.76 during the same period in Q1 ’04, “when ESPN mostly aired NHL games,” according to R. Thomas Umstead of Multichannel News.

Jeff & Steve Tambellini
Jeff Tambellini is a junior on the University of Michigan squad. I didn’t realize it until today while reading an article that his father is the vice president of player personnel of the Vancouver Canucks. Ok, so what? He sat and watched during the 2003 NHL draft as the Canucks passed over his son in the first round to select Ryan Kesler. That would be quite an awkward situation, but I credit Tambellini for sticking to his job and not letting family interfere in this situation.

“We’re really consistent on our draft process. We cross names off our list and pick the best guy available,” explained Tambellini. “Jeff was a couple of players away on our list.”

The Canucks took Kesler 23rd overall while Jeff Tambellini went 27th to Los Angeles. Vancouver GM Brian Burke made no apologies. “I think it’s important for people to understand that we had Jeff rated high,” Burke said. “But we couldn’t draft him just because his dad was Steve Tambellini. That wasn’t the right thing to do. Besides, we don’t know how long Steve is going to be with us.”

Kesler, a Michigan native, had 11 goals and 20 assists in 40 games with Ohio State last season and played for the U.S. at the world junior championship. The six-foot-one centre must now decide when he’ll leave U.S. college and sign with the Canucks.

3/20 Notes

Zoran Manojlovic of Hockey’s Future has a very interesting article about HÃ¥kan Andersson, a scout for the Wings in Europe. Andersson has been with the team for 15 years and is one of three Red Wings scouts on the Continent.

It provides a good look into what goes on behind the scenes in the organization with the guys who are as important as anyone in the front office in Detroit. Guys like Andersson watch 200+ games a year, are constantly traveling and jeopordizing their family life. I thnk they don’t get nearly enough credit for what they do. It’s all well and good for Wings fans to praise Ken Holland and Jim Nill but we shouldn’t forget the scouts who are busting their butts out there “in the field” to get us an entertaining product down the road.

When asked who is favorite player was out of the many he has seen drafted, he said

“Tomas Holmström. I saw him the first time with the national team selection camp with the players born in 1973. There were several other big time prospects such as Peter Forsberg and Markus Näslund to name a few. He was very small at the time, just about 5’10 and about 175 Ibs. He worked hard at the camp, but didn’t make the team.

“The year after, I talked with a buddy of mine, Niklas Wikegård, who was coaching Boden (the team where Holmström played) at the time if he had any good youngsters. He told me that his best player was a youngster. I went and saw Holmström play and we ended up picking him in the 10th round that year.”

I’ve been seeing a lot of praise for Holmstrom over this lockout and I definitely agree with it. I think he’s also under-appreciated for what he does for the Wings every night, taking the beatings he gets. I look forward to seeing him back in the Winged Wheel when this is all over. He’s still a small guy (I’ve met him and was surprised at how small he was) but, to use everyone’s favorite sports cliche, he’s got a big heart.

Andersson had this to say about three other current Wings players:

“Henrik Zetterberg, he’s just a really nice, cool guy. Then you have Niklas Kronwall, who is my hometown guy and a great kid. Pavel Datsyuk is also a really funny guy once you get to know him. He really loves to joke around.”

I love reading that kind of stuff. It’s interesting to learn more about these guys than what you get from just watching games.

The article gives some more insights into scouting and it’s definitely worth a read. Go check it out.

CCHA champs and the NCAA hockey tournament

University of Michigan hockey news
Last night the University of Michigan Wolverines (#1) played the Ohio State Buckeyes (#2) in the CCHA finals at the Joe Louis Arena in front of 16,891 people. After a close game at the end of the second period tied 2-2, the Wolverines pulled ahead to win 4-2 and thus received an automatic bid into the 16-team NCAA tournament – for an NCAA-record 15th consecutive season. “This is a great tournament to win and it will give us a strong start into the NCAA Tournament,” said Michigan head coach Red Berenson to Daily News-Miner.

Last year in the CCHA final, Ohio State beat Michigan by the same score, 4-2, and marked their first CCHA title. “Them coming out and beating us last year in the final – that didn’t taste too good going home after losing to a team that kind of came from behind and worked their way to the top,” junior Jeff Tambellini said to The Ann Arbor News.

Michigan senior Milan Gajic scored the first two goals in the power play while junior right wing Jeff Tambellini netted the game-winning goal and the CCHA Tournament’s Bill Beagan Trophy for being the MVP. “Any time the game is on the line and you’re going against your top rival … to raise that banner is a great feeling,” Tambellini said.

Michigan beat Alaska Fairbanks Nanooks, 3-1, in the semi-finals to face the Buckeyes. The Wolverines who are 30-7-3 had already won the CCHA regular-season championship. In total, Michigan has won seven CCHA championships including three in the last four years.

In an article by DJ Powers of HockeysFuture.com, it lists and describes the 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award. This year marks the 25th anniversary that is presented to the nation’s top collegiate player. The 10 finalists this season are made up of five forwards, four goaltenders, and one defenseman. Four of these players are current NHL prospects. Michigan sophomore forward T.J. Henisck leads his team and the conference with 51 points (22 goals, 29 assists) putting him fourth in the nation. This past winter, he was selected to the United States’ team at the World Junior Championships. He has also received other honors such as his selection to the CCHA’s All-Conference First Team and three CCHA Offensive Player of the Week honors. Hensick is eligible for the 2005 NHL Entry Draft and is currently ranked 84th among all North American skaters eligible.

Attendance Problems in Conference Playoffs
Here’s a report on attendance playoffs by The Ann Arbor News:

Thursday’s attendance of 3,436 for the opening day of the CCHA Super Six was the smallest crowd ever for a session since the league tournament moved into Joe Louis Arena in 1982. Friday’s crowd of 10,128 was the smallest semifinal session in 22 years.

And don’t just blame that on the NHL lockout or St. Patrick’s Day. At the WCHA Final Five in St. Paul, Minn., 15,586 attended Thursday’s play-in game and 17,794 came out to the Xcel Energy Center on Friday. At the TD Banknorth Garden in Boston, Friday’s Hockey East semifinals drew 17,565.

NCAA Hockey Tournament News
Six teams received automotic bids for winning their conference: Boston College in Hockey East, Mercyhurst in Atlantic Hockey, Cornell in ECACHL, Michigan in CCHA, Denver in WCHA, and Bemidji State in CHA. The other 10 team bids go to: North Dakota, Boston University, Minnesota, Ohio State, Maine, Colorado College, Wisconsion, Colgate, New Hampshire, and Harvard.

Here are all the matchups thanks to ESPN.com:

East Regional (Worchester, Mass.)
Friday, March 25
No. 1 Boston College (25-6-7) vs. No. 4 Mercyhurst (18-15-4), 4:30 p.m.
No. 2 North Dakota (22-14-5) vs. No. 3 Boston U. (23-13-4), 8 p.m.
Saturday, March 26
Boston College-Mercyhurst winner vs. North Dakota-Boston U. winner, 8 p.m.

West Regional (Minneapolis)
Saturday, March 26
No. 1 Minnesota (26-14-1) vs. No. 4 Maine (20-12-7), 2:30 p.m.
No. 2 Cornell (26-4-3) vs. No. 3 Ohio State (27-10-4), 6 p.m.
Sunday, March 27
Minnesota-Maine winner vs. Cornell-Ohio State winner, 3:30 p.m.

Midwest Regional (Grand Rapids, Michigan)
Friday, March 25
No. 1 Colorado College (29-8-3) vs. No. 4 Colgate (25-10-3), 5 p.m.
No. 2 Michigan (30-7-3) vs. No. 3 Wisconsin (23-13-4), 8:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 26
Colorado College-Colgate winner vs. Michigan-Wisconsin winner, 5 p.m.

Northeast Regional (Amherst, Massachusetts)
Saturday, March 26
No. 1 Denver (28-9-2) vs. Bemidji State (23-12-1), Noon
No. 2 New Hampshire (25-10-5) vs. No. 3 Harvard (21-9-3), 3:30 p.m.
Sunday, March 27
Denver-Bemidji State winner vs. New Hampshire-Harvard winner, Noon

Frozen Four (Columbus, Ohio)
Thursday, April 7
East Regional winner vs. West Regional winner, 2 or 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
Midwest Regional winner vs. Northeast Regional winner, 2 or 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
Saturday, April 10
Championship
Semifinal winners, 7 p.m. (ESPN)

The Wings apologize to the fans

In the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News today, the owners of the Wings, Mike and Marian Illitch, published a full page letter to the fans in Hockeytown. Here is the full text:

Dear Fans,

As you know, this year has been a turbulent one for the Detroit Red Wings, the National Hockey League, our dedicated fans and the many businesses who count on the game of hockey to earn a living. We want you to know how extremely sorry we are that your Red Wings have not played hockey this season.

The Red Wings have a long history in the Detroit are dating back to 1926, and our wonderful fans have enthusiastically supported the team throughout the many decades. Our family has always been avid hockey fans. We bought the team in 1982 because we love hockey and we are passionate about Detroit. We knew it would take a little time to rebuild the team into a Stanley Cup contender, and we truly appreciate our fans that stood by us as we accomplished that feat. It is disappointing for all of us that the Red Wings were unable to make a run for their eleventh Stanley Cup this past year.

The decision by the League to cancel the season until a new CBA was agreed upon was an extremely difficult one, but necessary for the long-term success of the NHL. As an Original Six member of the NHL and firm believer that a healthy league will be best for all involved, especially the fans, we support the decision that was made. We know how disappointing this necessary action was and we share in your frustration.

It is not by chance that Detroit is known as Hockeytown. It is you, the fans, that have made Detroit and its hockey team the envy of all cities where hockey is played. We appreciate your continued support of the Red Wings and our partners in downtown Detroit. It is our sincere hope that we will see you at Joe Louis Arena in the fall. Thank you for standing by us as we work to solidify the game of hockey for many years to come.

Sincerely,

Mike and Marian Ilitch

Click here to see a scan of the actual page.

It’s good to see the Wings publish a personal apology after all this time. It was rightly pointed out by Christy on her Behind the Jersey blog back when the season was canceled that there was no statement for the fans from the team. Why it took them nearly a month to write one up is beyond me. Still, I appreciate the gesture. I’m disappointed in Mike Illitch for going along with the herd on this, though. I agree that the League needs to be healthy but I’d like to see Illitch spearhead a drive to look at possibilities other than a hard salary cap. Ah well.

As to this statement, “It is our sincere hope that we will see you at Joe Louis Arena in the fall,” I have to say that it will depend. My presence at the Joe has always been more of a symbolic thing (since I’ve only been to three games there) so physically being there isn’t all that likely in any case. The questions is whether I will be seriously supporting the Wings in the fall by watching games on TV. If they are operating with replacement players, I have to say that there is considerable doubt in my mind that I will watch the games. I do not want replacement players on my Detroit Red Wings.

If the League reaches a deal with the NHLPA over the summer, I will certainly be watching the games. If not, we’ll see.

Hold the phone, Gary!

Daniel Gross, who writes the “Moneybox” column for the online polilical/cultural magazine Slate, has the answer to all your problems:

Take Bain Capital Partners LLC up on their offer and give the NHL over to a single corporation!

Gross lays it all out in his column “The Puck Stops Here: The National Hockey League can be saved. Here’s how.”

Brilliant!

(I can’t say I disagree with everything Gross but the idea of an NHL owned by a single entity is repulsive to me. It’s not going to happen. See, I don’t disagree with Gary Bettman on everything!)

Firm offers $3.5 billion for NHL

With the 2004-2005 NHL season cancelled twice, and all the ups and downs of the 5+ month lockout, the hockey world is used to crazy news. And this story is certainly par for the course. As the owners stand pat with the goal of a salary cap and cost certainty, Bain Capital Partners LLC (a Boston investment firm) made a proposal to buy all 30 NHL teams for as much as $3.5 billion. It was presented at the NHL’s Board of Governors’ meeting on Tuesday in New York, with the help of Game Plan LLC (a sports advisory company that deals with franchise sales).

League officials left the half-hour information session entertained by the offer, but not taking it at all seriously. There is no plan for the board to vote on the proposal, and it is unlikely that it would come close to passage.

According to Game Plan chairman, Robert Caporale:

”[The proposal] would see all 30 teams run out of a central office, setting team payroll budgets before the season started and distributing revenues to each club..It’s taking the National Hockey League and its 30 teams and operating it as any large corporation does with each team essentially being a division of one company. We would keep in place team management, team presidents, the GMs. They would be completely autonomous.”

No matter how far-fetched this proposal is, it reminds us just how far down the ladder the NHL is compared to the other major professional leagues. And for perspective, the WNBA, MLS, and defunct XFL are examples of centrally-owned leagues. The proposal would be the NHLPA’s worst nightmare, as the league would be able to nullify any deal between a free agent and a club, vastly more power than an imposed salary cap.

Before the lockout, all 30 teams were worth an estimated $4.9 billion, according to Forbes Magazine. But, in the latest Forbes’ figures, published on November 10, the total league value was down to $4.386 billion, and it’s anyone’s guess how far down that figure has gone today.

Forbes NHL Team Valuations (1998-2004)

*all figures in millions ($US), in order from ’98 to ’04, with latest figure in bold
**owner, purchase price, and year below each team

1. New York Rangers: 195, 236, 263, 277, 263, 272, 282
(Cablevision, $195 million, 1997)

2. Toronto Maple Leafs: 119, 151, 203, 216, 241, 263, 280
(Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, $90 million, 1994)

3. Philadelphia Flyers: 187, 211, 240, 250, 262, 252, 264
(Comcast, $150 million, 1996)

4. Dallas Stars: 118, 149, 182, 207, 254, 270, 259
(Thomas Hicks, $84 million, 1995)

5. Detroit Red Wings: 184, 194, 218, 225, 266, 245, 248
(Mike Illitch, $8 million, 1982)

6. Colorado Avalanche: 138, 160, 198, 243, 250, 229, 246
(Stanley Kroenke, $202 million, 2000)

7. Boston Bruins: 185, 197, 217, 230, 243, 223, 236
(Jeremy Jacobs, $10 million, 1975)

8. Montreal Canadiens: 167, 175, 191, 182, 187, 170, 195
(George Gillett Jr, $181 million, 2001)

9. Los Angeles Kings: 104, 109, 160, 189, 205, 183, 193
(Philip Anschutz and Edward Roski, $113 million, 1995)

10. Chicago Blackhawks: 170, 185, 197, 200, 218, 192, 178
(William Wirtz, $1 million, 1954)

11. Minnesota Wild: -, -, -, 135, 139, 166, 163
(Robert Naegele Jr, $80 million, 1997)

12. New York Islanders: 111, 142, 139, 156, 156, 151, 160
(Charles Wang and Sanjay Kumar, $188 million, 2000)

13. Tampa Bay Lightning: 101, 112, 107, 120, 124, 136, 150
(William Davidson, $115 million, 1999)

14. San Jose Sharks: 108, 123, 141, 148, 158, 137, 149
(Kevin Compton and Gregory Reyes, $147 million, 2002)

15. Vancouver Canucks: 100, 96, 100, 106, 110, 125, 148
(John McCaw Jr, $56 million, 1995, 50% sold to Francesco Aquilini late 2004, and approved by the Board of Governors at Tuesday’s meeting)

16. St Louis Blues: 154, 137, 136, 153, 148, 147, 140
(William and Nancy Laurie, $100 million, 1999)

17. Columbus Blue Jackets: -, -, -, 145, 150, 144, 139
(John H McConnell, $80 million, 1997)

18. Phoenix Coyotes: 87, 89, 86, 79, 117, 120, 136
(Steven Ellman, $127 million, 2001)

19. Ottawa Senators: 94, 79, 84, 96, 95, 117, 125
(Eugene Melnyk, $92 million, 2003)

20. New Jersey Devils: 125, 135, 163, 175, 159, 145, 124
(Jeffrey Vanderbeek, $125 million, 2004)

21. Florida Panthers: 105, 163, 147, 115, 127, 113, 121
(Alan Cohen, $101 million, 2001)

22. Calgary Flames: 78, 78, 82, 92, 94, 97, 116
(Calgary Flames LP, $16 million, 1980)

23. Washington Capitals: 178, 145, 134, 138, 140, 130, 115
(Theodore Leonsis, $85 million, 1999)

24. Nashville Predators: -, 130, 129, 131, 132, 101, 111
(Craig Leipold, $80 million, 1997)

25. Anaheim Mighty Ducks: 109, 117, 116, 118, 111, 112, 108
(Walt Disney, $50 million, 1992, sold to Henry and Susan Samueli for $75 million recently, pending approval of the Board of Governors)

26. Atlanta Thrashers: -, -, 138, 134, 134, 110, 106
(Steven Belkin, $80 million, 2004)

27. Edmonton Oilers: 67, 72, 77, 81, 86, 91, 104
(Edmonton Investors Group, $70 million, 1998)

28. Buffalo Sabres: 91, 91, 97, 117, 92, 95, 103
(Thomas Golisano, $92 million, 2003)

29. Pittsburgh Penguins: 89, 100, 132, 149, 137, 114, 101
(Mario Lemieux, $99 million, 1999)

30. Carolina Hurricanes: 80, 70, 79, 103, 128, 109, 100
(Peter Karmanos Jr, $48 million, 1994)

Some interesting tidbits are that Red Wings owner Mike Illitch bought the team for $8 million in 1982, and the Mighty Ducks, valued at $108 million, recently sold for $75 million. The latter reflects how Disney was desperate to sell the club and that NHL club values are plummeting with each day of the lockout.

That said, even with the NHL valued at $4.386 billion as recent as November, the proposal to buy the league for $3.5 billion amidst the turmoil of the lockout is quite generous, a reason why the Board of Governors even entertained the offer. Another reason for the NHL to give this story publicity is that it instills fear in the NHLPA that such a league could very well come to pass. It also makes a salary cap sound much better, relative to the proposed alternative.

Shanny on replacement players

In some pretty radical comments, Brendan Shanahan told CBC’s Tom Harrington that he has no problem with replacement players, as long as they are career minor leaguers.

“I think it’s a two-way street and if we can go down and play in some of their leagues then they can certainly come up and be replacement players in the NHL. I don’t think [replacement players] is a successful proposition. I think that will just ruin the situation even more.

“But you know what I would say to a young guy who’s playing in the East Coast or United Hockey League who has an invitation to play for the Toronto Maple Leafs? Go for it. Good luck.”

I agree with Shanahan that replacement players wouldn’t be very successful. I know I personally would have a tough time accepting replacement players and, though it’s easier said than done, I might not watch at all. I certainly would never pay to see a game. I would only watch it because it would be hockey but, as far as I’m concerned, that would not be the NHL.

If the replacement players can come in and play at an exceptional level, I might be won over, but condition of the NHL’s talent pool leads me to believe that will not happen. Scab hockey will be a poor substitute, even with the League as un-fun to watch as it has been recently.

The League has not stated any official intention of restarting next season with scab players but it is widely rumored that their plan is to do so. That is due to comments made by the owners early on in the lockout, though those owners have been heavily fined for it.

Gary Bettman has downplayed the rumors, most recently after the meeting the NHL Board of Governors had Tuesday.

“We discussed a variety of options and I don’t want to focus on any one because it would seriously be misconstrued and be potentially inflammatory. The fact is there are lots of options.”

Bettman also had this to say:

“Hopefully it’s an alternative proposition that we never have to focus on because our commitment remains making a fair partnership deal with the players.”

I’m surprised Shanahan has gone out on a limb like this. Be prepared to see a retraction after the Bob Goodenow Dissent suppression Goon Squad gets to him. If he says these comments were taken out of context, I’d like CBC to release a full transcript of his conversation with Harrington.

Shanahan may have saved himself some grief, however, with this comment:

“I wouldn’t blame a guy being a career minor leaguer getting an opportunity playing in the big leagues, I would be a little resentful towards an NHL player that went across the lines.”

It’s safe to say that “a little resentful” actually means “really resentful” in context. It’s what I would expect, though, and Shanahan would have been lying if he’d said he wouldn’t mind former-NHLer scabs.