Archive for June, 2005

Verbal Cheap Shots

Jamie Fitzpatrick, about.com Pro Ice Hockey Blog:

“The tempest will pass in a few days. But it’s a good reminder to Gary Bettman about the new dynamic he has created. Bettman and the NHL owners invested several years in a cynical campaign to paint hockey players as greedy, privileged fat cats. It worked nicely, as most fans stayed happily ignorant of the core issues in the labor dispute, bought into the myth that it was all about achieving competitive balance, and simply decided they had no sympathy for a bunch of millionaire jocks (and thus supported the NHL).”

UPDATE 10:38

Kara Yorio has a good article about the perception of fan ignorance, but keying more in on how the league wouldn’t have cancelled the season if it didn’t have an assumption that the fans were going to return no matter what. And that we’ll forgot about promises for drops in ticket prices.

What about Nick?

After reading analyses of the Red Wings’ 2005-2006 payroll on Mlive and DetNews, which were curiously similar to my post from Saturday, I was left stumped. Sure, they said to buyout Derian Hatcher and Ray Whitney, maybe even Darren McCarty. But what about Nick Lidstrom? You know, the guy slated to make $7.6 million post-24% rollback? With a $36 million neighborhood cap ceiling, that’s more than 1/5 of the total payroll. Last season’s payroll was $78 million, making Lidstrom approximately 1/8 of player costs back then.

I know it’s a taboo topic, but I think it’s time to bring up the subject of getting Lidstrom’s contract either re-negotiated or deferred, or, God forbid, bought out if he refuses the first two options. We certainly can’t pay him $7.6 million. So get past the typical Wings fan loyalty to Lidstrom, and get in the GM seat. Even if Nick is one of the best players in the world, spending 1/5 of the payroll on him alone may actually make the Wings worse off than (gasp!) letting him go and balancing out the team with the money left behind. It’d mean filling out a lot of the roster with Griffins and journeymen veterans if we keep him at that price.

Now don’t jump all over me and say I want Nick gone and accuse me of Hockeytown heresy. All’s I’m saying is that the media is skirting the issue of Nick Lidstrom’s dinosaur salary for 2005-2006, and expect for it to be addressed or else the Wings are going to be the Griffins again next season. And you all remember how bad the 2003-2004 season was…and that was due to injuries. So let’s not self-inflict it by paying Lidstrom $7.6 million.

Manny Legace: NHLPA has failed the players, fans, everybody

Manny Legace, Red Wings player rep:

“The whole thing is a farce. We basically sat out for nothing, wasted a lot of money for nothing. It makes no sense to me…I wish we would have offered this deal last summer. Maybe (owners) would have been more generous. Maybe negotiations could have taken only two weeks, like the NBA (which recently signed a new collective bargaining agreement). They (union leaders) ticked off all the owners and (the owners) went out to screw the players. They had the right intention. They made everyone buy into what they told us. Now it seems like they’re giving up everything just to start the season on time…If we’re going to give up all this now, why wasn’t the union smart enough to get a deal done sooner, instead of saying, ‘Screw you,’ (to the owners) the whole time? I lost $1.3 million. What was the purpose? We hurt businesses downtown, we hurt fans, we hurt everybody – for nothing. I feel bad for those people. I could understand if we were still sticking to a cause. What reason did we sit out for? It doesn’t make sense…It’s not just him (Goodenow), it’s the whole (executive) committee.”

If you can’t tell who “lost” the lockout, just listen to the players in the coming weeks. They’re starting to come out of the closet.

Kris Draper Pajama Party

Kris Draper was coming off his best season offensively, winning the Selke as best defensive forward and signing a four-year, $11.25 million contract at this time last summer. The deal also included a no-trade clause, which says a lot about Draper’s character and stature on the team. He’s the arguable replacement for Steve Yzerman as captain, but these days he’s just taking in the time off. Other than charity games and playing for the Canada at the world championship in Austria, Draper has taken advantage of his time off to, you’ll never guess it…attend a pajama party.

“The quality time I’ve been able to put in with them is irreplaceable. I jumped into their everyday lives. Usually, they have to jump into my life because I travel so much when I’m playing…I cook meals and do the kids’ baths. I got real good at the instant oatmeal for breakfast, and we barbecue all winter so I was able to barbecue, broil up vegetables, make sure everybody was getting healthy meals.”

Daughter Kennedi, 5, and son Kienan, 3, feel the same way. When the opportunity came to have a mother-daughter pajama party at school, Kris got the nod:

“They had a mother-daughter pajama party at school. For whatever reason, Kennedi had in her mind she wanted her dad there. I went in my lounging clothes. I was there with her and her whole class and all the moms – the only dad.”

But Kris wouldn’t want it any other way during the lockout. He had the opportunity to play in Switzerland, but backed out after realizing what he would be leaving behind:

“That’s the reason I didn’t go over and play in Europe. There’s no way I would have been able to leave my wife (Julie) and kids to go over there.”

Reacting like everyone in the hockey community to the cancellation, Draper had to get away. Destination: Cancun, Mexico for a 10 day family vacation. But returning home to Detroit brought the reality of the lockout back, to which Draper is rather optimistic:

“I’m going to be excited, relieved, and hopeful that I don’t have to go through this again and, for our sport, hopeful that nothing like this has to happen again. There’s been a lot of damage to our sport. The players realize we have to build it back up, and we’re committed to doing that. We want to start the repair process and get the game back to where it belongs.”

And I know, Jacko, you perked up when you heard about a pajama party. Well sorry, you weren’t invited…for obvious reasons…

Jeremy Roenick TSN Interview: Let’s Clear Things Up

Here are Jeremy Roenick’s comments from an interview with Rod Smith of TSN. Jeremy spoke from Sun Valley, Idaho, his summer hang-out spot:

Smith: “We are live so whatever you say-”

JR: “It was a strong statement, but it was very a strong question. Which, by the way you didn’t hear on all the promos that were played. All you saw was my response. You didn’t see the 14 minutes beforehand when I went on a rampage about how we have to make this game better for the fans. And bring them in and coddle them more, and make it easier for them to watch in the pocketbook, more exciting for them to watch on the ice, and give them more of an element to go and watch the game. We have to coddle them. But you didn’t see all that. All you saw was my negative stuff. So it’s another media ploy to get something controversial out of something that was actually started as a very, very fan-appreciative, fan-friendly
interview.”

Smith : “You’ve been in these situations before and know how the media operates -”

JR: “I understand that, which is another reason why I’m here. But that doesn’t mean I can still agree with it every time it happens, and it happened again. And I’m dealing with it and I’ve been dealing with it all day. There has not been a call I have not taken or an interview I haven’t taken…to let everyone know that my whole interview was about making sure that we get a deal done. Let’s get a deal done now, soon. Who cares what it is. Who cares who wins or loses anymore. I really don’t care so much. It’s been too long. The Game’s been gone, the fans have suffered too much. Who cares who wins or loses, we need to get a game back on the ice. We need to make it more exciting for the fans. We have to make it higher scoring, maybe easier to attend the game financially. Make the fans see us more, more interviews, get them closer to the Game. We have to make this more of a fan-friendly game is what I was trying to get to. But you couldn’t understand that through all this media stuff.

And I would never, and everybody who knows me for 17 years I have worked to try and keep a fan-friendly relationship, my whole career. Sign autographs at the rink, after games, before games; I’ll wait till everybody gets one. I’ll say ‘hi’ in the street. Shaking hands, giving time to take a picture. No matter what time of the day, who I’m with, or how long it takes. The fans are the #1 most important entity in professional sports. It would go totally against my nature, totally against my nature, to tell the fans not to come and watch. I love the fans. I’m a hot dog left and right for the fans. I love it. I love throwing pucks and winking and all that stuff. In my answer, when I was very riled, and I’m sorry I get very heated, I get very animated, I’m a passionate person. But I was referring to a very, very very small percentage of people, that I’ve even encountered that have a gripe against me, against hockey players – not the hockey fan. At all. I’d never do that…and all you fans: come back, cause I love you, we love you. And we need you.”

Bolded are the key elements of the interview that cleared things up for me. Much more so than watching the two minute clip TSN offered or even I’d imagine being at that press conference and taking in the entire 14 minutes. The fact is that JR was riled up and he needed to do this clarification interview to give us a better understanding of his feelings.

I knew JR was a guy who’s stuck up for the fans in the past, but I really thought that comment was directed at some of the fans. If not, he should’ve prefaced it with “all you guys in the media who call us this, this, and this,” rather than throwing it out there and using “everyone out there…” when it’s obvious fans are listening in as well. It was a mistake in the heat of the moment. Maybe he had golfed a bad round of golf before taking the mic. That’s fine. I was going to watch hockey next season either way, but I know this comment could’ve hurt a lot of the US fan base especially, so I want to get this out there.

When I read the quotes the first time, I was more taken aback by how he had trashed Goodenow and the rest of the NHLPA for not listening to him and the smart players back in February. I really thought that was going to be the story. It followed up Jagr’s comments perfectly. I barely had noticed the possible insult of a huge block of fans until the outrage started coming in, and then I read through the quotes again and saw where it was all coming from. And it really did feel like a slap in the face for some of the fans who have a right to be upset with the players (especially February on). But I was more worried about how other people took it, because I really have had this feeling about JR all along that he wouldn’t be saying that type of thing in the literal sense. Let’s move on. Of all guys, JR deserves a pass on this one. And don’t you love his comments about getting the deal done!

Jeremy Roenick: Comments Taken Out of Context

Jeremy Roenick isn’t taking back his comments, nor is he charging misquote, but he’s saying his comments about fans were taken out of context by the majority of media outlets, especially in the US. He even left several messages with ESPN asking for more fair coverage:

“Before I went into my rant, I was talking about the game of hockey, about getting it back on the ice, about what we have to do for the fans and telling people it’s not about who wins or loses, it’s about the game. But the media picked out the negative stuff. Don’t show snippets of the interview; show the whole interview, the whole message. My message during the interview was: How do we make the game more appealing to the fans?”

It’s an easy charge to make by any professional athlete. But if you give a two minute interview and release a tirade at the end of it, that’s going to be the story. When you say things like he said, even if in the context of a calm interview, you put yourself in the position to look like an idiot. He should know that by now…

And lashing out at fans, even if it were a small block of them, is the last thing players should be doing right now. And Roenick lashed out at around 60-65% of fans with his comments about how fans who see players as greedy shouldn’t watch/attend games next season. Sorry JR, but it’s easy enough for us not to show up or care. And your comments only make it easier…

UPDATE 6:58 PM

More from JR:

“But the media picked out the negative stuff. … Don’t show snippets of the interview; show the whole interview, the whole message. My message during the interview was: How do we make the game more appealing to the fans?”

You just have to go to the school of Howard Dean to learn that an angry outburst can overshadow an entire message. It is not just what you say, but how you say it. Reportedly, Mario Lemieux had similar comments before JR’s conference time, where he said the players aren’t greedy and this new CBA is exhibit A for proof. But you don’t see his name plastered all over the headlines. Because he said it with respect and didn’t say “kiss my ass” at the end of each sentence.

Unfortunately, a reader of the Vancouver Province has taken the opportunity to use the JR rant as proof that NHL players are dumb:

“Not only are the players spoiled and cocky, they are also generally poorly educated. The majority of National Hockey League players barely have their Grade 12. The majority of us who buy tickets are educated enough to know that the outcome of this dispute would end this way.”

Well, I’m not going to go through every team, but Krzysztof Oliwa (computer genius), Igor Larionov (wine connoisseur), and Steve Moore (Harvard, degree in environmental science) are a few names on the NHL Honor Roll, not to mention all the NHLers who played college hockey I could list.