The Stanley Cup is the oldest professional sports trophy in North America, a fact proudly touted in the sports world by the NHL. Now professional hockey can lay claim to another famous first in North American professional sports: it is the first to cancel an entire season. I was raised on LSU football, and later, during the Dale Brown glory years, LSU basketball. When I was a student at LSU, the Tigers began their dominance of the College World Series in the 1990s. Growing up in Baton Rouge, we had no professional sports teams, only the New Orleans Saints, an hour's drive away. Doesn't sound like much, but that hour's drive may as well have been an ocean. I didn't pay attention to the Saints until I was a resident of the New Orleans metroplex, and while I attended a few games, most were at someone else's expense. I got in to hockey my last year in college, when I had my own place and cable television. ESPN's National Hockey Night brought me at least a game a week, and I grew addicted. Maybe it was all the attention Pavel Bure received, but I found myself following the Vancouver Canucks, and thrilled to their Stanley Cup bid in 1994. Taking the Rangers to seven games, it was probably the greatest Stanley Cup series I've watched since I began to love the game. My first NHL game was in 1996, when my spouse and I ventured from New Orleans to Dallas to see the Stars play the Canucks. It was a memorable weekend for several reasons: it was my first time in Dallas; Dallas saw a big snow storm the night of our arrival, leaving us "trapped" in our hotel most of the next day; we saw our some friends we hadn't seen in three years; and the Canucks walloped the Stars. My wife was recruited by a Dallas law firm, and in July 1998, we made the move from New Orleans. I was at the first home game of the 1998-99 season for the Stars, and I watched or listened to every game that year. I stayed up all night long to see Brett Hull score the third-overtime goal (and sorry, Buffalo, it was a goal) to deliver the Stars franchise its first-ever Stanley Cup. I've been to a few games each year since then, mostly thanks to recruiting and client development efforts on the part of my wife's now-former firm. But I've also paid my own way on more than one occasion to see the Stars play. I've rooted for Mo, and Eddie the Eagle, Turk and Nieuwey. And now the players of the NHLPA have thrown away all of the good will they have built up over the years, not only with myself, but with millions of other hockey fans. Yes, I lay the bulk of the blame for this cancellation at the feet of the players and their union. If they were willing to concede to a salary cap at the eleventh hour, why were they not willing to do so earlier in the lost season, when there was still a season to be salvaged? Why are they letting this season go away because of 6.5 million dollars per team. That's right. That is the difference in the total salary-cap figures the teams want to impose, and the players are willing to accept. Six-point-five million. That's about a couple hundred thousand per player on each team. That's pathetic. As I've noted before, these guys get paid to play a game. They get to do as their profession in life something millions of people wish they could do as well for just one afternoon. We made you. Sure, you have great talent and skill. No one denies that. But where would you be without hockey fans? Playing pick-up games on the town's frozen pond in between gutting fish or delivering packages? Professional sports run on fans. Professional sports gain television contracts to reach more fans because advertisers are willing to spend money to reach those fans in an attempt to sell products. No fans means no professional sport. I'm not saying the team owners and the league get a pass, please don't misunderstand. I'm a good little capitalist, and believe both the owners and the players should try to make as much money as possible. But everyone negotiates their salary; first, when you gain employment, then thereafter based on your performance and later experience. It's the same whether you're working at McDonald's, coding for a Fortune 100 company, or playing a professional sport. And sometimes, the business just doesn't have enough money in the bag to pay you what you want--and believe you deserve--to get paid. Maybe the answer isn't a salary cap. Maybe some of these smaller market teams in the NHL should be allowed to shrivel and die, even in the birthplace of hockey, O Canada. That would be good capitalism. It would also mean a smaller marketplace in the NHL for players, so maybe the players and their union should think twice before embarking on a course of action which would lead to that outcome, as fewer of them would be employed. When the Stars began play in Dallas in 1993, many people thought they'd never see the NHL below the Mason-Dixon line. Today, you have five NHL teams in the old South: Dallas, the Florida Panthers, the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Nashville Predators, and the Carolina Hurricanes. Two of those teams have won the Stanley Cup. Those people who thought "What is hockey doing in Texas?" must be out of their minds wondering "What is hockey doing in Tampa Bay?" Never mind the fact that the Lightning now have their name on the Cup. Three years ago, however, Tampa Bay would have been a poster child for the NHL chopping block. The Ottawa Senators have always been so (in my mind, at least). After a wildly successful inaugural season, attendance has been disappointing at Nashville games. I'm not hearing much from the Columbus Blue Jackets, and I can't imagine that market supporting a NHL team in the long run, unless they can consistently begin making long playoff runs. Maybe some of these teams should never have been allowed to be. Maybe some of them should be allowed to fold. None of that really matters now. There will be no 2004-05 season for the National Hockey League. A suitable compromise could not be reached by the two sides. Both sides have gotten rich at the expense of the one thing they cannot afford to lose: fans. It will take years for the NHL/NHLPA to win back the fans it is going to lose with this utter nonsense. I don't particularly care for basketball, other than to actually play it. The NBA holds no appeal to me, even less so now that I've actually attended a NBA game. While I'll watch the NFL, I don't follow a specific team, and I much prefer the college game. I think Mark Cuban and Jerry Jones are both incredible egomaniacs, and could care less about the Mavericks or Cowboys while either is running his respective show. That leaves me with hockey and baseball. My winter, as far as sports are concerned, is shot. I think MLB (talk about a league needing a salary cap) spring season starts next month...
The Dallas Stars crushed the Mighty Lucks of Anaheim and goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere in their season and home opener last night at American Airlines Center. Stu Barnes and Sergei Zubov were the stories of the night, picking right up where they left off last season with their play. New captain Mike Modano led by example on the ice in the 4-1 victory, and there was solid play throughout the lineup. The only bad news for the Stars was the injury to forward Jere Lehtinen, but it doesn't look serious and he is listed as day-to-day. All in all, an oustanding, solid performance from the Stars. If every game could be played as well as this one, Dallas would be sure of bringing home the Cup this spring.
SuperToad has redesigned the Pond, giving up his home-baked PHP model for a site generated by PostNuke. At least this way, his PHP knowledge doesn't go to waste. Now if I could just talk him in to another font for his logo... ;-)
I know, it's not three years in a row, but it is three in the last nine. The New Jersey Devils stomped the Mighty Lucks of Anaheim 3-0 in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals tonight. Though he was unable to play in the Finals, former Star Joe Nieuwendyk became only the 6th player in NHL history to win three Cups with three different teams. I'm not shocked the Devils won, and I'm quite happy about it. I'm not shocked that this series went to seven games, though I am disappointed. Whether or not the Mighty Lucks have what it takes to get here again will be seen in the coming seasons; don't count your lucklings before they hatch, Anaheim. You were never really in this: the Lucks were shut out 3 of 7 games; 2 games were won in overtime. I will say that Game 6 was a phenomenal display of hockey, and the Lucks deservedly won that one. So, Commissioner Bettman, you got seven games on ABC in prime time. Congratulations. Starting in October, let's see you ensure there's an NHL game on ESPN or ESPN2 every single night at least one game is being played in the league. Then we'll see professional hockey, with the oldest sports trophy in North America, start getting the exposure it deserves. (The Stanley Cup is 110 years old.)
Speaking of the Stanley Cup Finals, specifically the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, ponder this: ( Please note that I do not believe my theory, though certain parts are true. ) The National Hockey League has an exclusive television contract with EPSN/ABC. A television contract that, to no one's but Gary Bettman's and the NHL's surprise, is not gaining hockey the expanded audience it seeks in the United States. Viewership has dwindled from the days when Fox carried games for the league (with far more than I've ever seen on ABC). bq. So, what has happened is, Fox has turned to Nascar, ABC is turning to the NBA and ESPN is turning its nose up, cutting 30 percent of its coverage while burying what's left on ESPN2. So, the NHL wishes to increase television coverage for the Stanley Cup playoffs, especially the Finals, and league games in general. ESPN/ABC would, of course, like higher ratings so they can charge advertisers more. ESPN/ABC are owned by Disney. The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim are owned by Disney. If you're looking for a conspiracy, it doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure this one out. The Ducks have talent, that's for sure. Paul Kariya has always been one of the NHL's top players; he's just never had the rest of the team to play with. Giguere has shown that he is one of those top-flight French-Canadian goalies of the Roy-Brodeur caliber. (Can we please stop with the "Gettin' Giggy with it" lines?) But overall, this is not a championship team. Yes, I know there is always a time for Cinderella teams, but the Ducks are not a Cinderella team. Not without help. Look to this season's Minnesota Wild if you want to see a true Cinderella team. The Ducks take out the defending Cup champions, the Detroit Red Wings, in a four-game sweep? Does anyone out there honestly believe the Ducks are that talented? Granted, Detroit didn't seem to play as hungry as the Ducks, but still, a four-game sweep? You have better odds of winning the lottery. Of getting struck by lightning. Then the Stars. At least Dallas handed Anaheim its first losses in this year's playoffs. But again, the Ducks had help to get through that six-game series. I was at Game 2. It had to have been the worst-officiated hockey game I have ever witnessed, in-person or on television. It was atrocious, from both the refs to even the two linesmen. You know there's a problem when the game's referees are announced, and there is a collective "Oh no" from those in attendance. I kid you not. The Stars do not blow leads late in the game. Again, the Stars did not look like the Stars of the regular season--the Stars that thoroughly dominated Anaheim in all but one game they played in the regular season--through all six games, and this certainly contributed to the Ducks "success." Now you can make a case for the Western Conference Finals, and the four-game sweep of the Minnesota Wild. The Wild came off of two seven-game, come-from-behind series to make it to the conference finals. The Ducks, by comparison, coasted in. The questionable calls, however, continued. (Don't think the same thing wasn't happening in the east, either. I'm a little shocked that the Devils were able to fight their way through some equally atrocious officiating, especially during the Eastern Conference Finals against Ottawa.) So the Ducks are in the Finals, playing the New Jersey Devils. You know, the Devils, who have played in the Stanley Cup Finals in three of the last four years, including this one. The Devils, who have won the Cup twice. The Devils, with oodles and oodles of talent, and playoff experience to boot. Not surprising, the Devils crush the Ducks in the first two games of the Finals, not allowing a single goal from Anaheim. Could it be? New Jersey will sweep the Ducks in four? Capturing the Cup in Anaheim? Someone at the NHL/ESPN/ABC hits the panic button. Lo and behold, the series is now knotted at two games each. Providence certainly does shine on those incredibly lucky Ducks. Incredibly lucky Ducks. The series will now go to at least six games, and the price of advertising goes up. Oh, did I forget to mention that the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim are for sale? Gosh, an appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals is certainly worth a price mark-up. A Cup championship team would command a premium. The next two, possibly three, games will be interesting to watch. Of course, it's all just a theory...
One of my favorite sports-talk hosts is moving from WBAP, 820 AM, to the station's ESPN radio affiliate. This stinks, since I never listen to ESPN radio, keeping the radio--when I listen to the radio--on either WBAP or KWRD 100.7 FM (Christian talk radio). This is all in the D/FW metro area, by the way. One problem I have with ESPN radio, or, at least, the affiliate here in town: when I'm watching the freaking Stanley Cup Finals on your company's main network, it sure would be nice to have the game on the radio, if I have to leave the house, as I did this weekend. I wonder if the same would be true if ESPN was carrying the NBA Finals, or the World Series?
Patrick Roy, the best goaltender in professional hockey the past twenty years, announced his retirement today.
"I've had a blast. It's been unbelievable. I've been so fortunate to have lived a dream and have fun for more than 18 years earning a living by playing a game I love," Roy said, alternately speaking in English and French.
"I will remember the good days and cherish the great moments," he said. "I'm leaving with the feeling that I've done everything I could to be the best."
The 37-year-old Roy owns nearly every major goaltending record. He is a four-time Stanley Cup champion, winning two each with Colorado and Montreal. He is the only three-time winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy, awarded to the playoff MVP, and is the NHL's career leader in victories with 551 and games played with 1,029. He also won the Vezina Trophy, given to the league's best goaltender each year, three times. Both of the goalies currently in the Stanley Cup Finals, Brodeur and Giguere, are French-Canadian, and looked to Roy (pronounced "Wah" for you hockey-ignorant plebeians) as their inspiration for making it in the NHL. With two Cups under his belt already, Brodeur seeks a third, while Giguere hopes to begin his own Cup-winning legacy. Looking at what he's accomplished, one could make the argument that, at least as far as the past twenty years is concerned, what Gretzkey was to forwards, Roy was to goaltenders. His performance dimmed slightly these past few years, overshadowed by Brodeur, Belfour, Turco, and others, but they all look to him as the greatest goalie in the modern NHL. I'm just glad I got to see him play. Au revoir, Patrick. Merci.
Stars' color man Daryl Reaugh has expertly captured what we should hear from the NHL front office.
As one of my wife's colleagues put it: "Hockey is the only sport where you can out-play your opponent and still lose."
At this point, with three former Cup-winning Stars in the lineup, I'm rooting for the Devils, and Brodeur's 3d Stanley Cup. Down with the team of
My favorite hockey team clinched its series in 6 games, and is now the #1 seed in the playoffs, thanks to Anaheim knocking off the defending Stanley Cup champs. My second favorite team in the NHL trounched Osgood and the Blues 4-1 at the Garage in their Game 7. And my third favorite team, the upstart Wild, have upset the Avs and mighty Patrick Roy, handing Roy his first-ever Game 7 overtime loss. So the Canucks will face the Wild, and Dallas takes on the Ducks. And thanks to my lovely bride, I'll be at the AAC for Game 2 on Saturday! Go Stars!
One day before the NHL's trading deadline, the Stars make some moves to set themselves up for their run for the Stanley Cup. Currently second overall, Dallas traded big Sami Helenius (and "future considerations") to Chicago for playoff-experienced Lyle Odelein. Prospect Mike Ryan and a 2d-round draft pick go to Buffalo in exchange for Stu Barnes. Brian and I agree that the Stu Barnes trade is a good one, and the gritty forward will help fill the gap left by an injured Bill Guerin, as well as add depth to Dallas' lines. We're a little torn over the defensive trade, as we're both big Sami fans. He has a great presence on the ice, and it's unfortunate that the Stars will have to face off against him in the future. On the plus side, there is young John Erskine waiting in the wings. Erskine exhibits very Hatcher-esque qualities, qualities that have made the Stars' captain one of the top defensemen in the league. Erskine has been up from the minors a few times over the past two years, mostly to fill in during injuries to starting defensemen, and has shown he is a force to be reckoned with. So, nothing huge in the way of trades, but that's not surprising when it comes to the Stars. They pretty much have had all the major pieces they need for a playoff run, and just needed to fill in some gaps. Go Stars!
Former Dallas Star Joe Nieuwendyk, currently with the New Jersey Devils, reached the 1,000-point plateau last night with a goal against Magnificent Mario's Pens in a comeback win for the Devils. Many Stars fans, myself included, were sorry to see Nieuwey go, though we understood Stars management's thinking at the time. Congrats, Joe!
Speaking of the Stars, I think Marty Turco is well on his way to ridding us of the ghost of Ed Belfour. Taking his team to the Finals and winning a Cup will definitely do it. Turco has just been monster in goal this year, and with the team's win over the Kings yesterday, he extended his personal unbeaten streak to 14 games, tying the franchise record. This is something Mr. Belfour was unable to do during his tenure here. Turco anchored the West's defense in the 3d period of the 2003 All-Star Game, and performed brilliantly. Belfour's days at said contest are well behind him. This is not to say that Ed Belfour was not appreciated by Stars fans, nor that he didn't deserve to lead Dallas to a Stanley Cup win. Simply, time has caught up with the Eagle, and as he has moved on, the Stars have shown that their minor league system can produce the same kind of high-caliber goaltending Stars fans are used to. Perhaps best of all, Marty doesn't come with the off-the-ice, emotional baggage Eddie was infamous for. So thanks for your performance, Eddie, during your stay in Big D, but Marty's the future, and the future's bright.
Daryl Reaugh sums up a lot of my feelings on why the Stars are in the wrong division.
In a possible Stanley Cup Finals preview, the current best team in the West took on the current best team in the East (and the league). The Stars trailed most of the game, scored 2 goals in 41 seconds to tie in the 2d, then watched the Sens' Martin Havlat notch a hat trick with his 3d of the evening just moments later.
The Stars didn’t knuckle under, however, coming back to tie it at 3 all, and Bill Guerin put Dallas up with 5:24 left in the 3d. With 30-something seconds left, Modano added an empty netter to seal the deal. Dallas is now 11-1-3 in their last 15 as the race for playoff position slowly begins to heat up. The Stars are now within one point of Ottawa in the President’s Trophy race.
Horrendous officiating, especially by the linesmen, on both sides of the puck. What else is new in today’s Mr. Magoo NHL?
Great game, and if both teams survive through the playoffs, what a Stanley Cup series this is going to be.
It’s nice to see that Craig MacTavish, who came up during the NHL’s bruiser days, hasn’t lost the hockey-player mentality as a coach.