Tagged: NHL

This is it! Opening night for the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights! #VegasStrong


Well, folks, this is a big night for Las Vegas sports fans, as they finally become a major league city with the first regular season home game of the Vegas Golden Knights tonight at T-Mobile Arena.

Granted, it will also be a night to try and start healing after the mayhem of last week. There are a lot of #VegasStrong signs that will line the boards during the game tonight against the Arizona Coyotes. Hopefully, the Knights will give Vegas fans a chance to forget about things for a couple of hours at least. 

It sounds like all of Las Vegas is excited for this game tonight, just based on what I have seen on the live news streams from the Las Vegas TV stations. This is the lead story on all these newscasts there. The good news is people in Las Vegas will actually see the team play on TV tonight, now that Cox Cable has agreed to carry the channel showing their games. Unfortunately, I am going to miss the opening faceoff on TV here in frozen Canada in order to, you guessed it, cover another council meeting.

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Hey, NHL, is Vegas hot enough for you yet? 117 degrees Fahrenheit today!


Wednesday in Las Vegas is the NHL Awards and the expansion draft for the new Vegas Golden Knights. I hope Gary Bettman and all these NHL players in town for the awards are enjoying sweltering in the Nevada desert as we hit the first day of summer.

I was reading this piece in the Daily Mail saying how the streets were deserted because people were hiding out from the 117 degree F heat! That other great hockey town Phoenix, Arizona hit an even worse 120 F today as well. 

This heat is so bad that planes cannot take off, and you’d fry your hands by simply opening the doors outside! As a Canadian, I simply cannot get my head around this sort of extreme temperature. (To think that I once thought Toronto was a hot place.) Anyway, I hope these new Golden Knights players enjoy getting fried to a crisp while walking the streets in Las Vegas.

Stupid P.K. Subban and Taylor Hall deals are more reasons for Canadians to hate the NHL


Anyone who says Rogers needs far more than Ron MacLean to turn around their NHL TV ratings is right. They also need an assist from the general managers of Canada’s seven lousy NHL teams to improve the product on the ice. 

And they aren’t getting it — not from two of them, anyway. Marc Bergevin and Peter Chiarelli.

The mind-boggling trade of Montreal’s P.K. Subban (!) to Nashville for Shea Weber, and the unloading by the Edmonton Oilers of Taylor Hall to New Jersey for Adam Larsson (?), has people up in arms today. Their fans are justifiably mad. Seriously, these two teams might as well have given up these players away for free. Two big names traded away for — two guys. 

You don’t need to be an NHL fan to realize these deals are terrible. In fact — you don’t need to be an NHL fan, period. A CFL doubleheader airs tonight; why shouldn’t Canadian sports fans support that instead of this nonsense they get from the Canadian NHL teams? Seriously, what a joke.

Adding to the Canadian misery is news that Tampa Bay has signed Steven Stamkos again, which comes as a massive shock to fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs who were convinced they had him. 

It also must come as a shock to folks at TSN. They were no doubt going to gear their “Free Agent Frenzy” coverage tomorrow around Stamkos. Now, their coverage is almost certainly going to be about as dull as their NHL trade-deadline coverage was earlier this year. Any deals that happen tomorrow are impossible to top yesterday’s lunacy.

Done deal! Las Vegas awarded the 31st NHL franchise


So it’s official: Las Vegas is getting an NHL expansion franchise for a fee of $500 million. People are happy in Vegas, but a lot of reaction from Canadian fans is crying about how Quebec City and all of Canada got the shaft from Gary Bettman.

Well, Canadians can cry all they want, but a $500 million expansion fee comes to $640 million Canadian factoring in the exchange rate. That’s a ridiculous sum of money, folks, that Quebec would have had to pay just to get into the league.

Frankly, I think Quebec City would be better off trying to get a CFL team in there. They can at least afford that.

Las Vegas looks like it’s heading into the NHL


It appears Las Vegas’s days as a non-major league city will soon be over. Reports are that the NHL’s expansion committee has recommended expansion to Las Vegas for 2017-18. It sounds like the deal will be done June 22, just in time for the NHL Awards also happening in Vegas.

If true, the brand-new T-Mobile Arena will be the proud new home of the team. The NHL will be the first North American big-4 “major league” to set up in Las Vegas — barely beating out the NFL’s Oakland Raiders in arriving in the city. But I’m not even sure the NFL will even come to Vegas, because it sounds like a Raiders’ move there depends heavily on public money for a stadium. We’ll see.

A lot of the comments online are very negative towards the NHL in Vegas, they seem to be trashing Las Vegas as a hockey market and are suggesting it will never fly there. This reminds me of all the people who were saying “pro lacrosse will never fly in Saskatoon,” and where are they now? In hiding, most of them. In particular, folks at FiveThirtyEight insist Las Vegas is a terrible market for NHL hockey, yet these same fools also once insisted that Donald Trump would never win the Republican nomination. So that site’s credibility is down to nothing, in my opinion.

I truly think being the first major league to make it into Vegas will help their cause a lot. Plus, I think fans will really be impressed with that new arena of theirs and want to go to games there. Besides, as I see it, if the NHL can work in Anaheim or Tampa Bay it can also work in Vegas. Good marketing and good promotion will go a long way. 

This will make trips to Las Vegas far more interesting in the future. We await the official announcement.

Farewell to Mr. Hockey, Gordie Howe. RIP.

Sports report: Derby results, lacrosse, the Raptors, and other rants

Happy Mother’s Day Mom! Welcome to Sports News from Nowhere for a Sunday in which I have spent most of my day tuned to sports on TV and my iPad — mainly so I could get away from the Fort McMurray depressing news coverage going on everywhere else. 

So far I am succeeding in keeping my mind off of that news — but not totally. I have been tuning in the Wells Fargo golf championship, and this is that tournament in which shaggy-looking golfer Graham DeLaet has pledged to donate $500 for every birdie he makes to Fort McMurray relief. So you can’t escape the bad news no matter how hard you try.

Actually, the main reason I am tuning in the Wells Fargo golf is because the NASCAR race was last night in Kansas (won by Kyle Busch). Otherwise I would be tuning in to NASCAR right now. Anyway, on to news from the world of sports:

Nyquist won the Kentucky Derby yesterday and you will be happy to know I was able to watch the race. Unfortunately, I must be one of the few people in Saskatchewan who realized the race was on. 

Horse racing has really gone downhill in popularity, not just where I live but right across North America. I cannot pinpoint why this is, because it is still a riveting sport. I notice Northlands Park in Edmonton is the latest race track on its last legs, as this is its last season. But there is no doubt public tastes have moved on to other sports, and particularly to other forms of gambling. My guess is it’s really the casinos that are mainly responsible for driving horse racing into the ground: they’re far classier establishments and their odds are far better, anyway.

I am also sad to report that I must be among the minority of people in Saskatchewan who cares about the NBA playoffs. People here insist on not being excited, which is too bad, because the games in Round 2 have been great. The Toronto Raptors have gone to overtime twice against the Miami Heat and game three in Miami was also competitive, with the Raptors winning 95-91. I will say this about the Raptors: they insist on doing things the hard way. Their series with Indiana went the absolute limit, and this one is shaping up as similar, with game one going to OT thanks to a miracle Kyle Lowry shot from way out that somehow went in the basket and tied the game. Of course, the Raptors then lost in overtime. It figures.

Worse, they are getting banged up. The latest problem is that Jonas Valanciunas was injured in their win Saturday. He will miss the rest of this series. Ouch.

And the National Lacrosse League first round has just concluded and both first-round games went to overtime, with New England beating Georgia on Friday 14-13 and then Calgary upsetting Colorado last night 11-10. 

So you know what that means, folks: it is Calgary versus Saskatchewan for the NLL West title, and that series is going to be a war. I can’t believe there isn’t more coverage of this around here, because the one thing Saskatchewan fans love to do is hate on Calgary, regardless of the sport. Also, the Rush ought to have a captive audience now that the Melfort Mustangs are out of the Western Canada Cup. 

Now a final rant. You had all these sports going on with Canadian teams active in them, and you had Canadian teams playing in Major League Baseball and in MLS soccer yesterday. Yet when I tuned in the sportscasts of these Alberta and Saskatchewan radio stations yesterday, what did we get as the top story? 

That’s right, folks, the hockey scores — even though none of the NHL teams playing in the playoffs are from Canada. I’m sorry, but I really don’t give a damn anymore about what St. Louis or San Jose are doing, or any of these other American teams. And Canadians don’t care either, based on the TV ratings. I guess I’m mad because I tuned in to one of these radio stations, trying to find out who won the bleeping Raptors playoff game because I had missed the end of the game, and I had to listen to all this NHL junk instead. And then the sportscast didn’t even bother to mention the final score in the NBA game! I mean, if you want to put up the NHL scores, fine, but at least mention the other sports — particularly the ones with teams in Canada! All the other sports in Canada are getting shortchanged by our country’s media, folks. That is all I have to say.

That’s all for the moment: now, I’m going to switch the channel to tune in the end of this Tampa Bay-Islanders playoff game. (Tampa Bay Lightning: top sports story in Canada today, even though the place is closer to Cuba.)

It is excruciating to be a Canadian sports fan today! #raptors #bluejays #nhl

You know, it was bad enough Canada’s NHL teams all missed the playoffs — an absence now being sorely noticed this week by Canadian sports fans watching all these hockey shows on Canadian TV, with these anchors all trying in vain to drum up people’s interest in these all-American Stanley Cup playoffs.

But it’s even worse than that for Canadian fans. The Toronto Blue Jays are adding to this misery with a 5-7 start, having lost two in a row to Boston. And now today, in the NBA playoffs, the Toronto Raptors have yet again reminded Canadians that they are the Raptors. They dropped Game One to Indiana, 100-90.

So it looks like they may soon be gone, too, as usual, just like all the NHL teams. And if that happens — boy, will folks at TSN ever be ticked off, because they were counting on the Raptors for ratings.

It almost makes you want to resign as a Canadian sports fan! But look on the bright side. If the Raptors do go down in the playoffs again, it will free up everyone’s time this spring to go to the movies. “I’m cheering for Superman!” “Batman all the way!” 

Definitely more exciting than Canadian sports at the moment.

Good news, sports fans: if you’re bored with the NHL there’s always the NBA

  

Tonight marks the start of the NHL playoffs, which normally for Canadians is as anticipated a moment as Christmas Day. Unfortunately for Canada, all the teams are American, which is bound to mean much less interest north of the U.S. border. 

The good news is that all is not lost — if the NHL bores you to death, don’t worry, life is more interesting in the NBA anyway. 

Tonight as the regular season ends, Kobe Bryant says farewell with his last NBA game. Also, tonight is the night the Golden State Warriors try to beat the Chicago Bulls record for wins in a season, as they go up against Memphis for win #73. 

Heck, if you Canadians are going to watch American teams play it might as well be the NBA, since Americans care more about that league anyway.

May I add the Toronto Raptors made the playoffs. That’s one more Canadian team in the entire NBA playoffs than there is in the entire NHL playoffs.

In case you were wondering: I spent Friday in Edmonton, land of the NHL.

After what has seemed like ages, I finally took a road trip to Edmonton yesterday. Enjoyed listening to Edmonton and Calgary sports talk stations on the radio while driving.

I have to say – I found it refreshing, very refreshing, to hear the radio hosts spend their time talking about the NHL, and a little bit of the Blue Jays and UFC and English Premier League, instead of what fans are stuck with in Saskatchewan. 

And what do fans get stuck with in Saskatchewan? Why, what else — nonstop coverage of the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the CFL. Even when it’s NHL season.

It’s at the point now where they cannot even do an NHL story without the ‘Riders being mentioned! This week the news was about how ‘Riders fans were invading Arizona with their green jerseys to see the Arizona Coyotes play the Anaheim Ducks! And I know people want to show their “Rider Pride” but this, folks, is getting ridiculous.

This is the offseason, guys. Let’s focus on the other sports that are actually going on right now, shall we? This is a paid political announcement.

Oilers-Wild preseason game is on right now from Saskatoon! #nhl

SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon is once again hosting its annual September preseason NHL game, this time featuring the Edmonton Oilers and the Minnesota Wild, with the much heralded Connor McDavid and Regina native Jordan Eberle the star attractions in the Oilers lineup.

As usual, though, the locals care more about the losing Roughriders than about this NHL preseason game. Plus, people here are again doing their usual annual whining about not enough star NHL players in the lineup in Saskatoon. (What do you expect, this is supposed to be the preseason!)

So, just like what happened when the UFC fight night was in Saskatoon, I’m getting most of my information about this game in Saskatoon from out of town. Also, this game is being streamed on Oilers TV (in Oilers territory: AB/SK/NWT) for anyone in the viewing area who might be interested.

I’m with that NBC network TV guy who says hockey players should shave their beards off. Someone has to say it!

 

The big controversy here in scorching hot Canada is that everyone is up in arms over the suggestion by this NBC TV executive that hockey players should stop their tradition of growing these playoff beards. Canadian fans are all acting like this guy is an idiot who doesn’t know hockey.

Except, he’s right! The fact is it’s these players who are the ones who look like idiots with their scraggly beards on the ice. Seriously, these are ugly looking, and it really does make these players look like bums. This is the entire team looking like this, too! 

It never used to be this way. You never saw Wayne Gretzky or Gordie Howe or Bobby Orr with “playoff beards” in their day. Besides, you don’t see these in the other sports, which makes hockey players look even more ridiculous by comparison. So I think this NBC executive has a point. It really is blunting the ability of this sport to go mainstream in USA. 

I don’t know what it will take for these players to abandon the beards, though. Maybe if commissioner Gary Bettman issued a directive? Maybe if the owners offered money to players to shave them off? Maybe one of these shaving companies could do some sort of endorsement deal and supply free razors for life, or perhaps offer a lot of money — like a million dollars per player bonus when a clean-shaven team wins the Stanley Cup. 

Whatever. In any event, it’s time to shave ’em off. 

And while on the subject of the NHL, it’s also time to get rid of hockey in the month of June. You know, back in the olden days the Cup was being paraded around the ice in May. The season would have been done by now. My point is this never-ending hockey season nonsense is really cutting into my baseball watching. Not good.

Canada has no more rooting interest in the Stanley Cup. (Tough luck, Rogers.)

 

Well, so much for Canada in the Stanley Cup. 

Five Canadian NHL franchises had made it into the playoffs, the most teams in a decade, prompting talk not only about a Canadian team winning the Stanley Cup, but of an all-Canadian Cup final for the first time since 1989. 

Anyway, it’s all gone to heck. The Flames were eliminated on the weekend, and with the Montreal Canadiens’ elimination in the second round it means there are no further Canadian teams in the Stanley Cup playoffs. 

The Canadian cup drought now extends to 23 years, to 2016. What’s even harder to accept for the Canadian fans is that two of the squads remaining are teams from the Sun states (Tampa Bay and Anaheim).

Fans of Canadian teams now officially have no reason to care about the Stanley Cup. And because the TV coverage under the new TV deal has been so thoroughly panned in Canada, with Ron MacLean’s role totally minimalized and with George Stroumboulopoulos being shoved down the fans’ throats on Hockey Night in Canada, the fans have no other reason to watch now, either. 

With no Canadian teams left, and with a real prospect of an all-Sunbelt Cup final series, the ratings in this country for hockey are going to go right down the tubes. How do Rogers executives feel today, having handed over $5.2 billion dollars to the NHL for the rights to the hockey games on TV — only for this total playoff debacle to happen? 

Time for the fans to tune in the Blue Jays full time. And as an aside, CFL football cannot come back soon enough.

Sorry folks, I went to a movie and had no time to post about all the news

Well, I have had no time to give my thoughts on the launch of the Hillary Clinton campaign, or the launch of the Marco Rubio campaign, or about Rand Paul feuding with the reporters, or about President Barack Obama in Panama with Raul Castro, or about the Aaron Hernandez verdict, or any of that. 

What happened is I covered a city council meeting on Monday, and then with the weather allowing for decent road conditions for a change, I finally was able to get to Saskatoon to watch a movie on Cheap Tuesday. I am slowly, very slowly, starting to get my life back again. Now the Stanley Cup playoffs are on and I am tuning in to that, along with baseball and other stuff.

But it leaves no time for blog posts. In short, my real life and interests — which have little to do with news — are crowding out the real news I usually put up here. 

Sorry, folks, you’ll just have to deal with it for now. And now, back to watching sports on TV.

Hey TSN, this would’ve been the day for nonstop “FireCentre” coverage of the Toronto Maple Leafs!!! 

 

The Toronto Maple Leafs are a national embarrassment. In a year when five out of seven Canadian-based teams made the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Leafs were part of the “two of seven”, and as a result changes are being made. GM Dave Nonis, interim coach Peter Horachek, and a whole bunch of other people were fired. 

Well, look on the bright side. At least the Leafs won’t be littering our TV screens anymore with their lousy hockey. 

Oh, and in other hockey firing news, Ted Nolan was fired as coach of the Sabres.

Toronto sports fans are finally realizing Maple Leafs tickets are a waste of money. About time! 

 

Found interesting the stories this week about how the Toronto Maple Leafs failed to sell out against Minnesota on Monday for their lowest crowd since 1999. They failed to sell out, even though apparently tickets were going for 50 percent off.

Good. I am glad Toronto fans are finally standing up for themselves and refusing to throw their money away on the lousy product the crummy Leafs have been serving up this entire terrible season. 

Their next home game on Thursday is yet another nothing game, against a true nothing team: Florida. There is a lot of speculation by the sports writers that the Leafs could have back to back non-sellouts for the first time in living memory, and for good reason. I sure as heck wouldn’t watch the Leafs versus Florida, that’s for darn sure.

The thing that always has driven me nuts over the years was this cultish devotion to the Leafs by Toronto fans. They’d keep on paying these absolutely ridiculous sky-high ticket prices to sell out the ACC for the Leafs, when this franchise has done absolutely nothing to earn their business for the last several decades! They haven’t won the Cup in 48 years, going on 49! 

Meanwhile you look at teams like, say, the Toronto Argos, who are having nothing but problems selling any tickets in Toronto even though their prices are lower and they have actually made an honest attempt at winning games occasionally. I know last season didn’t go too well for the Argos but at least they were in the playoff race to the very end, unlike the current Leafs.

Anyway, I hope the fans who are skipping out on Leafs tickets decide to put the money they saved to use by supporting other Toronto teams that might deserve their business. Believe me, the boring Leafs sure don’t. 

It’s Trade Deadline day in the NHL, and yet again nothing important is happening!!!

Anyone interested in watching the annual waste of time that Trade Deadline coverage has become on Canadian TV can tune in to TSN TradeCentre, since this is about the best thing about that network now. 

I don’t know why they even bother, though, since all the biggest NHL trades were done the last few days anyway. All we are getting today so far is news about trades involving (a) no-names and (b) bums.

In fact, I wonder if maybe a lot of these GMs are making a point of doing deals ahead of time, just to avoid getting their trades scrutinized on TradeCentre. Anyway, there’s still time left until the 3pm ET deadline.

Edmonton Oilers fire Dallas Eakins as coach, will be led by interim coaches for rest of season

IMG_0500.PNGThe Edmonton Oilers are a complete shambles. After a stretch of ineptitude that included, among other things, an 11-game losing streak at one point before this latest four-game slide, GM Craig MacTavish has finally had enough.

Today, he fired head coach Dallas Eakins. Said it was strictly based on performance. So now MacTavish will fill in, but Todd Nelson will eventually take over — to finish the season as interim coach, which may become permanent, but even if it does it doesn’t matter because Nelson will be the next guy fired anyway.

What they really ought to do is fire everyone in management and start anew, because I’m now convinced this current regime is a bunch of amateurs — an opinion already held by pretty much the whole fan base of the Oilers after years of failing to capitalize on No. 1 draft choices. This team has drafted enough offensive talent, like Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and the rest, but they have no defence and no goaltending — and even their offence isn’t all that good lately.

If today is not rock bottom for the organization I don’t know what is. The Gretzky days seem like a distant memory now. A lot of upset Oilers fans have been hitting the talk shows and have been blasting the organization’s incompetence at the top, and threatening to cancel their seasons tickets.

Well, finally! A few of them should have started doing that a long time ago, then maybe the Oilers might have avoided this situation. When I point to Canadian hockey fans and criticize their willingness to waste endless amounts of hard-earned money on National Hockey League games, I particularly think of fans of the lousy Edmonton Oilers. They waste their money selling out games, and for what?

In return they are getting a lousy product, one that loses so consistently and so often that they are way out of the playoff race by the middle of the season — and this is in a league that is extremely generous in allowing teams into the playoffs.

The Oilers richly deserve the thorough roasting the fans are giving them right now. They, and Canada’s other NHL hockey teams, have taken their own die-hard fans for granted for far too long. It’s time fans stood up for themselves, and I think finally some of them are up the road in Edmonton.

Thoughts on Las Vegas in the NHL — not quite as dumb an idea as you might think

IMG_0493.JPGThere has been ramped-up talk about Las Vegas finally joining the ranks of major-league cities with a possible NHL franchise locating there.

Prospective investors looking into putting a team into a new arena there have today met the NHL regarding their intentions to launch a season ticket drive to test the market for a team. Nothing’s guaranteed, but that’s what they plan to do.

The rumors have been rampant about NHL and also Major League Soccer interest in the Vegas market. Talk to Canadians, though, and it’s the usual arrogant attitude about how the USA “Sun Belt” doesn’t support hockey and how Canada ought to get more teams instead. They see Las Vegas as being another Florida or Phoenix, places they think are NHL disaster areas.

What these “fans” and “experts” don’t see is the possibility that the Vegas market could become another LA or Anaheim or San Jose or Colorado — not traditional hockey areas but ones that ended up working given the right circumstances. Having been there, southern Nevada strikes me as having a lot more in common with California than with the rest of the Sun Belt. And California’s NHL franchises have all done just fine.

I see Vegas as one of those possible “so crazy it might work” situations. For one thing, it’s not like it is so blazing hot there in the winter. As I have found out, it can really cool down at night in December and January (unlike, say, LA). Also, Vegas does have a reasonably consistent hockey history at the minor league level so that’s a fan base they can tap. Plus, hosting the NHL Awards and exhibition games has helped with fan interest. The other thing is that Vegas is probably better off with a team that plays indoors in the winter anyway, because any major league baseball, football or soccer franchise would have to deal with sweltering heat in July and August in the desert that would make playing and spectator conditions unbearable. (The CFL’s Las Vegas Posse learned that lesson the hard way during their one and only season in business at Sam Boyd Stadium.)

I think there is tremendous value to the NHL in being the first major league to set up in Vegas. This isn’t like Phoenix or Miami where there are three other major league teams well-established and where the NFL dominates the market. Being the only major league sport in town would be a huge competitive advantage. All they’d really have as competitors are UNLV, NASCAR and the fights. But the fights cost an arm and a leg to attend anyway and NASCAR is only one weekend a year, so it’s really just UNLV.

Having said all that, they do need to ice a competitive team there. They don’t need to win the Stanley Cup every year, but they do need to avoid long-term losing like in Phoenix or Florida, or better yet, Edmonton (!). Fans in Vegas would never put up with the kind of nonsense Oilers fans, or for that matter, Leafs(!) fans put up with year in and year out. I don’t get it! Canadians seem almost masochistic when it comes to their slavish devotion to the NHL. These fans really ought to put their foot down occasionally and demand better, like other fans do throughout North America.

Anyway, those are the reasons why I think the NHL would work in Las Vegas. Now, if you asked me which league would be the best fit for Las Vegas, I’d have a different answer: the NBA. The place has always struck me as more basketball-oriented. But apparently it was a fiasco back when Las Vegas hosted the NBA All-Star Game and folks there don’t seem to be very far along towards actually getting a franchise. Seattle’s farther ahead.

There was talk about getting major league baseball a while ago, but the size of the market is an issue and playing conditions in the summer would be absolutely too hot. As for the NFL, they absolutely hate Las Vegas and want nothing to do with the gambling element there.

Major League Soccer could work, though, notwithstanding the heat issues in July and August. Soccer is on the rise in America and Vegas has talked about building a stadium and has approached the league about getting an expansion team. Soccer strikes me as the kind of international sport that might do well in a world-class city like Las Vegas, and there is no question it is the right size of market for an MLS team. Plus, whenever I was in the sports books in the casinos there, there were always people watching soccer games and really into it, so I think it could work.

It would not surprise me if MLS and the NHL both end up in Las Vegas when all is said and done. The only question is who gets there first.

Keith Olbermann’s right, there is no “Original Six” in the NHL. It’s all a bunch of marketing hype!

I just had to share this epic rant by Keith Olbermann on ESPN about the fraud perpetuated on the public by the NHL and its media partners and supporters about their “Original Six” franchises. He points out that most of these, ahem, were not really “original” franchises at all. If you’re looking for originals, there is the Montreal Canadiens, and maybe you count Toronto under a different name. And that is about it. All this “Original Six” nonsense is just a marketing ploy by the league to hype up games, nothing more.

Funny stuff — funny because it is dead-on accurate.

That’s it for me about the NHL, now excuse me while I tune in to the CFL.

NHL season is on!!

I will have more to say soon about the start of the new NHL season, as well as the beginning of the “Rogers era” of NHL national TV here in frozen Canada.

But not tonight. I am far too preoccupied right now, tuning in to live audio of NHL games on the NHL app. See you later.

NHL hockey in Saskatoon today!!! Woo hoo! What, you’re not excited about this?

Just a reminder that on this, the final day of the MLB season, there is NHL pre-season hockey in Saskatoon! Edmonton Oilers versus Chicago Blackhawks in preseason hockey!

Woo hoo! Major league hockey in Saskatchewan! Aren’t we supposed to be excited?

Well, if we are, we are keeping it well hidden. I’ve noticed little local chatter at all for this game among the fans or even the press.

My guess is it’s partly because the Oilers have been so awful for so many years, so nobody is impressed to see those guys here. And why should they be?

The other part, obviously, is the local preference for another sport entirely.

Most of the talk here in the last 48 hours has been about the recent performance of Tino Sunseri and the quarterbacking crisis with the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

You know, football, a sport in so much disgrace at the moment that you now have people going around lecturing us about how we shouldn’t be fans of it anymore. I guess the Edmonton Eskimos are right, then. Saskatchewan football fans really must be horrible human beings.

It’s official: the NHL playoffs have the NBA all beat

As someone who actually gives the NBA the time of day in Canada, even I admit the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs has the NBA all beat for upsets, unpredictability and excitement.

The evidence can be summed up as follows:
Exhibit A: Pacers-Heat. (Yawn, LeBron again??)
Exhibit B: Kings-Blackhawks.

Case closed.

(Oh, and Bob Cole still rocks on CBC.)

Another year of no Stanley Cup for Canada; Habs finally go down the tubes

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I always find it amusing to see Canadian fans react when the last Canadian team standing is knocked out of the Stanley Cup. The fans always regard hockey as “our game” and refer to the players as “our boys”.

Except, these guys aren’t boys, they’re men, and half of them aren’t even from Canada. Moreover, with the game six defeat of the Montreal Canadiens to the New York Rangers last night, it extends the Cup drought for Canada to 22 years and counting (to 2015).

Honestly, I wonder why Canadians even put up with this. Even the Toronto Blue Jays championship drought has been shorter (by a few months).

The Eighties were the last era when Canadian teams last dominated the Stanley Cup finals, with the Oilers dynasty of Wayne Gretzky and company going strong. Montreal also had some strong teams and in fact were the last Canadian team to win a Cup, in 1993.

Ironically, the Rangers won the Cup the next year to start the run of American domination that shows no sign of ending.

Here is a piece by Sportsnet’s Mark Spector on the drought in which he takes a particularly Edmonton view of things, in light of the recent victory by the junior Oil Kings in the Memorial Cup. Given the shambles with the Oilers, that’s the only hockey Cup anyone in Edmonton is getting for a while.

The same can be said for Canada’s other NHL teams. See you at the draft table.

It’s been a lousy year to be a fan of Canadian NHL teams — except in Montreal. Go Habs!

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I honestly do not know why Canadians love their NHL hockey. This league and all their teams keep on letting them down year after year after year, with lockouts, high ticket prices and 21 years without a Stanley Cup.

But it’s been years since we’ve had a disappointment in the regular season like this, with six out of seven Canadian teams not making the playoffs at all.

In fact, not since 1973 has there been only one team from Canada in the Stanley Cup playoffs — a year when the Montreal Canadiens won the Cup.

But only eight teams made the playoffs in the league that year, and you have to keep in mind that there were also two Canadian teams in the WHA that did make their playoffs. So counting that league, this ranks as the worst year for Canada in major league pro hockey since 1970, a year when there were no teams from Canada in the playoffs at all.

At least the Montreal Canadiens will be there this year, or else everyone at the CBC would be jumping out of tall buildings over their grim ratings prospects this playoff year. But sure ratings and revenue generators like the Leafs and Canucks are gone.

In fact, it would be far better for the Canadian networks if all seven Canadian teams made the playoffs. In fact, I’m old enough to remember the days when every Canadian team would be in the playoffs, back in the Gretzky era of Oilers domination. There was a lot more excitement in Canada during the playoffs.

Lately, though, Canadians seem reduced to spectators at playoff time. In fact, in the last couple of years the Canadian teams did not last long at all. It is never the same when Canadian teams aren’t involved in the NHL playoffs, there is just no excitement associated with any of the broadcasts.

And frankly, if you’re just going to see two American teams play on TV you’re better off with it being a baseball game, because you’ll know more people will be interested in that.

The changes have been coming fast and furious this week now that teams have been officially eliminated. First, the Canucks announced the hire of Trevor Linden as their new President of hockey operations. Then came news that the Toronto Maple Leafs hired Brendan Shanahan as their new President.

I also notice a lot of the usual complaining on the radio in places like Calgary and Edmonton, with people calling for heads to roll and the like. Anyway, such is life in Canada for disappointed hockey fans. All that these fans have to look forward to is the NHL draft. And CFL season is still months away, too.

Big deal of the day in NHL was Tampa Bay dealing Martin St. Louis to the NY Rangers

Get ready for TSN and Sportsnet to go nuts with their trade deadline coverage Wednesday

Personally, I wonder how good the trade deadline coverage on TV will actually be. We haven’t had much action at the deadline in recent years, leaving these “insiders” talking about nothing. In fact most of the big deals happened today, with the biggest being Vancouver shipping net minder Roberto Luongo to Florida.

That ends that soap opera. God, the Canucks are a mess right now. Anyway, I think we will be hard pressed to see tomorrow top Tuesday for excitement.

Anyway, you can find TSN Tradecentre here. The Sportsnet Trade Deadline coverage is here.

Sure sign you live in Sask.: Telemiracle is on TV

Yes, it is that time again for Kinsmen Telemiracle 38, which is going live right now from Regina. This is one of those Saskatchewan institutions, right up there with the Riders.

This production is unique because, with the Jerry Lewis telethon kaput (replaced by that two hour special they do now), this is one of the few telethons left in North America that still broadcasts for 20 hours right through the night. And it always makes a ton of money. CTV is showing the whole 20 hours live in the province and you can watch the live stream here.

It’s nice to see old Bob McGrath of Sesame Street fame once again brave the minus 50 windchills to make the trip to Saskatchewan again. Personally, though, I plan to continue my own “marathon” of NHL viewing. That “stadium series” game with Chicago hosting Pittsburgh at Soldier Field was great TV with the snow coming down last night. Today, Vancouver hosts Ottawa in the “Heritage Classic” at BC Place.

Hey, if you can’t watch football, you might as well watch hockey in football stadiums. Pretty good substitute.

Now my thoughts on a big week of TV Sports news, including the new-look Hockey Night in Canada

nhlThe big announcement was made this week about how Hockey Night in Canada is going to look under Rogers control next season.

Contrary to all the usual panicking we have come to expect from the nation’s media about radical changes and people being fired and so on, it looks like they may try and keep on both Ron MacLean and Don Cherry in the new scheme of things.

The plan is for Rogers to show something like 1250 hours of hockey, with Hockey Night in Canada games airing on multiple channels on Saturday including on CBC, with a Sunday-night package on City that will have a Hometown Hockey emphasis to it, and a Wednesday night package as well on Sportsnet. They also are planning a Thursday matchup of US teams (likely an NBC feed, I think) and will continue on with coverage of regional games for the Canucks, Oilers and Flames.

It sounds good in theory, having all these games available. Still, these guys at Rogers had better not start hiking up the cable fees or forcing people to pay more for live streams and so on, because then I will tell them exactly where to go.

Seriously, I’m still mad at the NHL over all their work stoppages, lockouts and other idiocy. This league is on thin ice with me, and I’m quite prepared to tune in other hockey instead, or for that matter other sports such as my beloved CFL. These guys need to watch what they are doing.

Now a few words about TSN and their continuing recovery strategy after being dealt this big body blow in losing the national NHL rights.

They have been continuing to load up with  other sports, making a deal with Major League Baseball to add ESPN games on Monday and Wednesday nights in addition to their Sunday night schedule.

I have to laugh about TSN’s new-found interest in baseball, though, because only a few years ago they were totally dumping the sport and dumping the rights, all so they could load up on hockey. Times have sure changed and I think baseball fans will welcome this move.

The other move they made was that massive 12-year deal to steal Ottawa Senators regional rights away from Sportsnet and put those games on TSN.

This is big news, folks, because it means TSN will stay relevant as an NHL rights-holder in most of Canada, from Newfoundland all the way to the Alberta border.

They now have regional rights to the Senators, the Montreal Canadiens, the Toronto Maple Leafs (though Rogers still have the majority of their games) and the Winnipeg Jets. Since Saskatchewan gets Jets games is part of their territory, this means TSN has access to eight of the ten provinces for regional NHL rights.

The only places TSN are shut out is Alberta and BC, where Rogers has long term deals with the Flames, Oilers and Canucks. Then again, those places always regarded TSN as the “Toronto Sports Network” anyway.

Even in those markets TSN is not totally out of luck, because they hold rights to curling, the CFL, and to Vancouver Whitecaps of Major League Soccer, all of which are popular in these areas. In fact, in Saskatchewan the CFL is pretty much all that matters, so TSN will always have a captive audience in Riderville.

I am guessing that at the end of the day the people who are coming out laughing after all this rights-shuffling are the people at TSN, because they still get to show NHL hockey to most of the country, and for less of a cost. Something to think about, folks.

NOW A FEW THOUGHTS ON TSN IN THE POST-NHL ERA

TSNWhen news broke that TSN lost national rights to NHL hockey for 12 years, my first suggestion was they become big football fans over there. Turns out TSN is following all my advice, even before I provide it.

It turns out right after Rogers took the NHL rights, Bell swiped away the Rogers late-Sunday-afternoon NFL package that Rogers has held for the longest time — going back to the old CFMT-TV days in Toronto. Bell also swiped away the entire NFL digital rights as well.

This is big news — it basically means the NFL belongs to CTV and TSN all day on Sundays, right from the early-afternoon package through the late afternoons, to the NBC Sunday night game, and into the Monday night game. On top of that, CTV has the entire NFL playoffs. Rogers is reduced to the Thursday night NFL Network package. I suppose having a Thursday game is better than nothing, but Rogers sure doesn’t look like the place for pro football at any point in the near future.

Combined with the CFL package on TSN, Bell basically owns football in Canada. In November from now on, they’ll be able to show an NFL doubleheader on CTV, another NFL doubleheader on one of the TSNs, and a CFL playoff game doubleheader on the other TSN during the afternoon hours.

That creates some excellent possibilities for programming over there if TSN decides to give football the kind of saturation coverage they currently devote to hockey, They could put on all kinds of football pre-game and highlight shows with the staff they have now, and basically give it the kind of coverage that we usually see from the Americans. Personally, I think it’s about time the sport got that sort of treatment in Canada, because many football fans in Canada are sick and tired of seeing that sport treated as second-class in this country by the nation’s media.

I don’t know what all the football coverage will mean, though, for TSN’s coverage of auto racing on Sundays. It shouldn’t impact Formula 1 since those races usually air in the mornings, but it could impact the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Coverage of the NFL and CFL on TSN could crowd NASCAR right out in November, during the “Chase.” Maybe Bell puts NASCAR on CTV2 or something like that. Then again, the package could end up moving to Sportsnet now that they have time to fill on Sundays. The bottom line is I have no idea what is going to happen. We’ll see, but in any event more football is a good thing for TSN.

The second big thing TSN has done is they have moved swiftly to re-sign a lot of their best talent, including James Duthie, Bob McKenzie, Darren Dreger and just recently Gord Miller. I get the feeling TSN is going to ramp up their coverage of the World Juniors as well as general news coverage about hockey, so you’ll keep on seeing their Trade Deadline shows and Free Agency coverage with the group they have now.

What they really need to do, though, is steal away the regional NHL packages that Sportsnet currently has now — for the Oilers, Flames, Canucks, Senators — and put the regional games on TSN. That would solve all their hockey coverage problems, but that’s easier said than done.

The most recent news from the other day is that TSN has extended their deal for programming with ESPN, prompting a lot of dismissive talk from people about how TSN is turning into the ESPN of the north. Well, it always has been the ESPN of the north, there is nothing new about that. At least this will mean programming like more college football, more college basketball and the NBA. I think that’s good, because if there is one thing I am really ticked off about, it is a lack of college football, college hoops and NBA coverage on Canadian television. Instead, we usually get stuck with the usual over-saturation of hockey coverage instead.

I’m sure soccer fans out there have similar gripes, too. Anyway, it looks like TSN will keep up with coverage of that sport — they already share half the Barclays Premier League with Sportsnet, and just recently came word TSN has grabbed the entire rights to the Vancouver Whitecaps in MLS.

This is exactly what TSN needs to do. Soccer is on the rise as a TV property not just on Canadian TV but American TV as well. A big reason why is because these games simply look great on HDTV. But it’s also because fans in North America are slowly but surely realizing soccer is about as big-time as it gets in sports in the world. Billions of people in the rest of the world cannot be wrong.

Anyway, that is my extensive screed about TSN and what they ought to be doing. Basically, they don’t even need my advice because they are doing all the things I think they should be doing anyway, given the utter disaster that has befallen them. Seriously, losing the NHL national package really is a disaster, given the outrageous number of Canadians who are hooked on hockey, but as I point out, it isn’t the end of the world.

WHERE WERE YOU 25 YEARS AGO TODAY?

YOU JUST CANNOT GET AWAY FROM NHL FREE AGENCY COVERAGE ANYWHERE ON CANADIAN SPORTS TV

I notice TSN is going full blast with their Free Agency Frenzy coverage on TV while Sportsnet also has non-stop coverage with their own panel of hockey pundits and talking heads.

The live continuing coverage is the usual hockey overkill we’ve come to expect in Canada, with these guys all dissecting Daniel Alfredsson signing with Detroit from Ottawa, and Nathan Horton going to Columbus from Boston, and of course that big Boston-Dallas trade that saw Tyler Seguin end up with the Stars.

Personally, though, I’m with Dallas Stars fan Rod Pedersen who is more excited about sports that are actually playing games — like the CFL, which sees a big Calgary vs Saskatchewan matchup tonight at Mosaic Stadium in front of upwards of 40,000.

Pedersen says let’s worry about hockey when the snow falls. I’m with him there, and I suspect so are most sports fans in Saskatchewan on this hot July day. All activities associated with ice and snow should be the furthest things from anyone’s mind today.

We may still be hockey fans, but we at least have our priorities straight compared to the rest of the country.

A BIG CELEBRATORY WEEK OF NEWS FROM NOWHERE

No, I’m not referring to the gays’ and lesbians’ reaction to the Supreme Court decisions, I’m talking about the Chicago Blackhawks.

There were something like two million people at the victory rally on Friday, including a big victory rally in Grant Park. Pretty impressive — maybe the Cubs will get a crowd that big one day if they ever win something.

There could be some FCC fines levied to some of the Chicago TV stations if they aired live what was actually said by the winning Blackhawks from the podium. Check out this brief but F-bomb filled rant from Corey Crawford.

Going on today is the NHL Draft and I really was hoping this would be the end of the NHL for a while. I’m sick of seeing nothing but NHL news on the national sportscasts when what I really want to see is more football news. Unfortunately, I was reminded the other day that there will, indeed, be even more nonstop NHL coverage in this country when free agency hits July 5.

Speaking of the NHL Draft (UPDATE) — wow, the Canucks just unloaded goalie Cory Schneider to the Devils for the ninth pick.

I’ll put up the movie box office report when I come back. For now, that’s it, a very brief News from Nowhere on what for me is a holiday weekend devoted entirely to goofing off.

THE NHL NEEDS TO WRAP IT UP. HOCKEY IS NOT A SUMMER SPORT — I DON’T CARE HOW GOOD THE GAMES ARE!!!

Seriously, folks, this is ridiculous. We are officially into summer, according to the calendar. But even though it’s June 23, we still are playing NHL playoff hockey with Game 6 set for tomorrow. nhl

Now, granted, the games between Chicago and Boston have been dynamite, with three overtime games in the Stanley Cup finals. It’s been great hockey. But honestly, folks, the last thing I want to do when it is sunny and warm out is watch a hockey game.

It’s also the last thing I want to see when it’s raining, or even storming. Game One in Chicago was actually played with a raging severe thunderstorm going on outside the arena, with massive hail! In fact, an AHL playoff hockey game was scheduled in Oklahoma City on the night of May 31 when that tornado hit, and the players had to hide in the basement instead!

Then you have places like Alberta that are getting massive floods. Even the Saddledome has been hit by flooding. Do you think folks in southern Alberta care about hockey today? Of course not! Yet the NHL insists on running a never-ending season right into the summer!

These NHL games are diverting attention from major league baseball, CFL football, auto racing, and the other sports that should be commanding our interest at this time of year. I’m sick of tuning in the sports shows hoping to see Blue Jays or Roughriders news, only to get NHL news instead. Personally, I’m more enthusiastic about the CFL season starting up than I am about the NHL at the moment. These guys in the NHL should wrap it up already and shave off their ridiculous playoff beards, and allow the summertime sports to take over.

The Blackhawks could raise the Stanley Cup with a Game 6 victory tomorrow night in Boston. It’s past time for this season to end, folks.

PLAYOFFS?!

LIKE EVERYONE ELSE IN CANADA I AM WATCHING NHL TRADE DEADLINE COVERAGE ON TV

Or should I say, “Calgary Flames firesale” coverage, because that is what it has been the last few days. I guess the news so far is goalie Miikka Kiprusoff is staying put there. Well, that’s news since they seem to be getting rid of just about everyone else on the team.

TSN’s TradeCentre NHL trade deadline page is here. Their livestream is here. The link to TSN’s TradeTracker is here. Sportsnet’s trade deadline page is here.

And for what it’s worth, this is NBC’s effort. See, they’re even interested in the ‘States. Less than an hour to go until the deadline.

THIS LONG, EMBARRASSING NHL LOCKOUT IS OVER!!!

I woke up to find out a tentative agreement was reached last night after marathon negotiationn sessions in New York between the NHL and NHLPA. nhl

Obviously this is the big story on TSN, who are currently running saturation around-the-clock live coverage of the end of the lockout. The celebration parade starts in Toronto at noon tomorrow. Just kidding. 

As for me, I’m going back to watching the NFL playoffs. Yes, I have my own priorities straight.

IT’S OFFICIAL: THESE NHL TALKS ARE A COMPLETE DEBACLE

IT’S STILL HOCKEY NIGHT IN SASKATCHEWAN, NOT SO MUCH EVERYWHERE ELSE

Hi, again. With our resident sports guy down in Mexico, I am doing the SJHL beat this week. Tonight, I’m covering the Battlefords North Stars versus the Nipawin Hawks. Saturday, the North Stars host Weyburn. sjhlI’ve also been writing a few stories this week for the sports pages on SJHL and other hockey happenings. There is never a dull moment covering this sport.

Meanwhile, folks in the national sports media in this country, assigned to cover a certain league that I absolutely refuse to mention by name because I am so annoyed with them, continue to waste their time reporting on fruitless negotiations. Can you imagine these big-league hockey reporters with these networks, stuck tracking down the negotiators and following them to these hotels where they haggle it out behind closed doors? Then, at the end of the day, these reporters get a grand total of one minute of comment from somebody important as he walks out the door!! What a life!

Seriously, I am not missing the ^^^ season at all. I am having way too much fun following the SJHL and sitting in the press box at the Civic Centre, drinking hot chocolate and taking lots of pictures for the newspaper. Occasionally, I’m able to get good photos of someone moving in on net and scoring a big goal.

Also, remind me to rant and rave soon about the World Junior Hockey Championships coming up in Ufa, Russia. I have a few choice words to say about the ungodly hours in which we are asked to get up in the morning to watch Team Canada play on TSN. That, of course, is assuming you even bother to wake up so early at all. Whoever made up the schedule really has a sense of humor, not. That’s all.

UPDATE: For those wondering what the final score was on tonight’s game, the North Stars came back from a 1-0 first-period deficit to beat the Hawks, 3-1.

NHL TALKS SUMMED UP IN ONE WORD: AAARGH!!!!

Well, three days of talks with that “new dynamic” of owners and players ended disasterously today, and all I have to say is this is getting embnhlarrassing.

On Tuesday we had all that talk of Kumbaya and everyone was talking about how productive the negotiations were and how optimistic they were. Everyone was reporting on all the progress, and everyone’s hopes were raised again that the league and the players were about to make a deal.

Me, I figured they’d all run themselves off the cliff eventually like they usually do, even though commisioner Gary Bettman and union head Donald Fehr  were not involved in the latest talks. Some of these stories were just ridiculous, playing up Sidney Crosby’s role in these talks and saying how Crosby was saving the NHL. All the usual baloney.

There were even Twitter tweets yesterday about players in Europe being told by the coaches to get back to their teams in time for the start of the season. So much for all that talk.

Last night, at the SJHL game I was covering, I actually tuned in to the sports talk shows on the radio I had with me, getting the latest updates. One of the stations reported there was supposed to be some sort of media conference where there was going to be some sort of announcement and to expect it any minute. That ended up not happening at all. Now we know that talks last night were rocky and that the owners got blue in the face and threatened to leave the room at one point. Today, we’re right back to the dueling press conferences by both sides. Bettman in particular looked more upset than I’ve seen him in a long time.

As for all these “experts” and “insiders” covering this debacle in New York, they looked as grim as I’ve ever seen them.  Like I said, by covering the SJHL I have the better of the deal.

For more information on the latest developments you can check out the reporting from TSN because, frankly, they’ve been on top of these talks from the beginning compared to the yahoo reporting we’ve gotten from these other people who obviously have no clue what’s really happening.

I apologize for sounding angry and ticked off, but seriously — what we witnessed today from both sides with these press conferences was a complete embarrassment for the sport of hockey. These folks don’t look like they can agree on what pizza to order, or even who to order the pizza from.

None of these folks look interested in getting along.  By all rights a deal should’ve been done by now. Last year, the NBA finally got its deal done by the end of November and were playing by Christmas Day. Right now the NHL doesn’t look like it’s even interested in playing. Who knows when they will be back — by baseball season, perhaps?!

As for the fans, the anger out there has been through the roof leading up to this week. A lot of the NHL die-hards I know are so angry they are ready to swear right off the league, and I don’t blame them. Who in their right mind would want to line the pockets of the folks we saw at the podium today?

All I ask is for somebody, somewhere, out there to please bring back the WHA. Seriously, I’ve had it!