As the Collective Bargaining Agreement turns - part 1

Before I start an inevitable discussion about the collective bargaining agreement expiring on September 15th, and the resulting NHL strike/lockout/work stoppage, I have to get a few background facts out of the way.

This article in the Winnipeg Sun touches on quite a few bases from the owners perspective, Value of NHL franchises plummets.

The sale price of NHL franchises has plummeted by more than 50% in the past four years, and only six clubs generated enough revenue from tickets and broadcasting last season to cover player salaries, says a report by investment banker Moag & Company.

Right off the bat this article swings for the fences. I doubt that the NHLPA would agree with this report, but coupled with another [the Levitt report], the NHL is starting to put some solid information behind their claim that the league is in financial trouble.

This Moag & Company report examines the average value of NHL franchises mentioned above, the new NHL television deal, attendance, and the fact that "ticket prices have likely gone as high as they can". Using the investigative reporting that made this blog a must read for 6 people in Estonia, I have found a link to more information on this report, National Hockey League review and outlook - Moag & Company.

The Levitt report examined if the numbers provided by the league "adequately and appropriately account for and capture all revenues and expenses associated with operating a professional hockey franchise in the NHL", whether the financial information is accurate based on his verification, whether affiliate related income is included [I have many questions about this point], and finally the big kicker: "Whether the current relationship between League-wide player costs and League-wide revenues is consistent with reasonable and sound business practices in this industry".

The new television contract with NBC was mentioned as another sign of the apocalypse for the league. Instead of enormous sums of money up front a la ABC, the league and NBC will split advertising revenue. According to CBS Market Watch, the league will lose out on fees to show regular and postseason games. The ESPN cable contract was renewed for 1 year at $60 million, with 2 optional years at $70 million.

Many would say the ratings for the NHL are anything but mixed. The truth is, game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals earned a respectable 4.2. The rest of the series was much lower, but Canada was a different story. According to the Sports Business News, the audience was up 35% in Canada for the entire playoffs.

But just talking about ratings almost validates the criticism of the league. I would like one person to send me a newspaper article bashing the NHL that does not mention television ratings. This really began to bother me last year, during one of the best playoffs I can remember, when "professional" journalists began to compare the NHL with bowling, the WNBA, and Armadillo Racing [last paragraph].

The speed and physical play that make the game great live does not translate well to television. Fox tried its glowing puck, ABC tried its remote control eye in the sky, and Montreal tried placing its camera 2 feet behind drunk fans. What I said last year at Stanley Cup time still holds true, unless you are a die hard fan or grew up playing the game, watching the NHL on TV is not the most compelling event.

[Note: My past solution to this was to have Hollywood directors guest-produce an NHL broadcast. It would create new ideas from the most creative people in the business, it would create an unusual NHL event mentality which would draw more viewers, and it might even sell a few more LA Kings tickets. Start with the Canadian directors.]

If you are going to judge a game solely on ratings, then the league is in trouble. What I have yet to understand is the failure to capitalize on those who are die hard fans. Number of eyeballs watching a broadcast is one thing, but getting those eyeballs to reach for a credit card and charge a six pack of Molson is another [if anyone from Spaten is reading this, call me]. If Molson/Spaten/SierraNevada signed an NHL advertising contract, how many fans would drink a beer to save the NHL? Beer is the national liquid of Canada, hockey is the national sport, do the math. Advertising is depth and breadth, eyeballs and wallets. If you can not get enough eyeballs to woo advertisers, then the league should advertise the passion of its fans.

But how does NHLPA union president Trevor Linden feel about the upcoming labor Armageddon, rising ticket prices, falling ratings, and my beer sponsorship plan?

We feel like we've taken their issues and dealt with them, and put in a plan that would solve the problems... But we're not going to talk about a hard-cap system, and that's what we keep getting shown to us.

Fair enough. To be balanced, Linden did detail the players offer to reduce salaries by 5% across the board, reduce entry level salaries, and institute a luxury tax system. But Florida Panthers forward Olli Jokinen sums up the players position a little more to the point.

The young guys don't know what's going to happen now... But when you get older, you look back to 10 years ago, what those guys did for us. The highest-paid guys were making like $4 million and now it's $10 million; the average salary was about $500,000; now it's $1.7 million. A lot of guys paid a big price with the last one. Now a lot of young guys owe them. Now the young kids are making tons of money when they come into the league. So those guys did the right thing.

I would respond with a simple statistic, which I first saw in ESPN Magazine. This quote is from a Sports Business News article on NHLCBAnews.com.

Approximately 75 percent of the league's $2 billion in revenue is allocated to players' salaries and benefits.

I would just like to ask Olli, where are those salaries are coming from? In San Jose, if my memory is correct, ticket prices have increased every year except for one. To the organizations credit, it did not increase ticket prices for season ticket holders this season, and will not again next year, but single game purchases did increase. Next year will be the 13th year out of 14 where tickets went up. So who again is doing the right thing Olli?

San Jose is not the best example, since the booming tech economy [ahem] is not representative of the supply and demand of the rest of the league. Many argue that tickets should be as high as people will pay for them. But what works for the Toronto Maple Leafs or the New York Rangers will not work for the rest of the league. I think it is a safe assumption that the last decade has priced a number of die hard fans out of the arena. Out of the arena and in front of a television set [Please see TV comments above].

I am not completely blindsiding the players or the NHLPA by the way. Feel free to email me one NHL official that believes lowering ticket prices is part of their overall strategy to maintain "cost certainty". Fans have never had "cost certainty". And the owners have not been forthcoming with all of their financial information.

This is just the beginning of the discussion, part 1 of "As the CBA turns". You can probably guess where I am coming from on this issue, but I am open to information from both sides. Information, not bribes. Unless they are from Spaten.

For more information I recommend the following:

  • Canucks Corner - A debate between Cancucks Corner's Tom Benjamin and Phil Propper, the LA Kings fan who was allowed to crunch the numbers.
  • PRINCE OF PUCKS: Latest article on the labor dispute from Spector.
  • Where should the NHL look for financial salvation? - the post that started the CBA ball rolling for me.
  • NHLCBAnews.com - Ask the NHL a question about the CBA.
  • NHLPA.com - The National Hockey League Players Association official site.
  • NHLFA CBA - The full Collective Bargaining agreement from the NHL fans association.
  • LetsgoPens CBA - The full Collective Bargaining agreement from LetsgoPens. This was the first place it was available on the web to my knowledge.
  • ESPN CBA - ESPN CBA news.
  • TSN CBA - TSN CBA news.

[Thanks to Anthony for compiling these links and sending them in. I told you I would get around to posting them.]


2004 NHL draft, entire list of San Jose Sharks draft picks

AP photo - Sharks draft Lukas Kaspar
  • 1st - Lukas Kaspar [RW, 6-2 202]
  • 3rd - Thomas Greiss [G, 6-1 192]
  • 4th - Torrey Mitchell [C, 5-11 175]
  • 4th - Jason Churchill [G, 6-3 184]
  • 5th - Steven Zalewski [C, 6-0 185]
  • 7th - Michael Vernance [D, 6-2 200]
  • 7th - David MacDonald [D, 6-3 200]
  • 8th - Derek MacIntyre [G, 6-2 185]
  • 9th - Brian Mahoney-Wilson [G, 5-10 150]
  • 9th - Christian Jensen [D, 6-3 190]
[Note] San Jose traded their 28th, 52nd and 91st draft picks to for the Dallas 22nd and 153rd picks. San Jose traded their 63rd pick for Boston's 94th, 129th, and 288th picks. San Jose traded their 152nd pick for Florida's 201st and 234th picks.

[Update] According to the official website, four Sharks prospects signed contacts with the organization after college: Tim Conboy [D], Scott Ford [D], Aaron Gill [C], Shane Joseph [F].

[Update2] Sharks wheel, deal, Saturday trades net Kaspar, Weiss - SF Chronicle.


Sharks trade up to 22nd, select Czech right winger Lukas Kaspar

Lukas KasparThe Sharks traded up from the 28th pick to take Dallas's 22nd pick and selected Czech right-winger Lukas Kaspar [HC Chemopetrol Litvinov, 6,2, 202lbs].

Dallas traded down from the 20th pick to the 22nd, and then dealt the 22nd and the 152nd pick to San Jose for their 28th, 52nd, and 91st draft picks.

The consensus is that Lukas Kaspar has good size, decent speed, and very good hands. He has the size to drive the net, and the shot to drive the puck home. A few commentators have said he needs to work more on his defense, but the Sharks have picked up another quality offensive prospect. With that fro, I say he is Sammy Hagar's illegitimate son.

Lukas racked up 35 points [21g, 14a] and 56 PIMs in 23 games for the HC Chemopetrol Litvinov junior team last year. In the Czech Extraliga he posted 4 goals and 2 assists in 37 games for the top Litvinov club. For the 2004 Czech Republic WJC team, Kaspar had 0 goals and 3 assists in 6 games.

[Note] Photo used with permission of HC Chemopetrol Litvinov.

[Update] The Pittsburgh Pengiuns have a draft prospect profile on Lukas Kaspar.

[Update2] Hockeys Future has a prospect profile of Lukas Kaspar. This site will be very busy and could be down on draft day.

[Update3] New addition to the blogroll, Jes Golbez's Hockey Rants. This former eurohockey.net writer, and current hockeysfuture.com writer live blogs the first round of the NHL draft.

[Update4] San Jose traded their 2nd round pick for Boston's 3rd, 4th, and 9th round picks.

[Update5] With the 94th pick in the draft [3rd round], the Sharks pick another German goaltender Thomas Greiss. According to the official website, the 6-1 192lbs Greiss was the 4th rated the European goaltender by Central Scouting Bureau. Prohockey.de has a great article: Sharks move up to tab Greiss.

[Note] San Jose now has 7 German players in the fold:
  • LW-Marco Sturm [1996]
  • D-Christian Ehrhoff [2001]
  • C-Marcel Goc [2001]
  • G-Dimitri Patzold [2001]
  • G-Patrick Ehelechner [2003]
  • C-Kai Hospelt [2003]
  • G-Thomas Greiss [2004]


Building through the draft, a lost art?

ESPN's Jim Kelley compares the Conference finalists and finds that San Jose was the most effective club at building itself through the draft: Draft and develop still tried and true.

"You look at past champions, teams that win or are in contention to win every year, and they are largely built through the draft," he said. "They may supplement their core group with trades and free-agent acquisitions, but the core of their teams are made up of players that are homegrown." - Dean Lombardi

While it is true that the man at the top gets most of the credit for the results, the Sharks rely heavily on director of amateur scouting Tim Burke and professional scout Cap Raeder. Other scouts for the Sharks include: Barry Long, Ray Payne, Gilles Cote, Pat Funk, Rob Grillo, Brian Gross, Karel Masopust, Ilkka Sinisalo, and Bob Friedlander.

When former GM Dean Lombardi was fired, I posted this highlight of his 7+ year career in teal:

Trades made this season:
� Jillson/Sundstrom/3rd for McLaren/4th
� Ragnarsson for McGillis
� Heins for conditional pick
� Nolan for McCauley/Boyes/1st
� Marchment for 3rd/5th
� Bradley for Primeau
� McGillis for 2nd

Past trade highlights:
� Friesen/Shields for Selanne
� Donovan/1st for Ricci/2nd
� 1st/2nd/5th for Damphousse
� Odgers/5th for Iafrate
� Vernon/3rd for Harvey/4th
� More/Swanson/4th for McSorley

Draft Highlights:
� Jim Fahey - 1998
� Brad Stuart - 1998
� Patrick Marleau - 1997
� Scott Hannan - 1997
� Marco Sturm - 1996
� Evgeni Nabokov - 1994

Coaching Tenures:
� Ron Wilson 11-20-11
� Darryl Sutter 192-182-60
� Al Sims 27-47-8

This made me want to examine some of the highlights of the young Doug Wilson era. Signing Alex Korolyuk who spent a year in Russia, and getting all restricted free agents to sign before the season started also deserves mention.

Past trade highlights:
� 5th for Scott Parker
� Wiseman for Ekman
� Kiprusoff for 2nd
� 5th for Marshall
� Boyes for Jillson/Delmore for Brown

Draft Highlights:
� Lukas Kaspar - 2004
� Thomas Greiss - 2004
� Milan Michalek - 2003
� Steve Bernier - 2003
� Joshua Hennessy - 2003
� Patrick Ehelechner - 2003

Coaching Tenures:
� Ron Wilson

Today it will be interesting to see what direction the franchise moves towards in the draft.


Stanley Cup travels

Camp Pendleton marines stanley cup

Last year, at about this time, the Stanley Cup made a visit to Southern California at Camp Pendleton. The cup then went on to make quite a few interesting stops with the 2003 New Jersey Devils.

This year, after spending time with Jay Leno, the Detroit Pistons, after spending time at Disney World and a NY Tim McGraw concert, it looks like Stanley is headed to NASA. The Tampa Bay Lightning are documenting it all with their Stanley Cup travel journal.


Another option for providing NHL headlines

A fan from Calgary sent in another option for webmasters to provide hockey headlines on their website. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation offers a free headline service to webmasters.

Right now I am transferring all the secondary pages to this new blog design. After that is completed, I would like to create a PHP news page publishing the various RSS hockey feeds floating around the net. If there are any PHP ninjas out there, drop me a line [anything(at)sharkspage.com].


Shark Notes - draft preview edition

- The 2004 NHL entry draft takes place on June 26th in North Carolina. 2004 Draft order:

1. Washington [Alexander Ovechkin]
2. Pittsburgh
3. Chicago
4. Columbus
5. Phoenix
6. New York Rangers
7. Florida
8. Carolina
9. Anaheim
10. Atlanta
11. Los Angeles
12. Minnesota
13. Buffalo
14. Edmonton
15. Nashville
16. New York Islanders
17. St. Louis
18. Montreal
19. Calgary
20. Dallas
21. Colorado
22. New Jersey
23. Ottawa
24. New York Rangers [from Toronto]
25. Edmonton [from Philly]
26. Vancouver
27. Washington [from Boston]
28. San Jose
29. Detroit [optional to Washington]
30. Tampa Bay

- Draft information for further reading:
- Thanks to SJsharks.com, the exact number of San Jose Sharks draft picks is now available:

[1st] 28th
[2nd] 52nd compensation from COL for Selanne
[2nd] 63rd
[3rd] 91st compensation from NYR for Messier
[4th] 126th from BOS in McLaren trade
[5th] 126th from CAL in Lyons trade [*]
[7th] 225th
[9th] 289th

* - part of the future considerations in the Lyons trade was assuring the Sharks obtained a 2005 2nd round pick for goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff.

- My thoughts on the Sharks draft is that they are pretty stacked on defense and in goal. Defenseman take longer to develop, so it is always good to have them in the system at all stages of development. What San Jose needs is size and speed at wing and center. My recommendation, draft large bodies or Finnish goaltenders, but not large Finnish bodies [aka Teemu Riihijarvi-1st round 1995, 0 NHL games played].

Milan Michalek

- Hockeys Future messageboard poster HipCzech translated this great Czech interview with Sharks 2003 first round pick Milan Michalek. Here is one question:

Q Have you thought about what you will do if there is a NHL lockout?

A To tell you the truth, no. I'm training like before. If the games don't start, the best thing would be for management to send me to the [Cleveland Barons]. I coming back from a long break and I need to get back into it. While my injury took away my first try at success overseas, my second chance will work out. Of that I am certain!

Milan had one goal in 2 games played for San Jose before going down with a knee injury. In 7 games with the Cleveland Barons, Milan had 2 goals and 2 assists with 4 penalty minutes.

- Very informative column by Victor Chi in the Mercury News on San Jose's free agents [Damphousse, Ricci, Harvey, Marshall] and most of the Sharks injuries [McCauley-shoulder, Nabokov-knee, Parker-thumb, Doug Murray-shoulder, Rathje-back, McLaren-whole body, Stuart-ankle, Sturm-ankle, Michalek-knee]: Questions begin at season's end for Sharks.

- Unfortunately, Evgeni Nabokov's knee injury will have a big impact on Russia's world cup chances. Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Nikolai Khabibulin has opted not to join the Russian team. The official world cup hockey website details the roster selections, Few surprises as Russia names Its World Cup of Hockey roster.

Another article on Russia from the world cup site: Goalie woes for Russia.

- Sharkspage reader Anthony sent in all manner of CBA related links and articles. I will post some of them in a box on the right of this page because this is this biggest issue facing the NHL at the moment. He also asked me to link to the NHL fans association NHLFA.com. Let it be so.

- After a very successful rookie tournament between San Jose, Los Angeles, Anaheim and Phoenix last year, it looks like it will be on again for this season as well. Phoenix won the tournament last year. The tournament will be held this year from Sept 9-13 in Anaheim.

LetsgoKings took very impressive pictures of last years tournament [someone from one of these 4 teams needs to give Mike Zampelli a press credential for this year]. The San Jose rookie tournament pictures from LGK are also available on Feeder.com if you scroll down to the right: SJvsLA, SJvsANA1, SJvsANA2, consolation game1, consolation game2.

I will make a road trip to Anaheim to catch a couple of the games.


Hello World, new blog design

Thanks to the people at blogger and simplebits, I am experimenting with a new template for Sharkspage. The old site was originally just a plain newspaper style with as much information as humanly possible stuffed into three small columns. Many people did not like that, but it was easy for me to surf around the league and find out what was going on in 30 minutes or less.

I moved most of the old content to this new site, but lost were box scores, a 5 game recap, and a feed of NHL headlines. New on this site is an improved San Jose Sharks headline feed from feeddirect.com [feed direct has one google ad at the top of each news feed], a new weblog feed of fan NHL websites from hockeyblogs.org, an easier to use archive, an improved width which should let me babble a little more about hockey and provide almost full size photo thumbnails.

If I did not mess it up too much, this site should be XML or XHTML happy. Eventually I would like to code a few national hockey RSS headlines to output on this site. We will see if I can get that up and running.

Thanks to all the people that donated via Paypal and bought things in the store to help this site function. It was much appreciated. Congratulations to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Calgary Flames, the Philadelphia Flyers, and the San Jose Sharks for an entertaining postseason.

Unfortunately for San Jose, even with a third round playoff appearance the Mercury News is reporting an estimated $7 million dollar loss for the season. I will ask questions about this figure in the very near future.

Jamison, who said last month the franchise would lose about $7 million this season despite advancing to the third round of the playoffs.

After my brief blog vacation I should be primed to write about the upcoming season, or lack thereof. If there is no season, I will power through any strike with information about the new World Hockey Association, the World Cup tournament, NCAA hockey, and I will attend quite a few San Jose State and Berkeley club hockey games. If there is no NHL season, I will also make a few road trips to catch minor league or junior games and post about them here as well.

Feel free to offer any suggestions or comments about the site. And Gary Bettman/Bob Goodenow, if you are reading this, I would like to offer a quote from Alec Baldwin in Glengary Glennross:

Get them to sign on the line that is dotted, you ******* ******s!.

Pardon Alec Baldwin's french.