- Still no NHL season. Surprised? If you want the short version, the owners are trying to change the fundamental dynamics of the league. Which, for them, includes a salary cap. But the public has no clear way to see how they account for revenues and losses. The NHL is in trouble, but in how much trouble is the debate currently raging between the NHL and NHLPA.
If the players agree to a cap, it will be a part of the game forever. There will be no taking it off the table later after it is agreed to now. It will be a paradigm shift for the NHL.
The players are clinging to a false representation of a free market, and are seen by many fans as holding out for more money. Holding out while the league ratings plummet, television revenues evaporate, many rinks are half empty, the major NHL show in the US is cancelled, and the quality of the game on the ice suffers. I appreciate the committee Brendan Shanahan created trying to look at some of the problems, but I honestly believe it was a token effort. Where was the concern for the last 3 seasons?
The players made a huge proposal to move along negotiations with their 24% salary rollback, among other cost cutting measures. This offer was a tacit admission that the last 2 years of their public message [the NHL is exaggerating losses to get a better deal] was false. The NHL response was so lacking in compromise that after reading it, I knew the season was over. A hard line was taken so an impasse could be declared, and the fate of the league can be determined by the courts.
There have been a half dozen articles over the weekend all repeating the meme that this lockout is the owners fault for writing the checks. That is wrong on so many levels that I can barely even muster a response. Both sides are equally to blame for this fiasco. The big market owners for blowing the curve for the rest of the league, to the NHLPA score system for maximizing salary for mid-to-low level players also blowing the curve, to the NHL's marketing wasteland, to player holdouts that last well into the season.
I have one big lockout post left in me, one that I have been working on for a few months, but at this point I feel like there is no point in even writing. If the game comes back, remove 2 rows of seats from all 4 sides. It will open up the flow of the game and give players room to skate, and the NHL might pique my interest again.
- From Stanford
Ice Hockey president Andy Meyerson:
First off, thanks for covering our games this season. Like Stragis said,
the pictures and scores on your site are one of the only ways for my family
back in Maryland to see me play. Your site is awesome, and everyone on the
team appreciates the work you put into it. Also, the last Big Freeze at
Belmont was one of the best hockey games I've ever played. We lost 5-4 in
OT. We were up 4-2 in the 2nd period, until numerous questionable calls
from the officials gave Cal the opportunity to score two power play goals
and tie up the game. I have to say, I've been in very few buildings louder
than Belmont was last Saturday. It was by far the biggest crowd we've
gotten all season. Not only were the fans boisterous, but the infamous
Stanford Band came out en masse and played/screamed pretty much nonstop for
60+ minutes. Also, they performed a "halftime show" on the ice in the 2nd
intermission, a reenactment of the Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding incident.
I think we gave everyone that came out an excellent hockey game, and I am
confident that we can take Cal next year.
That said, here are some of my comments on the season:
All in all, I think it was a successful year for the program. We played
some unbelievable games, especially in the Cal series, and fan attendance
at our home games increased astronomically from October to January. We
definitely stepped it up from last season, and I think we are going to
improve even more for next year. We are going to surprise a lot of people
in 05-06; we have a solid core of young players and arguably the best
goalie in the conference in John Stragis. I know we're not very far from
bringing the Pac 8 title back to Palo Alto.
Thanks for the kind words. I hope they do not mind my stream-of-consciousness reporting style. Stanford's home rink, Belmont Iceland
, is by far the coldest of any I have been to this year. And now that he mentions it, Stragis
for Stanford, Niedzwiecki
for Davis, Buss
for Cal, and Best
for San Jose have given local fans very good goaltending to watch this year.
[Note from AS] And Kevin Bruinsma
Based on that recap, it looks like it was another electric Big Freeze matchup. The first BF game in Berkeley I missed the Cal band, who did not make it out to the second game up north. I made it to the first BF game in Belmont sans Stanford marching band, who did make it out to the second one. Great timing.
- That note on Stanford brings me to this question
asked of SJ Mercury News beat writer Victor Chi:
[Q] Why doesn't the Merc support SJSU Hockey? Why isn't there even a mention of the ACHA in the papers? It's time SJ Mercury be a little more attentive to the bay area hockey fans and its teams.
[VC] I don't wish to come across as being callous, rude, harsh or unsympathetic because nobody at our paper has more passion for hockey than I do, and I have great respect for the hard work and the sacrifice of teams like SJSU hockey ... but it is simply unrealistic for us to devote regular space to a club sport.
Victor Chi has forgotten more about the NHL than most fans know, but this is an interesting question. I have been asked this somewhere around 40-50 times if you substitute AHL and Cleveland, or ECHL and Fresno, or DEL and Hamburg Freezers [j/k], for SJSU and ACHA in the above question.
Club sports in most cases do not warrant attention outside of a few interested parties, but the local ACHA college hockey teams are a different story. They are the highest level of hockey being played in the Bay Area right now, and they have been the highest level of hockey at their respective universities since they began play. Most of the hockey media comes from Canada, the North and the East, where there is an abundance of hockey at all levels. In the Bay Area right now, and possibly in the future, this is it.
Chi does mention this feature
that was done on SJSU by the Merc's David Pollak. And there was also a comprehensive article on the Fresno Falcons that was very well written. This SF Chronicle feature
on Berkeley complete with photo gallery shows that even newspaper photographers struggle with the poor lighting at these college rinks. But the reality is that each paper has to cater to its audience. And in this market, they are choosing to direct their resources elsewhere.
I would have covered the ACHA and SJSU/Cal/Stanford this year for a number of reasons [the players, the game, alumni, I could hang from the ceiling and take photos], but there was one major reason. It is a long shot, but eventually I would like to see NCAA hockey on the West Coast. One fan mentioned that it would probably take many years, 16 viable teams, and a much larger fan base to create a conference. It starts by having each school ice 4 solid lines, enough to sustain competitive rivalries, and then trying to build a lasting support for the teams.
After seeing SJSU fill every available seat at home, pack people 3 deep around the rink, and still turn away fans, I have to say that is more than a small step forward. If the 1000+ fans that show up in what is best described as a carnival atmosphere for the Cal-Stanford game show up for the Cal-SJSU game, it would also be big. If I have to quote an SJSU player taunting Cal for that to happen, so be it.
There are similar comments by Victor Chi on the ECHL Fresno Falcons and the new ECHL franchise in Stockton. All I can say about those two teams is that they will be covered on Sharkspage. Japanese goaltender Yutaka Fukufuji plays with Bakersfield against Fresno tonight
, and Scott Gomez will play with the Alaska Aces against Fresno March 15th. Contribute with the paypal or amazon donation links to the right and you will see me attend and photograph a few more, and possibly post a bonus interview.
- Just posted a 2005 Hockey calendar [scroll down to the right], feel free to submit any events you think should be listed. I will leave the one from 2004 online.
- Finally, someone went through and posted each wild rumor promoted by hockey rumor blogger Eklund
. It looks like he is batting around 2 for 60. There are inanimate objects on my desk that are more accurate than that. Thanks to Offwing
for the link. It was obvious that website was a fake after reading his first post, but this is absolutely true
- Thanks to Jes Golbez
for this note on the Danish hockey league playoffs, written by Fredrik Palsson for Eurohockey.Net
The top Danish league has finished. Quarter finals to start February 18.
Herning Blue Fox won the Danish Oddset Ligaen 11 points ahead of AaB Ishockey. Tomorrow the four best teams of the regular season, Herning, AaB, Herlev and Nordsjaelland will in that order pick their quarter final opponents among Rodovre, Frederikshavn, Odense and SonderjyskE. Esbjerg Oilers is the only team that didn't qualify for the quarter finals.
Posted with permission. I received a note earlier this year that the Danish league was changing its name. No longer called the Danish Super Best league [a great name], it looks like they are now going by something equally indecipherable, but not as cool. The Herning Blue Fox lead the Danish league with a 26-10 overall record.
Soon there might be a separate page on this site with all of the Danish league teams, contact information, and a calendar. And FYI, I am dropping two Danish girls off now to see San Francisco for the first time.
- I am not a big fan of the media hyping a teenage athlete to the point of absurdity, but it has happened again to 15 year old tennis phenom Donald Young. He lost in his first pro match
at the SAP Open yesterday in San Jose. Naturally, it is front page news on ESPN. Let him be a teenager, instead of making him out to be the Tiger Woods of tennis at age 15 and waiting for him to fail. But that is the state of sports journalism today.
for more information on the ATP tour stop in San Jose. Andre Agassi (2) plays tonight at 7PM vs Bobby Renoylds, Tommy Haas (3) follows up against Gregory Carraz. Wednesday night Andy Roddick (1) faces off against the feared TBD at 7PM, Thomas Enqvist and Mardy Fish will make for an interesting nightcap.
The SAP Open matches Saturday and Sunday will be televised locally on Fox Sports Bay Area, with a repeat on Monday. The Tennis Channel
will air the games nationally from Thursday to Sunday.
[Update] The dissenting opinion, providing a detailed look
at the Law of Unintended Consequences as it relates to the NHL proposal, is respectfully provided by Tom Benjamin.
[Update2] How is this for timing? Ross McKeon writes an excellent article on the Fresno Falcons, their players and fans; California Hockey: Low-cost, high-energy fun in ... Fresno
- SF Chronicle.
This passage should warm the hearts of a lot of hockey fans burned by the lockout:
"With the fans, once you build a relationship, they not only care about the players on the ice but off the ice as well" said Sutter, one of seven Fresno players originally drafted by an NHL team. "Maintaining those kinds of relationships is important, especially in California where hockey might not be as popular as other sports."
McKeon also notes a few of the NHL players who have taken a turn this year on ECHL ice:
A few locked-out NHL players have joined the ECHL ranks. Among them: Sharks forward Mark Smith (Victoria), New Jersey's Scott Gomez (Alaska) and Chicago's Curtis Brown (San Diego), who, after coming to San Jose at the trade deadline last spring, departed via free agency in the offseason.
Visit this photo gallery
to see pictures from the Alaska Aces 2-1 win over Fresno on November 6th, featuring Scott Gomez. Another Fresno report is on the way in the coming weeks.
I sat in front of Falcons head coach Greg Spenrath at the NHL rookie tournament as he was scouting prospects in the organization for Fresno, along with another member of the San Diego Gulls front office. It makes too much sense to have a Sharks prospect playing in Northern California during the lockout. That is probably why it did not happen, but it was not for a lack of Fresno trying.
[Email from J] Another update on the probable Bakersfield goaltender facing the Fresno Falcons tonight, Yutaka Fukufuji. Condors Fukufuji Named CCM Vector ECHL Rookie of the Month