May, 2009

Sunday, May 31st, 2009

Mid Mayhem Update!

For the first time in my life the Stanley Cup playoffs have mattered little. The suspense surrounding the future of the Phoenix Coyotes has been too much of a distraction. I’m not sure if I have even watched a full playoff game since Jim Balsillie made his $212.5M bid to purchase and relocate my foster children to Hamilton. I have even been too distracted to update my blog! So since it has been nearly two weeks since my last entry, this entry will act as an overall summary of current affairs in the hockey world.

Since my last entry on May 19th, Judge Redfield T. Baum ordered both parties (the National Hockey League and Jerry Moyes) into mediation to determine ownership of the Phoenix Coyotes. When the court reconvened on May 27th, Judge Baum placed the ‘Yotes legally into the hands of Jerry Moyes! Ding, ding, ding! And Round 1 goes to Jim Balsillie! Also, Baum ordered that the relocation hearing be moved up from June 22nd to June 9th in keeping with Balsillie’s June 30th expiration date on his generous offer.

Since my last entry on May 19th, both sides have been busy rallying support from big name factions. The League has turned out support from the other three major leagues: NBA, MLB, and NFL. Naturally, the other major leagues would be concerned with a respect for the “rules” and would want full control of who owns and moves their teams, and thus, a Balsillie victory would surely make them soil their panties. On the other side of the spectrum, the Balsillie camp has rallied support from two major Canadian household heavy weights, Labatt Breweries and Home Hardware. Within days of announcing support for MakeItSeven.ca, Labatt released television commercials promoting the website.

Since my last entry on May 19th, Bettman and the League have maintained that their resistance of the Hamilton relocation is not out of spite or stubbornness, but out of a defense of the principles and rules involved. The League has also thrown clichéd contradictions toward the media suggesting on the one hand that Phoenix was not in trouble, and on the other that they are in trouble, but that the team is fixable. The League has thus decided to ignore the fact that the Coyotes have never won a playoff series, have not made the playoffs in seven straight seasons, and that the new talent is not the caliber to suggest a major turnaround in the upcoming season. So, financially, the team will not be relying on the players to turn attendance around. Gretzky, the “Great One” (he gets quotation marks around his nickname as he has fallen out of favour with me since he announced support of the bid to keep the Coyotes in Phoenix), wasn’t even enough of a draw to bring fans to the fabulous Jobing.com Arena. If Gretzky and free booze and $9 tickets can’t do it, nothing can.

Since my last entry on May 19th, the Phoenix Coyotes’ sometimes-fans have maintained that they exist, although Sportsnet has reported that at no time during the court proceedings did a Coyotes jersey make an appearance around the courthouse. I remember thinking to myself, if this happened in Toronto, there would be riots! A sea of blue and white would be blocking all entry points to the courthouse and anarchy would surely ensue, but then I thought, “Oh, wait a minute, this would never happen in Toronto because we actually support our hockey team through thick and thin!” Furthermore, since the bid on May 5th, season ticket renewals for the Coyotes have dropped from $1.5M to $20K! So instead of feeling that sense of urgency to get up and support their team now more than ever, the Coyotes fans have decided to wait and see if they still have a team to support even when their lack of support is the root of the problem. They are practically saying “Oh we don’t really care about the team, we just care about losing our money!” You’d get a refund, duh! The worst part is, if these proceedings are dragged out through the summer with appeals and all of that, then the Coyotes will have even fewer supporters by the time September rolls around, not more!

Since my last entry on May 19th, the Balsillie camp has moved forward with plans for the $150M total facelift of Copps Coliseum…and it will look niiiiice! Not only will the exterior be beautified, the interior will be upgraded with restaurants, suites, and a higher seating capacity! However, Balsillie has maintained that he is willing to keep the Coyotes in Phoenix for one more year if the scheduling conflict is too much for the League to handle. However, the League will also have to agree to reimburse Balsillie for the losses the team will incur in Glendale in 09-10 – an estimated $45M!

Since my last entry on May 19th, news reporters, sportscasters , and town drunks alike have all argued to death why and why not the Coyotes will work in Hamilton. This is probably the reason I haven’t updated in so long. We KNOW! We know the facts! We know it will work! And we KNOW it’s a long shot! Men are sooo funny, it’s so easy to regurgitate information and it’s so easy to bet against the underdog! But if you haven’t noticed, upsets exist, and when they do happen the payout is sweet!

Since my last entry on May 19th, the NHL playoffs have continued and Detroit and Pittsburgh are meeting in the Cup finals for the second straight year! I need to pause a moment to say, “Neener, neener, neener, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah!” My pre-playoff predictions listed a Wings/Pens rematch in the finals (even though at the time I even said, noooo, that can’t be!) So, take THAT, all of you smelly boys with your Bostons and your San Joses! Yesssssss! Too bad I didn’t bet money on it! Oh well, live and learn.

P.S. I predicted the Red Wings in six!

Picture: An artist’s rendering of the New Copps Coliseum!

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

Judgment Day: Man-up, Toronto, Look out, Bettman!

It’s 11AM in Southern Ontario, where hockey fans and Hamiltonians are eagerly anticipating the outcome of the NHL vs. Jerry Moyes in a bankruptcy court down in sunny Arizona. Of course, it’s only 8AM on the battlefield, and so we will have to keep our breath held for just a little longer. Will the NHL thwart yet another attempt by Jim Balsillie to return hockey to its rightful home? Some feel, and with good reason, that if the NHL is victorious this will be Balsillie’s last foray into the National Hockey League. Or will the Moyes-Balsillie camp live to see another day?

I’ve weighed in on several issues including the future of Gary Bettman in the NHL should he win this case. Once more, Bettman feels that the Balsillie bid was a personal attack on him. A lack of “respect for the rules” he says, but what are rules, when they can be altered or changed at the discretion of the National Hockey League. We have heard countless falsehoods from the NHL, including one of the dirtiest tricks (I think) the NHL has pulled on us yet. The NHL claimed that they were favouring moving the Coyotes back to Winnipeg, and that they wanted Southern Ontario to have an expansion team in a few years – RIGHT! Playing on the sympathies of the twelve year heartache in Winterpeg. The interesting thing about this statement (lie) is that Bettman had said earlier this year that Winnipeg and Quebec City were failed markets because no one wanted to own a team there. What’s changed?

Also, and only a couple months ago, Bettman told a local radio show that Hamilton and Southern Ontario weren’t fit for the NHL because no one had been studying the market, and we can’t give Ontario another team based on “probability.” This latest PR stunt was obviously an attempt to put the fire out on the anger and hatred Canadians are beginning to feel for both Bettman and the National Hockey League. But, I’m sure that if the League wins today, then we will get squat. This latest carrot being tossed to us is surely a plastic one.

From lying to backtracking and name calling, the League has shown us an ugly and desperate side over the last two weeks. Another hotly debated non-issue is the League playing white knight to the Leafs territorial rights. It is my understanding (though I could be wrong) that the Leafs never formally commented on this non-issue. They were being tightlipped for good reason. It is my opinion that the Hamilton franchise could only help them. The Leafs would not lose season ticket holders, in fact they likely wouldn’t even lose waitlisted fans even if said fans successfully acquired Hamilton tickets. Why? Because the Leafs are still the Leafs and fans associate history and original six-ed-ness with prestige. Sure, Hamilton had a team in the twenties, but it’s really not the same thing.

Also the Leafs only make new revenue through non-ticket ventures in avenues like media and merchandise. The Leafs and Coyotes would obviously have to come to some sort of compromise with CBC and TSN, which means fewer Leafs games on basic cable. Maybe this seems like a bad thing, but for Maple Leaf Sports, the owner of LeafsTV, a channel already showing twelve regular season Leafs games exclusively, will suddenly be televising additional games on their terms and maximizing profit. This also means more true blue fans will have to purchase the Leafs TV package if they haven’t done so already. Plus, nothing promotes a hike in merchandise sales like a little competition and provincial rivalry.

I am not denying the disaster that will ensue in Buffalo as a result of this team, and neither is the Sabres organization, they have been just as vocal as the league in smearing the Balsillie camp. Of course the reason the Sabres are in danger is because a majority of their season seats are owned by hockey starved SOUTHERN ONTARIANS! Sure, they will lose much of the Golden Horseshoe, but only if the Coyotes tickets prove to be more cost effective. The Sabres tickets don’t break the bank, and likely the Coyotes will be valued higher than Buffalo, but slightly lower than Toronto.

And speaking of territorial rights, who was there to defend the Rangers territory when the Islanders moved in, and again when the Devils moved in? How can the Rangers function with two teams each twenty minutes from them? Seems Bettman and the League are either (once again) lying to us about our own market, or somehow trying to tell us that New Yorkers are better hockey fans than us? I think I hear the sound of Canadian blood boiling!

If Bettman and the League win today, then they will be facing serious problems down the road. Hockey is, for the most part, an unmarketable commodity. People either want it or they don’t. Phoenix has proven that all but a weak few do not want to see hockey in the desert. A new owner that has to keep the team in AZ will not do any better than the last. Should this go down, the League will be stuck with Phoenix. If they try to move the team a couple years down the road as the debt accumulates (the 2009-10 season projects a $45M loss in Glendale), then no one will stand for it after the major blemish that the Moyes battle will be on the face of the NHL. Surely, Bettman will be removed from his position, and neither Canadians nor Arizonians will ever forgive the NHL.

Make no mistake, fellow Southern Ontarians, the League has no intention to act in our best interests. Our only savior is Jim Balsillie. Our thoughts, hopes, and wishes are with him and Jerry Moyes today. If everything goes well today, then let us pray that the NHL governors will look kindly on us and write a new page in the ongoing history of hockey by bringing the game back to Hamilton.

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