Nowhere To Go But Up: ESPN Ranks The Toronto Maple Leafs the worst sports franchise in North America
ESPN The Magazine has released its “Ultimate Standings” for 2014, ranking sports franchises in Major League Baseball (MLB), The National Basketball Association (NBA), the National Football League (NFL) and the National Hockey League (NHL) according to a variety of categories and in a couple of them, the Toronto Maple Leafs ranked dead last at 122, and fared poorly in most of the rest of them. Great.
To come up with these rankings, ESPN took the following steps:
First: Consulting firm Maddock Douglas surveyed 1,002 North American fans to form 25 criteria for what you want most in return for the emotion, money and time you invest in the 122 MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL teams.
Second: Teaming with NetReflector, an opinion research firm, ESPN.com asked fans to rate their home teams in each area and more than 101,000 did. They grouped grades into the categories listed below.
Third: In order to determine the “Bank for the Buck” calculation, ESPN.com used calculations developed with Oregon’s Warsaw Sports Marketing Center to figure how well teams turn fans’ money into wins. Then they combined each team’s score across all categories into a weighted average.
The Categories, plus the highest ranked team and the lowest ranked team.
Price of tickets, parking and concessions
1. Memphis Grizzlies (NBA)
122. Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL)
Strength of on-field leadership
1. San Antonio Spurs (NBA)
122. Florida Panthers (NHL)
Courtesy by players, coaches and front offices toward fans, and how well a team uses technology to reach them
1. San Antonio Spurs
122. New York Knicks
Honesty; loyalty to core players and the community
1. San Antonio Spurs
122. Florida Marlins (MLB)
Effort on the field, likability off it
1. San Antonio Spurs
122. NY Knicks
Quality of venue; fan-friendliness of environment; frequency of game-day promotions
1. San Francisco Giants (MLB)
122. NY Islanders (NHL)
Bang for the Buck
Wins in the past year, per fan dollars
1. Indiana Pacers (NBA)
122. Toronto Maple Leafs
Championships won or expected within the lifetime of current fans
1. St. Louis Cardinals (MLB)
122. Minnesota Timberwolves (NBA)
A review of the ESPN website revealed that The Leafs fared poorly in every category. They placed last in both bang for the buck and affordability; second-last in title track; in the bottom 10 in fan relations, players and coaching; and 105th and 109th in ownership and stadium experience, respectively.
Possibly because this was done by ESPN and the majority of the respondents came from the US, all Canadian teams fared poorly in their rankings with the exception of the Montreal Canadians who appeared in the top half of the list. Here are the rest of the seven teams’ rankings at 55 out of 122.
The other Canadian teams ranked as follows;
Toronto Raptors – 74
Toronto Blue Jays – 81
Calgary Flames — 89
Ottawa Senators — 92
Winnipeg Jets — 97
Vancouver Canucks — 112
Edmonton Oilers — 115
The last 2 teams were the New York Knicks at 121 and the Toronto Maple Leafs at 122.
At least at last there is nowhere to go but up. At 121, the Knicks could drop.
You have probably heard by now that New Jersey Devils superstar forward Ilya Kovalchuk retired from the NHL 3 years into a 17-year, $102 million dollar contract, having received $23 million in salary – leaving $77 million on the table. He went back home, to Russia, and is expected to sign with the KHL right away.
Turns out he loved playing in Russia so much during that ridiculous NHL lockout that he felt homesick upon his return. Well done, NHL/PA.
What you may not know and is impressive if you toss it into a conversation with someone, is that the Devils paid quite a price for Kovalchuk. First, they traded Johnny Oduya, Niclas Bergfors, Patrice Cormier, a 2nd-round pick and a 1st-round to the then Atlanta Thrashers for him at the 2010 trade deadline (The Devils did receive a 2nd-round pick and Anssi Salmela from the Thrashers at that time).
When Kovalchuk’s contract expired at the end of the 2009-2010 season, the Devils re-signed him to a 17-year $102 million contract which the league rejected because it was back-loaded and circumvented the NHL’s salary cap. Then the NHL amended its Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) to disallow other organizations from utilizing this loophole. The NHL punished the Devils who were forced to forfeit $3 million, a 3rd-round draft pick and a 1st-round draft pick.
So let’s do the math: The Devils invested: Johnny Oduya, Niclas Bergfors, Patrice Cormier, a 2nd-round pick, two 1st-round picks, a 3rd-round pick, a $3 million fine, $23 million in salary and got in a large fight with Gary Bettman and the NHL over this.
It’s safe to say that this list was not worth it, considering that Kovalchuk retired with 12 years and $77 million remaining on his contract.
The Devils will now have a lot of salary cap space but if they knew this, would they have let forward David Clarkson become an unrestricted free agent? Clarkson was signed by the Toronto Maple Leafs a few days ago at the start of the free agent signing season. So now the Devils have to find 2 premier players instead of just one.
The Maple Leafs, on the other hand, must have felt a little nervous when signing Clarkson from the Devils given the fact that Scott Neidermayer was elected to the NHL Hockey Hall of Fame this week.
How do the 2 relate, you might be asking?
Well, the Leafs known for terrible trades and horrible drafting have made some pretty sketchy decisions, since 1967’s expansion, such as; sending Lanny McDonald to Colorado or Owen Nolan from San Jose, or trading goalie Tuukka Rask and keeping Justin Pogge, while getting Andrew Raycroft in return, or trading 2 high draft picks Vesa Toskala in 2007, but the one that hurts the most, in my opinion is this one.
On October 16th, 1989 the Toronto Maple Leafs traded their 1st round draft pick in the 1991 NHL entry draft to the New Jersey Devils for defenseman Tom Kurvers. That pick turned out to be Scott Neidermayer.
The Maple Leafs were a terrible team and with the recent addition of Europeans were easy to play against in the rough, tough Norris division. The coach, John Brophy, known for being tough himself insisted the team get tougher and that began with the laughable trade of speedy centre Russ Courtnal to the Montreal Canadiens for goon John Kordic (whom I met on the Toronto subway on the way to Wrestlemania 6 at the SkyDome. Kordic since died from an overdose)
Known for being a coaching carousel, the Leafs fired Broph after a 10 game winless streak and replaced him with Leaf legend and former captain George Armstrong – which didn’t matter with a terrible team as the Leafs finished last in the Norris division.
Over the summer, GM Stellick was fired, and Armstrong was not asked to return. Instead, the Leafs promoted their chief scout Floyd Smith to be the GM and they hired former New Jersey coach Doug Carpenter to run the team.
With Borje Salming and Chris Kotsopoulos leaving TO to sign with the Detroit Red Wings, and defenseman Rick Lanz deciding to play in Switzerland instead of Toronto, the team needed to add blueliners so they began with Rob Ramage, Al Iafrate, and they pushed along some young but unproven defensemen in Luke Richardson and Todd Gill. The Leafs also added Brad (no helmet, can’t skate) Marsh and tough guy Brian Curran – whom I remember as always having a broken jaw from fighting. Coach Carpenter knew the Devils well, and pointed to Tom Kurvers, who had already moved from the Canadiens to the Sabres and on to the Devils where as an offensive defenseman, managed 34 points during the 1987-88 season and 15 points in the playoffs. The following year, Kurvers lead the Devils in points from the defense with 16 goals and 50 assists.
So after losing 4 of their first 5 games in the 1989-90 season the Leafs and Devils agreed on a trade with the Leafs getting Kurvers and the Devils getting the Leafs 1st round draft pick in the 1991 entry draft.
Kurvers finished second to Iafrate in defensive scoring that year with 15 goals and 37 assists, helping the Leafs make the playoffs and finish 3rd in the Norris Division, however, the Leafs lost to the St. Louis Blues in 5 games – if you are around my age you will remember the Sergio Momesso slapshot from just past centre ice that goalie Alan Bester let in. That deflated the team and they were done in the series.
Toronto returned for the 1990-91 season with virtually the same roster, except Bester, who was demoted to Newmarket and was replaced by rookie Peter Ing. Unfortunately, the success of the previous season did not repeat itself. The Leafs again fell flat early in the season, going winless in the first seven games. After a win over Chicago, they lost another three games in a row and Carpenter was fired and replaced by former Vancouver and Winnipeg coach Tom Watt.
Watt was unable to pull Toronto out of their crash dive and by early November, the club was 2-15-1 and well on their way to finishing dead last in the league, which would have allowed them to draft the top prospect that year which was Oshawa General centre Eric Lindros. But with that debacle looming, panic set in and GM Smith traded over half the Leaf roster to avoid finishing dead last. Some of those trades included;
November 9, 1990 – Leafs trade John McIntyre to Los Angeles for Mike Krushelnyski
November 9, 1990 – Leafs trade Steve Bancroft (former 1st rounder) to Boston for Rob Cimetta
November 10, 1990 – Leafs trade Ed Olczyk and Mark Osborne to Winnipeg for Dave Ellett and Paul Fenton
November 17, 1990 – Leafs trade Scott Pearson (former 1st rounder) and their 1991 and 1992 second round picks to Quebec for Michel Petit, Lucien Deblois and Aaron Broten
December 17, 1990 – Leafs trade Lou Franceschetti and Brian Curran To Buffalo for Mike Foligno
In the end, the Leafs finished 11 points behind Quebec, with a 23-46-11 record, meaning Quebec drafted first (no draft lottery yet), while the expansion San Jose Sharks received the 2nd overall pick. The New JerseyDevils drafted 3rd with the Leafs pick from the Kurvers trade.
So what about Kurvers? Well he too was shipped out of Toronto, to the Vancouver Canucks for center Brian Bradley. Kurvers was traded at the end of that season to the New York Islanders, where he averaged over 40 points a season in his final three NHL seasons before he retired.
Niedermayer became the only player to win a Memorial Cup, World Junior Championship, IIHF World Championship, Olympic gold medal, Stanley Cup and the World Cup. He won the Norris Trophy for the best defenseman in the league in 2004, as well as helping the Devils win 3 Stanley Cups(1995, 2000 & 2003) and the Anaheim Ducks win one in 2007. He also won 2 Olympic Gold Medals for Canada in 2002 and 2010.
So while I wish Kovalchuk success in Russia, and Neidermayer congratulations for being elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame, I also feel a little frustrated knowing he could have been a Leaf.
Of course my Maple Leaf cynicism also has me doubting that the team would have developed him in the manner the Devils did, or that he would have had a player with the skill set of Scott Stevens to help him along.
Or maybe, the Leafs don’t panic and pick up Kurvers and instead draft Eric Lindros 1st overall…
Sigh. Say what you will New Jersey, but being a Toronto sports fan sucks!
- Kovalchuk shocks Devils with retirement decision (cbssports.com)
- Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk announces retirement (tracking.si.com)
- PHT Morning Skate: Wendel Clark thinks highly of Clarkson (prohockeytalk.nbcsports.com)
- Sucks To Be A Devil Fan Today: Kovalchuk Retires Outta NOWHERE. (beerleaguebeauts.com)
- Kovalchuk Announces Retirement Leaving the Devils Scrambling (newyorksportsbanter.com)
There is always cause for concern when a marriage of unlikely partners takes place and when Bell and Rogers took the plunge to jointly purchase Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE), speculation was rampant about how these two rivals were going to be able to work together to build winning sports franchises.
Well, if the news Wednesday was any indication, then either they have no issues working together or they have just picked the low-hanging fruit to test their ability to get things done, when it was announced that the Toronto Maple Leafs radio colour analyst, Jim Ralph, was relieved of his duties after 16-years with the Leafs.
Ralph actually tweeted his release @Jim_Ralph when he joked that his dismissal was “jointly done by my new step parents (Bell and Rogers, owners of MLSE). Take pride being first guy fired by TSN and The Fan on same day.”
Ralph also tweeted that, “For the record, my firing was due to changes in my department. Nothing personal. I was just the only one in the department.”
Ralph, known for his quick wit and unique sense of humour was a former NHL draft-pick of the Chicago Black Hawks, however after a serious knee injury and if I can recall correctly, many stories about his coaches wanting him to stop the puck more, he moved to broadcasting and worked 16 years and 1,196 straight games.
At first it was hard getting just to his joking on the radio, but as the Leafs got worse and worse, his humour actually made the broadcasts fun and I recall many a game where I would break into laughter listening to Ralph and long-time Leafs play-by-play announcer Joe Bowen work their magic together. It seemed the longer Bowen worked with Ralph, the funnier he got too.
It what I would describe as a typical Ralph way, he commented; “I don’t harbour an ounce of bitterness,” he said in a later tweet. “I’m not the first to go through it. Others have had it worse.”
So with this announcement I hope that “Ralphy” gets back on his feet quickly but only in a role that would suit him best. He needs to be able to use his extensive hockey-knowledge and his sense of humour to do what he likes doing best… Talk.
How does this make you feel as a Leafs fan or a listener of Leafs broadcasts?
Was this done because of the impending move from AM640 to Fan590 and Team1050 for Leafs broadcasts?
I made a pledge to not support the NHL or NHLPA this year in protest of another stupid, waste of time, work stoppage. I even toyed with the idea of burning a hockey jersey a week until the league and it’s players came to their senses but apparently my wife told me I could get fined for burning a jersey in the middle of my street.
So when the lockout ended, I settled in for another mediocre season from the Toronto Maple Leafs who had no NHL calibre goaltender, no centre for Phil Kessel and still a lot of average players on a very sucky roster which looked more like Team USA than a team in Ontario. I thought the dream of every Ontario boy was to wear the maple leaf on his chest? I guess when you put out an inferior product for so many years the team becomes a winning team, and from the number of American players on the team, how many dreamed of playing for the blue and white? My thoughts too. Probably none.
So today, the Toronto Maple Leafs took a HUGE step in the right direction by firing GM Brian Burke. Possibly with the pending trade for goalie Roberto Luongo, or after Burkie signed Ontarian Jay McClement (who?) to play centre, the teams board of directors had enough.
Under Burke’s watch, the Leaf’s accomplished this;
No playoffs since 2004.
No clean plan on how to get there – when the chance came to tank it for a high pick, they went on a winning streak.
Lots of promises – nothing to show for it.
Burke did land Dion Phaneuf in a seven-player deal with Calgary in 2010, who was the team’s captain but many speculate it was Burke who selected him as captain and not the players.
Leaf’s fans will shake their heads at Burke’s 2009 deal with Boston, when he acquired sniper Phil Kessel for two first-round draft picks and a second-round selection who turned out to be star forward Tyler Seguin, Dougie Hamilton and Jared Knight.
Burke let players go for nothing and his loyalty cost the team when he added an extra year to coach Ron Wilson’s contract just before he fired him and his love of dipping into his previous employer, the Ducks, for their players.
The biggest problem I had with Burke’s philosophy was his pledge to have a truculent team who were tough to play against and then he proceeded to stock the team full of skilled (on unskilled and not tough) players. Once that team was shaped, he fired peace-loving coach Wilson and hired – you guessed it – former Ducks coach Randy Carlyle – who wants a team that is tough and will fight and hit. Well Randy, that is not the team you have here, which leads me to believe he’s the wrong coach for this team. Or, Burke was the wrong GM.
Here is the team Burke leaves for fans. I have highlighted the number of American players because former GM Burke was also the GM of team USA and I think by bringing all the US players here was a poor choice.
Dave Nonis takes over as GM. Like he did in Vancouver and in Anaheim after Burke was fired.
I might have to break my pledge now and watch some games because business just picked up!
Team USA, errr, Toronto Maple Leafs.
|–||Keith Aucoin||34||5-8||169||R||Waltham, Massachusetts||11/6/78|
|42||Tyler Bozak||26||6-1||195||R||Regina, Saskatchewan||3/19/86|
|32||Joe Colborne||22||6-5||216||L||Calgary, Alberta||1/30/90|
|12||Tim Connolly||31||6-1||190||R||Syracuse, New York||5/7/81|
|43||Nazem Kadri||22||6-0||188||L||London, Ontario||10/6/90|
|15||Matthew Lombardi||30||5-11||195||L||Montreal, Quebec||3/18/82|
|11||Jay McClement||29||6-1||205||L||Kingston, Ontario||3/2/83|
|20||David Steckel||30||6-5||218||L||Westbend, Wisconsin||3/15/82|
|48||Ryan Hamilton||27||6-2||219||L||Oshawa, Ontario||4/15/85|
|41||Nikolai Kulemin||26||6-1||225||L||Magnitogorsk, USSR||7/14/86|
|16||Clarke MacArthur||27||6-0||191||L||Lloydminster, Alberta||4/6/85|
|–||James van Riemsdyk||23||6-3||200||L||Middletown, New Jersey||5/4/89|
|37||Carter Ashton||21||6-3||215||L||Winnipeg, Manitoba||4/1/91|
|18||Mike Brown||27||5-11||205||R||Northbrook, Illinois||6/24/85|
|39||Matt Frattin||24||5-11||187||R||Edmonton, Alberta||1/3/88|
|81||Phil Kessel||25||6-0||202||R||Madison, Wisconsin||10/2/87|
|19||Joffrey Lupul||29||6-1||206||R||Edmonton, Alberta||9/23/83|
|28||Colton Orr||30||6-3||222||R||Winnipeg, Manitoba||3/3/82|
|4||Cody Franson||25||6-5||213||R||Salmon Arm, British Columbia||8/8/87|
|–||Mark Fraser||26||6-3||220||L||Ottawa, Ontario||9/29/86|
|51||Jake Gardiner||22||6-0||200||L||Deephaven, Minnesota||7/4/90|
|36||Carl Gunnarsson||26||6-2||196||L||Orebro, Sweden||11/9/86|
|55||Korbinian Holzer||24||6-3||205||R||Munich, Germany||2/16/88|
|8||Mike Komisarek||30||6-4||243||R||West Islip, New York||1/19/82|
|24||John-Michael Liles||32||5-10||185||L||Zionsville, Indiana||11/25/80|
|3||Dion Phaneuf||27||6-3||214||L||Edmonton, Alberta||4/10/85|
|–||Morgan Rielly||18||6-0||200||L||Vancouver, British Columbia||3/9/94|
|34||James Reimer||24||6-2||208||L||Winnipeg, Manitoba||3/15/88|
|40||Jussi Rynnas||25||6-5||212||L||Pori, Finland||5/22/87|
|30||Ben Scrivens||26||6-2||192||L||Spruce Grove, Alberta||9/11/86|
- Dave Nonis replaces Brian Burke as Maple Leafs GM (metronews.ca)
- Toronto Maple Leafs Reportedly Fire GM Brian Burke (bleacherreport.com)
- Toronto Maple Leafs reportedly fire Brian Burke (cbc.ca)
It’s summertime in Toronto and even though my Toronto Blue Jays are having a horrid season I still have given very little thought to what is going on with my Toronto Maple Leafs and with the NHL and hte NHLPA. It’s not that I don’t want to, but I can’t bring myself to do it… It causes me stress and makes me sad. Lockouts, unions, bad hockey markets, stupidly insane long-term contracts and a terrible local hockey team with an American GM bringing in only American players are enough reasons to stay away from the sport I grew up loving.
My Thursday Thirteen this week will focus on the 13 things that the NHL has done to alienate many fans and are leading to the league once again becoming the joke of all professional sports leagues.
Thirteen reasons the NHL is becoming a joke all over again:
13. The stupid Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) negotiations have been underway for a while now – technically since the last lockout – but of course the players association and the owners are waiting until just before training camp to start the real negotiations. What this really means is that I get to hear the league cry poor (“we lost $200 million dollars over the last 4 years”) and the players defending their $100 million dollar 14 year contracts which would cover them playing until they are 44-years-old which we know is unrealistic in this league. If the NHL loses any part of their season because of this lockout, they will lose fans and they may never recover…
12. The 2004–05 NHL lockout resulted in the cancellation of what would have been the 88th season of play of the NHL and it marked not only the first time since 1919 that the Stanly Cup was not awarded but also the NHL became the first major professional sports league in North America to cancel a complete season because of a labor dispute. The lockout lasted 10 months and 6 days and since that lockout we have seen wide open play not resulting in more goals as projected, but in way more concussions, very dirty plays, unnecessary fighting, untimely deaths of the leagues “enforcers” and teams circumventing the salary cap they fought for, by teams offering extremely large front and rear-loaded contracts to the players who were making too much to begin with. That make the lockout a giant waste of time and a severe miscalculation on behalf of the league, the owners and the players. Only the fans got screwed here as salaries rolled back but ticket prices did not.
11. Stupid owners – Stupid owners cry poor and ask players to roll back their salaries but do not reduce the cost for tickets. That makes them appear greedy and sways the public favour towards the players. These same owners also offer and sign off on long-term contracts to circumvent the salary cap they insisted they needed and they put their faith in Gary Bettman who has no longer proven he can do the job by allowing a player to be signed until he is 42-years-old when only a few elite players are capable of playing into their 40’s. Hey owners… We see right through it.
10. Long term contracts. On September 12, 2006, Rick DiPietro signed a 15-year, $67.5 million contract with the Islanders and since that signing their “franchise goaltender” has played in around 200 games out of a potential 570 games and is, and always has been, an average yet injury prone goaltender. Signings like this and the Yashin, Kovalchuk, Reddon deals and this summer with the Suter and Parise deals are setting a dangerous precent for the league which is seeing team “lock-up” their better players and thus killing the chances for other teams to get better through trades. Publicly, in times of recession, $100 million dollar contracts are not cool to the average person and it reinforces the stereotype that players and agents are greedy for thinking of themselves only and not about the game, and it makes the owners look like complete tools for approving them and then 2 months later crying poor. Long term contracts also make the trade deadline boring and it takes a “capologist “to figure out if players can be signed or traded and in causes a swelling of salaries because player A for $98 million but player B had better stats and is worth $102 million. Watching a team overpay for a player in order to meet the salary cap floor means that player is certain to be buried in the minors and untradable once their stats level off or a better players come along.
9. Greedy players. And by greedy players I am referring to the players who have success on a team because of their linemates and the team’s system but take a sick amount of money to sign a long-term contract with another team only to stink out the joint – ahem, Scott Gomez. Then the player gets bought out or traded back for a bag of pucks. Hockey is a team game and fans do not come to watch one specific player because the league will not allow for players to be creative and show off their talents. For every super-skilled player in the NHL there are 3 players like Matt Cooke who does not hesitate to wipe these guys out from any angle under the guise of “doing my job” and “finishing my check”.
8. Fighting in the game. I’ve got to be in the minority here but I’ve lost total interest in fighting in hockey because I’ve found it to be unnecessary. The concept of having players on the roster to bully other players – who are on their roster to “pester” the good players – is ruining the game. If the NHL were serious about improving its game it would immediately cut the rosters down to 3 forward lines as it does with the 3 defensive lines and eliminate that 4th line of “agitators” and “fighters”. The third lines could be the speedy skilled guys and then players would be more willing to try fancy, creative moves on the rush instead of worrying that they are going to get hammered crossing the blue line and wind up with a career ending concussion. With this elimination must come an elimination of boarding which has become an accepted practice in the NHL, now known as “finishing your check”. If a player does not have the puck, they cannot be hit, and if they do, they can only be hit to dislodge the puck from their possession, not their head from their bodies.
7. Horrible locations for teams. Atlanta, Tampa, Phoenix, Columbus, Florida, Carolina… Really? How did the NHL really think that 2 teams in California and 2 teams in Florida were equal to 2 teams in Ontario? I appreciate that the league wants to “explore” Las Vegas and Kansas City but that is an mis-guided a move as putting a team in Markham, Ontario because they have a NHL-sized arena too. Why? Hockey is a winter sport and as such should be played in areas where they have winter and people actually like the game! Not only does having teams like Florida and Tampa winning the cup tarnish the league’s reputation much in the same way having an American team win th CFL’s Grey Cup as the Baltimore Stallions did in 1995. It took all the history and heritage of the league and cheapened it by helping non-traditional hockey market stock their teams and win. I still shake my head about that decision.
6. Lack of scoring. Where are the goals? Where is the excitement? Does the league really think that the majority of their fan base wants to see a 2-1 game full of dump-and-chase hockey? Does the league really think the “trap” is good for the game as opposed to a show of skills? The product the league puts out tells the general public this game is all about trying to run over the opponent and give the puck away then go and run someone over trying to get it back. Sadly, the only times the skill and talents of the players are showcased is when there is a blowout or as the game gets late and players start to tire. The obvious solution as I mentioned earlier is to cut down roster size but the NHL likes gimmicks and instead will make the nets larger. Since the league cannot make the ice surface bigger and cutting down the number of skaters on at a time is out of the question, they will continue to tweak with the game instead of doing the obvious. Anyone for another trapazoid? #fail.
5. The trap. Possibly the worst thing for hockey since taking out the redline was allowing teams to play the trap. Boring hockey and a lack of reinforcement of the rules which allows other teams to not forecheck and instead strategically set up their players in a way to not allow the other team to touch the puck not only is an insult to the fans who pay top dollar to watch but to the game itself which needs goals scored to win. This allowance of the trap also told teams they didn’t need skilled players they could do well with “pluggers” and out goes the skill and in came the 3-lines of defense first players. Yawn. It also meant skilled players who lit up junior hockey were being held back from playing in the NHL until they learned how to play defense. Terrible.
4. Concussions. Absolutely ruining the game as we have seen skilled players miss considerable amounts of time due to concussions – like Sidney Crosby who was the face of the NHL and is now one hit away from being another casulty ina league that does nothing to protect it’s players. What the NHL / NHLPA is missing is that the trickle down effect is parents like me and many readers of my blog will not be putting our kids in organized hockey because there are other options which will not cause permanent brain damage to our children. The game is broken. All respect is gone among players and the NHL can save face by acting… FAST. No respect, no play.
3. The Hockey Night In Canada theme song. I’m glad TSN bought the rights and showed the world they could but the lustre has worn off and the song needs to be returned to where it belongs. It belongs on the CBC, on Saturday nights, otherwise it becomes just another song being played at the beginning of hockey games. TSN, you made your point. Now do the right thing… Please.
2. Gary Bettman. He’s gotten surely, he lies to protect the face of the league yet he is the face of the league. He said there was nothing wrong in Atlanta and that a NHL team would never be going to Winnipeg and look what happened. He also states that the Phoenix team will be in the desert for a long time and I think that is also far from the truth. He continues to ignore Canada in effort to “grow” the game and his legacy, when he should be pulling back the US teams in the non-hockey markets and filling up Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan (and possibly even one for the Maritimes) and growing the game before adding other markets. I mean, geez, you don’t have to pull a Gil Stein and elect yourself to the Hockey Hall of Fame, but if doing that will allow you to move aside then please let me cast the first ballot. It’s 100% time for a change and let’s put this in perspective… I detest unions so for me to be harping on the head of the owners means there must be a change at the top. If the NHL is so determined to bust the union time and time again then don’t let the players set one up and be honest about it. The players want more money when they have great seasons but I have never seen a player offer to give back when they have a terrible season. I’m sure Donald Fehr is not going to roll over for the owners so the league needs to open up their books, be honest about their revenues and tell the players what they want to pay them. If the players walk out, get new ones. Then sign a 300 year deal and move on.
1. Taking the youth out of it. What the NHL has done well in the past 15 years is take the youth out of the game. By youth I am not referring to young players but I am referring to the increasing costs of tickets to games, the rising costs or merchandise in order to give some money to the players and the NHLPA, and the destruction of the hockey card market. Kids today cannot expect to see a hockey game live unless their parents are rich, they are given a pair of seats from a season ticket holder, they buy them through a scalper or they live in Florida. You can’t expect kids to love the game like we did growing up when they never get to see it. I grew up going to see the Toronto Marlies play because I could never get into Maple Leaf Gardens, but I owned tons of jerseys, tens of thousands of hockey cards and I knew the players inside and out. Now at $7.99 for a pack of 4 hockey cards and $179.00 for a jersey, kids only get to know the superstars and they look at the value of the card and not the content. Upper Deck killed the hockey card market. The NHL / NHLPA are killing their young fan base. If something doesn’t give the NHL faces a bleak future on many fronts.
- NHL Lockout: Gary Bettman to Take Vote on Lockout at Board of Governors Meeting (bleacherreport.com)
- Lockout Looms as Talks Between NHL and Players’ Union Stall (nytimes.com)
- NHL lockout: Didn’t we just have one? (macleans.ca)
- NHL Lockout: What a Work Stoppage Will Do to the League (bleacherreport.com)
- Lack of leverage will most likely lead to an NHL lockout (sports.nationalpost.com)