At least someone is playing hockey. As the gloom and doom of the NHL lockout rages on, I had to share some pictures from an amazing Winter Classic-like event in Croatia.
The Pula Coliseum, a 2,000 year-old open air arena in Croatia, was iced over for a multiple-day hockey festival (and how cool does it look?). Medveščak of Zagreb, one of Croatia’s most successful hockey clubs, hosted the games and although the venue only held around 8,000 spectators, it created a huge internet buzz.
So logistically how did this work in an ancient coliseum in the 70 degree heat? According to the Croatian Times, the ice fit easily into the historic amphitheater. “It was almost as if the Romans took it into account when they built the place 2,000 years ago, the proportions of the amphitheatre fit perfectly to the proportions of a modern ice hockey rink.”
Take a look at the amazing video:
What is going on in the hockey world you ask? Simply, a lot. With LA’s Game 1 OT win over the Devils in the Stanley Cup final, the NHL Combine taking place this weekend, the EA Sports Cover Vote coming to a close, and Lidstrom announcing his retirement, fans are in the thick of tons of hockey news.
Here are the most important headlines:
1. LA Kings win Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals in overtime. Kudos go to Kopitar who scored on a breakaway goal. See here:
- Sidenote: The Kings have never won a Stanley Cup. For those of you who think that is no big deal, consider the fact that the Kings became a NHL team in the 1967 NHL expansion with the California Seals.
2. Nicklas Lidstrom announces his retirement from the NHL (the year before the Red Wings play in the Winter Classic- do I see an alumni game all-star in the near future?)
- Sidenote: Lidstrom has played 20 seasons with the Red Wings, and is still just as good as he was way back when. I mean, he won 7 Norris Trophies for being the league’s best defenseman. Check out his first goal ever here.
3. The NHL Scouting Combine finished up interviews with potential players and have now moved on to test athletic ability. The Combine takes place in Toronto from May 28th until June 2nd. TSN draftcenter is covering everything you could ever want to know about the Combine.
- Sidenote: Teams are increasingly worried about drafting high profiled Russian players for fear that they will choose to play in the KHL rather than the NHL. What? You think someone named Yakupov or Grigorenko would want to play in Russia? I wonder why they are worried…
- Various players in the top of the scouting class have injuries that are not quite healed. No one knows just how the injuries will effect the players’ draft position (Most notably Alex Galchenyuk’s knee injury). Yeah ouch.
- Sidenote: Malcolm Subban, PK Subban’s brother was at the Combine. He plays goalie. Who knew?
- Sidenote: Top defenseman prospect Ryan Murray ended up vomiting after the Combine’s bike test to check oxygen consumption during intense exercise. To reporters he stated, ““I lost a little bit of my breakfast…too much bacon this morning.” Sounds like a comment an 18 year old would make. Oh yeah, he’s 18. Younger than my younger brother. Scary.
4. EA Sports Cover Vote for NHL 2013 has been narrowed down to only 2 candidates: Flyers’ Center Claude Giroux and Predators’ Goalie Pekka Rinne. Voting lasts until June 4th and the support for both candidates on Twitter is ridiculous. Giroux put out a message to fans on his own Twitter account, while celebrities like Carrie Underwood have come out in support of Rinne.
5. The NHL Draft and the NHL Awards are on the horizon. Not too much to say about this, other than I am getting excited. I am attending the draft this year. Let me know if you will be there and come ask me if I agreed with the choices at the Awards show (or tweet me @Fiveforboarding <shameless plug>)
6. Trades to watch out for: Rick Nash, Jordan Staal (Headed to Carolina with his brother?), Ryan Suter (Lidstrom’s replacement?), and Zach Parise (unrestricted free agent this summer).
- Sidenote: And what about all this Tim Thomas craziness? Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli confirmed that “There’s a strong chance he’ll [Thomas] be taking the year off.” Why? Because he is Tim Thomas and he does what he wants. That was clear when he didn’t go with the rest of the Bruins team to the White House. Does he want to be traded? His no-trade clause does expire on July 1st… Time will tell.
According to the NHL, this upcoming season will be the first season since 2007 to not have preseason games in Europe. The reason for this change stems from the logistics associated with the NHL’s expiring Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). The CBA remains in effect until September 15, 2012 which is right at the beginning of when the preseason should start.
Sports Business Journal wrote this week, “Sources said that the NHL was ‘willing to schedule them, but an agreement couldn’t be reached with the NHLPA over how cancellation costs would be handled in the event of a work stoppage.'” So, because of a potential lockout teams can’t promote the sport to fans abroad? In my opinion, this is a horrible situation for the NHL. Deals need to be worked out, but the importance of these games is clearly being overlooked. At the NHL GM meeting, GMs accepted that games could not be scheduled and the CBA could be tabled. Instead they should have scheduled the games, and cut their losses if cancellations occurred (which they most likely wouldn’t anyway). The GMs also could have taken a look at the CBA to try to figure it out before the summer ends. Commissioner Gary Bettman actually said he doesn’t know when talks about the CBA will start, “Ask the union. We’ve been ready. But I’m not concerned. There’s lots of time.” Sure, lots of time, but at the expense of the European preseason.
I recently went to London and met with executives from both NFL UK and NBA International. Both the NFL and the NBA are doing everything in their power to grow their brands in Europe and get an increasingly International fan base. The NBA is doing pretty well, because basketball is such a global sport. They are growing on a grassroots level, and utilizing social media to gain fans. The NFL faces challenges from rugby fans who doubt the amount of padding used, but the the NFL is still bringing an American football game to London each year. They also are attempting to bring an NFL team to the UK for good. On the other hand, NHL games aren’t even played on TV in England. There is no deal with the networks that allow for them to be played. (Sidenote: this is not the case everywhere in Europe, it varies by country). In the UK they play AHL hockey games on TV. Do you really expect to get new hockey fans from watching the AHL?
The NHL needs to get into the arena of global sports. It is exciting, it is not like anything else (no competition like football has with rugby or baseball has with cricket), and it has prominence in countries spanning the globe (US, Russia, Czech Republic, Sweden…etc). But the first step to attaining this goal was to grow the NHL fan-base in countries that already have a love of hockey. NHL players need to get into their arenas, interact with their fans, and boost the NHL brand. Without these pre-season games, it is a huge step back for the NHL and for global hockey.