Countdown: Three Calder Nominees, Two Teams Fighting, One Lost Tooth

Before you take a look at my post on The PensNation, I want to add a quick tidbit. In my article I didn’t state my opinion on who should win the Calder Memorial Trophy. Now that I’m on my own blog, I want to formally endorse Jonathan Huberdeau. Huberdeau was phenomenal all season, despite playing on Florida Panthers, the team with the worst record in the NHL. Huberdeau also tied Nail Yakupov in rookie scoring. Pretty impressive considering the talent Yakupov has on his line in Edmonton. I also know that Huberdeau is a great person from working on some of his marketing materials during my time interning at Octagon. Overall, a great choice for the Calder, and he would’ve had my vote.

Without further ado, here is today’s post on The PensNation: http://bit.ly/15lLrfD 

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The PensNation has a new writer: Me

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For those of you who aren’t following my Twitter or my Facebook religiously, you might have missed some exciting news. Hakuna matata to all you non-stalkers, I will update you on what you’ve missed. I recently started writing NHL News for www.thepensnation.com. The PensNation is a blog and radio broadcast that is credentialed at Penguins games.

Here are the links to the three articles I have written so far:

This is my debut on the PensNation Radio Show, 4/24/13: http://bit.ly/11nCX0I. You can download and subscribe to the Radio Show on iTunes here.

NHL 2014 Stadium Series Evokes Extreme Backlash on Twitter

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If you are a hockey fan, you have probably heard the NHL’s recent announcement about their plans to have five additional outdoor games (in addition to the Winter Classic) during the 2014 season. See below for the tentative schedule:

Stadium Series Schedule

This announcement has been met with mixed reactions from agents, media, and fans. While some fans (like me) are thrilled to attend more outdoor games, others are against it. People against the “Stadium Series” argue one of a couple things:

1. The additional Stadium Series games will take away from the spectacle of the Winter Classic
2. More outdoor games=less special
3. The games are a ploy for the NHL to make more money from larger stadium capacity, increased viewing on TV, and sales of specialized merchandise

Other naysaying fans are simply hung up on how ice will be maintained in the Los Angeles climate.

Sporting News writer, Sean Gentille, wrote NHL Stadium Series a Gamble on Moneymaking Power of Outdoor Games, a blog post that discusses how additional outdoor games dilute the market. The article begins, “At some point in young adulthood, you figure out that, theoretically, you could eat birthday cake at every meal. Most people don’t.” While I see what Gentille is saying, the additional outdoor games are not under the label “Winter Classic”. The Winter Classic is still unique with the New Year’s Date, pre-game 24/7 episodes on HBO, intrigue for casual fans, and other festivities like the alumni games. I don’t know about everyone else, but I love cake all the freaking time.

Stadium Series games will be played both before and after February’s 2014 Sochi Olympics. While it is not confirmed that NHL players will be allowed to play in the Olympics, it is conceivable that these Stadium Series games provide a buffer for fans in case negotiations between the IOC, NHL, NHLPA, and IIHF head south (although I doubt that will be the case).

At this point, the Stadium Series is an experiment for the league. Employees know that one outdoor game works, so now it is time to try out more. The league is a business, remember? I am sure NHL bigwigs are hoping the games will bring in more hockey fans, create increased support after the lockout, and yes, rake in additional revenue. If the league can gain fans and increase TV viewing numbers after a horribly long lockout, why wouldn’t the Stadium Series work?

Everyone loves a little more hockey in their lives. And according to John Collins, the COO of the NHL, “No one would be more concerned about not screwing up a good thing than we would be”. Give JC a chance! (You see what I did there?)

Here are some of the best tweets I’ve seen from hockey agents and media discussing the Winter Classic and Stadium Series:

Allan Walsh, Octagon Hockey Agent Tweet

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Sidenote: I just joined the Pens Nation team at http://www.thepensnation.com. Be sure to keep an eye out for this banner on the website to see my posts!

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Condor Causes Raucous at ECHL Game

Not much to say about this video other than it is COMPLETELY ridiculous. Who thought it would be a good idea to bring a HUMONGOUS bird on the ice for a hockey game? On the bright side, the Bakersfield team can say they are named after a pretty fierce bird.

And how did the woman singing the national anthem get through it without busting a gut laughing?

The Top 5 Biggest Losers of the NHL Lockout

If you are a hockey fan with a Twitter account you are most likely very familiar with painful complaining. It seems that every NHL beat writer, hockey sportscaster, and virtually everyone I follow from Canada has been lamenting the NHL lockout on Twitter for a couple of months. Is it deserved? Yes, absolutely. Will it change anything? Obviously not.

I am just as guilty as everyone else of producing these depressing tweets with the hashtag #EndTheLockout, but it is getting hard to stay optimistic. With the league and the NHLPA meeting tomorrow, I feel uneasy. Negotiations feel like they are getting down to the wire. Either there will be a shortened season or we will have yet another full-season lockout. The precedent the NHL has set for lockouts is a huge problem and there is speculation that fans might fight back this time. But with the most tribal fans in the US and Canada, would a Bruins or Canucks fan really stop buying season tickets and merchandise? Honestly, I don’t think so. The fans are clearly the losers in this battle between the owners and the players, but who else is losing?

Here are my top 5 losers in the 2012 NHL lockout (in no particular order):

1. The Fans– this is incredibly obvious. As a fan myself, I know just how awful this lockout is.

And as I waited to for the lockout to end during the Presidential election (which clearly didn’t happen), I secretly hoped someone in the audience at the debate would ask about what Romney and Obama would do if they were at the bargaining table. Although that question wasn’t asked at the debate (which in retrospect is a very good thing), Obama did talk about it on Jay Leno- and he was right on the money. Good job Barack, you got my vote. Thanks for addressing the most important issue plaguing America today.

 

2. Teemu Selanne- Selanne, an unquestionable future Hall of Famer, is 42 years old. He is at the end of his career and this lockout might cost him his last hurrah for the Ducks. When asked if he would not play in the event of a full season lockout, Selanne said this, “Probably. It’s hard to say for sure, but year after year it’s getting harder and harder to get ready for the season. When the season starts, it’s going to be fine. But doing all the right things at this age, that’s the hardest part. But, you know, I’m more sorry about this hockey world and these younger players. I would be sad to go out like this, but I got more than I really dreamed out of it.” Depressed yet? What about when Joe Sakic had this to say at his HHOF induction, “I lost a year of hockey. It would have been 21 years instead of 20. That’s what you lose.” Okay hold your tears Anaheim fans, I still have three losers left.

3. Small businesses with Ties to Hockey- This includes merchandise shops, bars, and restaurants around the unused arenas. One sports bar owner from Edmonton said this, “It’s like anywhere from $60,000 to $80,000 (in lost revenue) a month. And that’s just us, never-mind the big bars.” These owners are furious. I mean, the millionaire league owners and players fight over hockey related revenue, escrow, and make whole while at the same time putting Mr. Joe Shmo Hockey Man out of business? This Montreal man took his complaints to YouTube…

4. The Minnesota Wild- The Wild made potentially the move of the year with the off-season pick up of free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. No doubt Minnesota paid a ridiculous amount of money to do this, but there was a palpable excitement in the air. I watched on Facebook as my friends who are Twins fans posted about hockey (which is a huge deal). Will Minnesota be able to keep up the hype without any games? Maybe, but definitely not like what it would have been if the season had started on time. According to USA Today, “They have sold the equivalent of about 4,000 new season tickets since the day the 13-year, $98 million contracts for Parise and Suter were revealed, signaling the most-anticipated season in the franchise’s 12-year history. Thanks to the NHL lockout, though, the mute button has been pushed on the buzz.” And who likes a buzzkill? No one.

5. Team/League Employees- As a student studying Sports Industry Management, I really feel for the Team and League employees who are getting royally screwed over by the lockout. One day your job is secure and the next the St. Louis Blues are laying off 20 employees and dishing out pay cuts at the speed of light. Not to mention everyone trying to find a job in hockey (gotta love hiring freezes right when I am finishing graduate school). Some employees are being downgraded to four-day work weeks and some are taking permanent pay cuts. FAIL.

Other notable losers: The Pittsburgh Penguins who were favored to win the Stanley Cup, League sponsors, NBC Sports, and the City of Detroit.

And that’s how the cookie hockey season crumbles.

Hockey Gladiators in Pula Coliseum, But Not Playing To the Death…

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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:

 

Out of the Hockey Bag and Into the House?

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As you can probably tell from my lack of blogs recently, the off-season has been pretty rough on me. I mean, just how many blog posts can you write about what might happen or the potential lockout? It is just too depressing. I decided I would share something new and cool that produces far less anxiety.

One of my friends from grad school, Jonathan Merrill, started a business building furniture out of… wait for it…hockey sticks.

Although he is just getting started, he already sold a Capitals hockey-stick chair online for $800. Pretty cool, right?

Other creative collectibles include a coat rack made out of stick blades and picture frames/puck holders made from broken sticks.

When I asked Jonathan about how he got started creating household items out of hockey equipment, he cited his previous job experience with a hockey team, “While interning with a NHL team and running their memorabilia game auctions, I noticed that players were always breaking sticks and they were being thrown away.”

Jonathan saw this ‘trash’ as the beginning of a creative and innovative project. You know what they say, one man’s broken hockey stick is another man’s treasure.

According to Jonathan, “After doing some research online, I realized that some pretty cool stuff can be created from recycled sports equipment. I didn’t come up with idea for many of the things I have made, but when most people see Creative Collectibles for the first time they act like I invented the wheel.”

His company, “Creative Collectibles” has a new facebook page, twitter page, and he is available for orders if you email him at jm885@georgetown.edu.

NHL Off-Season Main Goal: Knock out the Lockout

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While speculation is at an all-time high about the NHL’s CBA negotiations, one thing is for sure; if an agreement is not made by September 15th, the NHL players will be locked out. If this happens, it will be the 3rd time Bettman has allowed the NHL to go into lockout. The only thing that seems to be agreed upon by Don Fehr (NHLPA) and Gary Bettman (NHL) is that there is a ‘ wide gap ‘ or ‘ meaningful gulf ‘ between the sides.

So what does this mean for NHL fans? Well, if an agreement isn’t made, it means no hockey for a while. This also means decreased revenue and excitement around hockey, which has been growing exponentially the last 5 years. If the NHL has a lockout it will be horrible for the expansion of the game both in North America and abroad (global preseason games have already been cancelled)…

Don Fehr has suggested that the game should continue until an agreement is made. “Under the law, if an agreement expires, that may give someone the legal ability to go on strike or in this case to impose a lockout,” he said. “There’s no requirement that they do so and if nobody does anything you (can) continue to work under the old conditions.” But Bettman and the NHL owners do not have any intentions of operating under the current CBA, even if it means no 2013 season. According to Bettman, “We reiterated to the union that the owners will not play another year under the current agreement”. If the CBA is not finalized by September 15th, there is a good chance a lockout is imminent.

But what is everyone even arguing about anyway? Well, the league wants to make sure the owners are protected. They are trying to lower salaries for players and essentially put that money back into the owners’ pockets. According to Don Fehr on NHL’s proposal, “Seems to us that all of the revenue-sharing payments would be paid for by player salary reductions.” Revenue sharing is definitely the biggest issue at hand. The NHL’s current proposal includes an 11% cut of hockey-related revenues going to players (changing from 57% to 46%). Do the players or the owners really need this money? No, probably not. But they definitely want it and they will fight ’til the death (or until September 15th) to come to a compromise.

Personally, it seems that both sides are hard-lining. I mean, yesterday’s meeting lasted less than 2 hours. But hey, isn’t that what negotiations are about? Ask for more than what you want, and don’t let up until the very last second. And we aren’t at the very last second, not yet. I am pretty optimistic that the NHL and NHLPA will work out an agreement, because if they don’t they are hurting virtually all of their stakeholders (players, owners, league, agents, and the fans). Don Fehr and the NHLPA are expected to give their first counterproposal to the NHL on Tuesday 8/14. And hopefully in the meantime, fans don’t attack Gary Bettman and demand hockey. For now those fans will have to wait patiently… or make aggressive memes.

Hockey Poll: Penalty Shot Misses – Which is Hardest to Watch?

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