10 Biggest Hockey Headlines of Summer
(WASHINGTON, DC) -- Some of my most embarrassing
academic moments came in swamp of ennui called Economics
class. I'm just not a numbers guy, especially when it
comes to money, which is one of the reasons I gravitated
to journalism, a noble profession in which gross
earnings can be calculated as "high," "low," or
My aversion to monetary debates, discussions and
dissertations has made this first truly-capped NHL
off-season a tough one to cover. I yearn for the days of
silly fanboy trade proposals in which you didn't need a
NASA supercomputer, an abacus and Alan Greenspan to
figure out if the contracts add up under the cap.
have been some shocking headlines during the summer for
the NHL — economically, electronically and especially
I could have written 10 comprehensive columns this summer...
or I could have spent the last few months pounding six packs
of microbrews and trying to win the Cup on NHL '94 with every
team in the Wales Conference.
I chose the latter, so here's a digest-style look at 10
Historic Headlines from the NHL Off-Season:
1. How the Players Won the New CBA
Boy, maybe Goodenow shouldn't have resigned after all.
We all knew the players scored a major victory in the new CBA
by dropping the unrestricted free agency minimum to 27-years
old or seven years of service by the 2008 season; meaning that
an 18-year-old rookie will go unrestricted at the ripe old age
of 25. Yikes!
This off-season, we learned that the NHLPA landed another shot
to the collective chin of the owners when it came to
arbitration. Rumors were rampant during the late stages of the
lockout that the league would adopt the Major League
Baseball-style arbitration in which a player and a team submit
counterproposals and either one or the other is selected. What
the CBA established, however, is that an arbitrator can pick
any number between the proposals. What these "middle ground"
salary rulings do is create inflated comparisons for other
arbitration cases — without a number of arbitration losers to
bring the averages down, the numbers will continue to rise.
Thus, when Scott Gomez gets $5 million, Daniel Briere's is the
next domino to fall, and so on.
The result? As Fox Sports columnist Lyle Richardson reports,
"The average salary in the NHL has risen from $1.3 million at
the start of last season to over $1.8 million prior to
2006-07, nearly back to where it was prior to the lockout."
It appears the NHLPA may have been capped, but not conquered,
under the new CBA.
2. The Next "Project Runway" Winner Needs To Join the NHL
Milan really doesn't need to worry about the National Hockey
League taking over as the epicenter of the fashion industry
any time soon. Witness this trio of couture calamities:
1. Anaheim's new "Ducks" logo, which looks like a cafeteria spork.
2. The Buffalo Sabres' new "slug" logo, which has been maligned and
debated on hockey message boards more than Eric Lindros's Hall
of Fame chances. I'll defer to the brilliant hockey blogger
Mike Chen, who claimed the new Buffalo logo is a combination
of Conan O'Brian's hair and the Wampa from "The Empire Strikes
3. In order to reach into the pocket books of female fans (and the
wallets of the puckheads who love them), the NHL announced it
is producing a line of pink-and-white hockey jerseys for all
Finally — something pretty for Justin Williams to wear while
3. Never, Ever Mess with Lou Lamoriello
True story about Lou Lamoriello: When he entered his first
waiver draft as Devils team President, he selected veteran
defensemen Reijo Ruotsalainen from Edmonton in the first round
and Risto Siltanen from Quebec in the second, even though it
was widely known that both players would compete in Europe
during the 1987-88 season. He then selected former "Miracle on
Ice" national team defenseman Jack O'Callahan from the
Blackhawks in the fifth round of the draft.
Under the rules at the time, the Devils had to expose another
player after taking O'Callahan, who was a five-year veteran at
the time. Lamoriello did just that: exposing Siltanen, who
wouldn't have played for the Devils that season anyway. He
exploited a loophole in the waiver process and infuriated
opposing general managers. It was pure genius, and vintage
So far, Lamoriello's been stopped in every attempt he's made
to climb out of the salary cap hole he dug for New Jersey
before last season, a hole even deeper thanks to the Gomez
arbitration and the miraculous re-signing of Patrik Elias. But
when the Devils open in October, Lou's going to have them
under the cap without having to trade a significant player to
How do I know this?
Because he's Lou Lamoriello, that's how. And I'm still
drinking the Kool-Ade.
4. OLN/Versus: Doing Everything It Can To Make Us Crawl
Back To ESPN
When I spoke with Gary Bettman last year about the OLN cable
deal, he made one thing very clear: the second season of NHL
hockey on the upstart network would feature more West Coast
Well, the 2006-07 schedule is out, and yet another promise has
been broken. San Jose appears six times on OLN; the rest of
the coast is toast: Anaheim (3), Los Angeles (2), Phoenix (1)
and not a single Canucks, Flames or Oilers game on the
schedule. (Looks like the only time a Western Canadian team
can get on American television is to make the damn Finals.)
OLN made some great strides in its hockey coverage last year,
and there's no denying that the hours that network committed
to all things hockey far exceeded whatever the boys in Bristol
would have given us in between airings of the World Series of
Darts and that show where the sportswriters yell at each other
about the Red Sox and Yankees.
But with an unbalanced schedule, if there isn't representation
for West Coast teams on national television then there isn't
going to be a compelling reason for East Coast fans to watch
them in the postseason.
And can somebody please tell me the hack logic behind putting
Sidney Crosby on seven times and Alexander Ovechkin on twice?
5. You'll Be Working for Your Goalie One Day
Remember that old rap about making fun of nerds in
high-school? About how you'll be looking for a job one day and
the Poindexter to whom you administered wedgies-on-the-hour
would end up owning the company?
Same principle now applies to mediocre goaltenders. Next time
you want to call your backstop a worthless sieve or a slice of
Swiss cheese, remember he could one day be President of the
St. Louis Blues or Charles Wang's sock puppet... I mean, GM of
the New York Islanders.
6. You Can't Spell Bloggers Without B.S.
I've spent the majority of the off-season getting my NHL fix
from the various bloggers who cover their respective teams
with the tenacity of paparazzi staking out Suri Cruises
pediatrician's office. Or wherever an Operating Thetan Seven
would take his human offspring.
There are good bloggers, and there are average bloggers. There
are even some bloggers who have convinced hundreds of people
to pay a fee in order to ask them questions on a super-special
message board, because they once claimed to have interned with
the Quebec Nordiques/Worked for the NHL league office/Wrote a
best-selling non-fiction book that allowed them to be a
freelance hockey writer for the last decade/Later claimed to
have had nothing to do with hockey after college, making their
"own fame in a completely different world until the lockout
came"/Were a Philadelphia Flyers fan who worked in the
entertainment industry, according to ESPN/Told people in the
NHL front office they were a day-trader/Told journalists
interviewed on their site that they were a musician who
befriended some Flyers through their band/Ignores the
uncomfortable restraints of a concept like "truth" by hiding
behind the dogma of "rumors," like a child cowering behind his
(Have I missed anything?)
This summer saw the dawn, or at least the exposure of, a new
breed of blogger: the corporate public relations department
masquerading as the voice of the fan.
A St. Louis-based marking company called Schupp Co. (not to be
confused with Lillie Von Schtupp from "Blazing Saddles")
created a blog/fan site called thebluerevolution.com.
Although, clearly copyrighted by the Blues themselves at the
bottom the page, the rest of the site appears fan-made, from a
blog touting Blues' prospects camp to a "fanifesto" that
offers a laundry list of fan "beliefs."
Of course, since the site is a sham, the "fanifesto" now has a
creepy Big Brother vibe: "The fans must make Savvis Center an
impossible place for visiting teams to play"; "True Blues fan
DON'T talk on their cell phone during game"; "Luxury suites
make a great present for that rich uncle that seems to have
everything." (Just kidding on that last one... or am I?)
Web marketing veiled as fan creation is nothing new —
Hollywood's been doing this since the dawn of Internet message
boards and anonymous Hotmail accounts. But when I read Mark
Schupp, President of Schupp Co., tell the St. Louis
Post-Dispatch that "the intention was to make the site look
like the fans did it," it makes me think there's something
frightening fraudulent about the entire venture — as if true
hockey fans are so discontent with the state of St. Louis
hockey that they need to be deceived in order for the Blues to
open lines of communication with them.
Or, more to the point, that the NHL is so afraid of the loud
clamor of fan blogs and arm-chair journalists that it needs to
lie in order to still control the message.
7. In Analyzing the Florida Panthers' Roster from Last
Season and The Upcoming Season, Using a Complicated System of
Algorithms, Biorhythms and Neo-Platonic Equations, I Was Able
To Deduce the Following:
Roberto Luongo > Alex Auld + Ed Belfour.
That said, here's the first FiveStarGradeALeadPipeLock
prediction for the 2006-07 season: Florida makes the
postseason, while Luongo and the Canucks make their tee times.
8. The LA Times Cuts Back Hockey Coverage
The non-story of the summer. LA Times beat writers will no
longer be covering road trips for the Kings and the Ducks
because the new sports editor isn't a hockey guy and doesn't
see value in budgeting for that kind of coverage. That puts
the LA Times in league with the roughly dozen cities whose
major dallies didn't budget for a writer to appear at the
Stanley Cup Finals.
The fact is that the teams will be covered during each road
game via Associated Press reports and at home via beat
writers, which is not out of the ordinary for sports sections
attempting to serve their readership on the cheap. And that
this new format may actually free-up writers to do more
enterprise pieces instead of pedestrian game stories. And that
new media has, by and large, surpassed old media in coverage
of the NHL — I think Kings fans learn more breaking news about
their team from TheFourthPeriod.com than from most LA dailies.
Hockey fans are getting their news from media outlets that
respect The Game. There's a better chance of Steven Spielberg
directing "Mad Max: Beyond Synagogue" than the LA Times ever
treating hockey with any reverence.
The bottom line is that since 1994, the Kings have advanced to
the second round once and missed the post-season entirely
It's an old cliché, but worthy of repeating here: Winning
9. I Expect Dominik Hasek to Play 25 Games Next Season
Five in the regular season, 20 in the post-season, which is
really the only reason the Red Wings signed the brittle
backstop. You could put a blindfolded Norm Maracle in there
for 70 games and Detroit's still going to skate away with the
Hasek? He's there for the next four rounds. He's now the
hockey equivalent of El Duque.
10. Patience Is a Virtue in Edmonton
Yoga. Meditation. Medication. I have no idea what method of
relaxation therapy Oilers GM Kevin Lowe employs, but I want
How else can you explain Lowe not getting crazier than Sean
Avery on a Red Bull binge after coming within one win of the
Stanley Cup and then losing his team captain because the Mrs.
Didn't care for the snow (or the snow birds, depending on whom
How did Lowe avoid a few weeks in a padded room when you have
someone like Jaroslav Spacek tossing Edmonton under the bus
after signing with Buffalo?
"The team now in Edmonton will be not the same like last
year," Spacek Yoda-spoke to the Buffalo News after signing
with the Sabres. He went on to claim that the Oilers lucked
their way into the post-season and then needed "big help from
San Jose and Anaheim" to make the Finals.
Given these outrageous working conditions, Lowe and the
Edmonton braintrust had a stellar off-season. Turning Mr. and
Mrs. Twit into Joffrey Lupul, Ladislav Smid, two No. 1 picks
and a No. 2 pick was nothing less than extraordinary when you
filter out the fanboy trade proposals and realize the
relatively average quality of most of the offers Lowe was
fielding. Sure, Lupul joins a right-wing log jam. Yeah, Smid
could be a Top 3 defenseman or could be Joni Pitkanen without
a physical game, which I didn't think was humanly possible.
But getting that kind of return on a player who needed to be
shipped out ASAP or was destined to be a locker room cancer
until the 2007 deadline is miraculous in a capped league.
Meanwhile, the Oilers locked up Ales Hemsky, who's creeping
closer to being a 90-point player, for six years. They signed
playoff hero Fernando Pisani for four. They also didn't panic
post-Pronger and toss free agent money to anyone with a 'D' in
front of their names — that's how you end up with stiffs like
Vlad Malakhov and Dan McGillis eating up cap room (right,
Edmonton's only misstep was re-signing Dwyane Roloson to an
$11 million, three-year deal; he's a classic walk-year
superstar, and Jussi deserved to inherit the starting job
after gutting it out in the Finals following Ty Conklin's
It's refreshing to see a team that was on the cusp of
immortality take the smart, enduring to maintaining that
success rather than making financially irresponsible decisions
just to garner an iota of good press.
Like, for example, signing Bryan McCabe for 5-years and nearly
Wyshynski, also the Sports Editor of The Connect Newspaper, is
a columnist for TheFourthPeriod.com and the Washington
Correspondent for The Fourth Period Magazine.
His book, "Glow Pucks and 10-Cent Beer: The 101 Worst Ideas in Sports
is now on sale.