Sunday, September 30, 2007

NHL Network set to launch in United States on October 1st

I originally posted an entry about this news story four days ago, but I thought it would be better to update it into a new one instead.

Back on Wednesday, I saw a bit of new information posted over at HF Boards' business of hockey section and it caught my attention. Remember when I started this blog nearly two months ago that there should be a sense of urgency to bring the NHL Network to the United States and help build a loyal audience in the process?

No major news organization had discussed this publicly yet until now. During today's broadcast of the second game in the NHL Premiere series between the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks, viewers were informed that the NHL Network will launch in the United States tomorrow.

Unless you are an HDNet customer, American viewers didn't have access to a live television broadcast feed of the series' first game yesterday from the O2 Arena in London. Versus picked up the NHL Network feed from Canada. The announcement was made during the middle of the first period, but it did not provide information of which carriers will have NHL Network available at the launch date.

As early as October 16th, the NHL Network will be offered to Comcast cable television customers in the Pittsburgh television market, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and a Pennsylvania Public Notices news release.

Cox Communications issued a press release that by October 30th, the NHL Network will be available for their cable television customers in northern Virginia on their Digital Sports and Information channel tier. The Orlando Business Journal reported on Friday that Bright House cable systems in central Florida will be adding the NHL Network sometime in November.

I'm waiting to see how negotiations with other large cable companies such as Time Warner Cable and Cablevision turn out considering they dominate the New York City television market. If the NHL wants to make sure the largest customer base in the country gets the new channel, they better make sure these two cable providers are taken care of. It's a good bet we'll hear more details in the coming days about exactly when and where the NHL Network will be added among the cable and satellite providers.

This is only good news for American fans to have a channel of their own here dedicated to just NHL programming. The NBA has had it since 1999. The NFL has as well since 2003. Major League Baseball will also eventually launch their own channel in 2009. But in order for the NHL to successfully compete for viewers in this country, the league better fulfill their promise coming out of the 2005 lockout that they would bring the NHL Network here. Some Canadian fans that have had NHL Network since 2001 have expressed some disappointment or lack excitement over its overall content. But perhaps that could change if the NHL wants to capture more American viewers by making some changes to really bring an even higher quality of programming to the channel, not just have the majority of its programs come from the Canadian side that is run through The Sports Network (TSN).

The NHL Network completes their nine-game preseason telecast schedule in Canada tonight and as announced in a CTV Media press release, the Canadian channel will feature a 40-game regular season telecast schedule (five of them are "fan favorite" games). There has been no announcement yet on the broadcast schedule for the NHL Network in the United States. Viewers north of the border will have the priviledge to see a free preview of the NHL Network during the upcoming month and at least through October 9th, fans in both countries will get to watch a free preview of NHL Center Ice during the first week of the new 2007-2008 NHL season.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Paul Friesen raises bar in Winnipeg/Phoenix flame war

What makes this story interesting is how a couple of comments that Randy Turner and Gary Lawless had tucked away in their September 20th articles of the Winnipeg Free Press would lead into a war of words between the Phoenix and Winnipeg hockey media.

As I mentioned in two blog entries in the last seven days, this non-story became one after Turner went on a typical Canadian media rant about how he believes NHL hockey is failing in the southern United States and named Phoenix as one of the cities. Lawless in his "highlight reel" section of his preseason game recap complained about the lack of a physical presence by the Phoenix media at MTS Centre for a meaningless preseason game between the Phoenix Coyotes and Toronto Maple Leafs.

Three days later, East Valley Tribune hockey columnist Jerry Brown decided to not let Turner's and Lawless' rants go unanswered with his "Brownie Points" column. Some readers found his statements to be offensive to Winnipeg hockey fans while others applaud him for standing up to the harsh critics from north of the border.

But the latest development to this story was raised to an all new level altogether as Winnipeg Sun hockey columnist Paul Friesen went on the attack against Brown with a front page story (you can also access this hyperlink to a saved image as the article is directly accessible online for only a limited time). A very clever cartoon image of the Looney Tunes character Wile E. Coyote holding a sign reading "Winnipeg sucks" was plastered on the cover for all Winnipeggers to see. There is no doubt in my mind that Friesen's objective was to make a very public statement to a Phoenix-area hockey writer all in front of his hometown readers so he can sell a few extra newspapers.

It did the trick, didn't it? A number of Winnipeg fans ended up accessing Brown's column page and leaving some choice words for the Coyotes beat writer after reading Friesen's column. While a few showed some class, some were argumentative in nature while others were downright outrageous with their statements, valid or not. I certainly had a major problem with some of these readers' comments. So much so that on two occasions within the 24 hours that Friesen's column was published, I made my feelings very loud and clear.

Friesen has a right to speak his mind and respect his voiced opinions about hockey issues such as this one about what Brown said on September 23rd. I'd be ready to defend my town too if it was not said in the nicest words. Ever heard of "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me", people? Not that Brown went on a malicious tirade against Winnipeg, but did it warrant Friesen to attack Brown, the city of Phoenix, its sports market and the Coyotes in the manner he did? Seriously, Friesen made this headline news as if Winnipeg was under a nuclear attack. He has told me today that his column was all done in fun and given the reasoning I can see that, I buy it. It reaffirms my belief that his goal was indeed what I thought it was. At the same time I said to Friesen in a reply back that it stirred up a big debate.

The fact of the matter is, this flame war from Winnipeg's side is about their loss of the Jets to Phoenix. I have seen the good times and now the bad in Arizona. This flame war is about what some journalists and fan criticisms of the present-day NHL are about... cities that deserve NHL teams, but could sustain them in the economic climate of the league VS. Sun Belt franchises that have either struggled or even if they are doing well, the argument especially echoing from Canada from the fans and media has been, they're not supported the same as their NHL cities. Just look at today's edition of the Edmonton Sun where Robert Tychkowski just had to bring up the small crowd at Arena for last night's preseason game between the Coyotes and Edmonton Oilers. If I must say this again to get it through observers' thick skulls... IT'S PRESEASON!

The thing is this. The Phoenix Coyotes as they are right now are struggling for reasons I've already stated in my earlier blog entries. It's no secret that the fans have stayed away in Phoenix. It is not because they don't care! They are disenchanted with the front office for how they've failed to put together a competitive team over the last five years. Will new Coyotes general manager Don Maloney right the ship? Who knows, but we'll be watching. Winnipeg fans as well as media critics in that city and across Canada conveinently fail to recall the success the Coyotes were seeing in the first five years despite US Airways Center not built to properly accommodate hockey and had a limited seating capacity for NHL games in the Coyotes' original rink. In turn, the Coyotes did not bring in enough adequate revenue to make them profitable and viable. But that reason didn't hold up enough by the time the Coyotes moved into Arena.

Then came the 2005 lockout. Does anybody in Canada remember that? That has had a major effect on the Coyotes and even cancelled an event that would've done some real good for them... the NHL All-Star Game. No, it wouldn't have cured their ills, but it would've helped better the situation.

The convenience of the Coyotes' struggles at this point in time only has given the Winnipeg media and other media across Canada their window to take shots at a team when they're down.

Here's my point in all this and some advice for the emotional fans that reside in Winnipeg. This advice can be given to others across Canada that echo the same negative sentiments. Get a grip on the fact that it's been 11 years since the Jets left Winnipeg and it's time to solely concentrate on supporting Darren Ford's "Return of the Jets Campaign" and getting behind it in full force. At the same time, an owner must step to the table ready to invest in an expansion or relocated team the very moment the NHL Board of Governors is willing to officially commit to Winnipeg as a renewed member of the league. The corporate community and the fans must put their money where there mouth is in saying they are unconditional supporters of NHL hockey in Winnipeg. That would be most suited at this point for the Winnipeg media and Jets fans to put forth their efforts on instead of whining and complaining about the Coyotes at every turn. Why? It won't change anything, that's why!

We'll see if any more words are spoken between journalists from the two cities, but at this point in the flame war, it'll lose its luster real fast if pointless bickering and arguments are made.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Bruins name Cam Neely team vice president

Earlier in my life as a developed into a diehard hockey fan, there was one player that I always feared when seeing him play for the Boston Bruins. With absolutely no disrespect for a fellow Hall of Famer in Raymond Bourque, I always found Cameron Neely as a dangerous weapon for the men that donned the black and gold jerseys bearing that famous spoked B logo on the chest.

As a very humble and giving man, he was a leader on and off the ice for the Bruins. Neely represented them well as a part of the National Hockey League family. He may have put up big career numbers, but Neely was also a punishing checking forward that made him one of the most versatile, multifaceted forwards in the game. No, he wasn't a player that played the role of an enforcer, yet he fought his battles when he needed to.

After playing 525 NHL games where he compiled 344 goals, 246 assists and 921 penalty minutes over 10 seasons, Neely was forced to retire in September 1996 due to chronic injuries. Now as a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, his #8 was retired by the Bruins on November 7, 2005 in a memorable ceremony at TD Banknorth Garden.

For what he brought to this Original Six franchise, owner Jeremy Jacobs and his front office made the decision to officially name Neely yesterday as the team's new Vice President. He will oversee general manager Peter Chiarelli as well advise Jacobs on the business side of the franchise operations. In other words, Neely will have a major say in the day-to-day operations of the team with only Jacobs to answer to.

"We have had great success working with Cam the past few months," Mr. Jacobs said at yesterday's press conference to announce Neely's appointment. "And Cam, I am happy to announce today, is the new Vice President of the Boston Bruins."

While Neely is a household name for Bruins fans, the goal is under his leadership and guidance to restore the team's relevance in the NHL and the hockey world. Everyone in Boston has gone crazy for the Red Sox and Patriots in recent years and I'm sure that is what under Neely's watch wants to see the same thing happen with the Bruins.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Phoenix-area hockey writer fires back at Winnipeg counterparts

After Winnipeg Free Press hockey writers Randy Turner and Gary Lawless took their turns in bashing the city of Phoenix for the Coyotes' recent lack of on-ice success, a lagging fan base and the lack of physical media presence in Winnipeg last week for what basically was a meaningless preseason game, East Valley Tribune hockey columnist Jerry Brown fired right back yesterday.

In his latest "Brownie Points" column, Brown echoed what many people in Arizona have for a long time felt about Canadian fans and media continuously taking vicious shots at Phoenix sports teams and fans.

"And once again, the still-frosted 'Peggers use the occasion to crow about how (1) their beloved Jets were stolen away and (2) Arizona doesn't deserve an NHL team," Brown wrote. "The Valley is a big-time sports area. We have a baseball team in a pennant race, college and NFL football, NBA and NHL. Do you guys get the Super Bowl up there? Check the site this year."

After the Phoenix Coyotes made their second preseason visit to Winnipeg since they relocated from there 11 years ago and lost 3-2 to the Toronto Maple Leafs before 13,417 fans at MTS Centre, the tension resurfaced between Winnipeg fans and media and their Phoenix counterparts. As expected, heartbroken Jets fans still show their animosity toward the Coyotes for legitimate reasons where they hate the team being in Phoenix instead of staying in their city. There seems to be a similar tone with hockey columnists in Winnipeg as well evident in their very harsh criticisms of the state of the franchise as it stands today. The two biggest (but not only) factors would be a team not winning and disenchanted Coyotes fans staying away in large numbers from a new arena in operation since December 2003. In seeing this, the Canadian media continues to complain about where the Coyotes stand in a crowded sports market.

Toronto Star hockey columnist Damien Cox once again took a shot at Phoenix last night during a regular appearance on The Sports Network's "TSN The Reporters" when the Cox and two other panelists with host Dave Hodge discussed the future of the NHL. When the topic of the upcoming two regular season games in London was brought up, they speculated this may be more than just an experiment. Hodge asked if the NHL may place any teams in Europe one day. What was Cox's response?

"I've sort of have long been in the mind of, what's the point of this? It's just too far away. I'm kind of changing it to the point where, go for it," Cox said. "Be the first to go to Europe and try to do something else. Could it be any worse than Nashville? Or Phoenix? Or some of these other places? Go for it."

Cox's opinions are a welcomed sight to many TSN viewers and Toronto Star readers, but there are times when I have an issue with the basis of some of his statements such as this one.

Until there are tangible results of the Coyotes becoming a more viable franchise and not losing money as they have, there will always be someone, especially north of the border who will be the next to throw a stone at Phoenix. But Brown at least was one columnist that covers the Coyotes who stood up and fired back at the critics. And he had one last statement for Winnipeg to end his column.

"We're keeping the team. Winning will breed interest. So get over it."

Couldn't have been a more blunt statement than that. Phoenix fans can only hope that he's right. Will the Arizona Republic hockey writers do the same? Maybe team representatives or FSN Arizona executives issue their own response, too? Time will tell if that were to happen, but either way even if it doesn't, actions on and off the ice by the Coyotes will speak louder than words spoken from Arizona to Manitoba or anywhere else in Canada.

Penguins officially staying in Pittsburgh through 2040

It has been a long road to get to this point in the history of the Pittsburgh Penguins. I'm not talking about their on-ice success or failures. This is about their long-term future in the Steel City.

Six days ago marked the official beginning of what the city of Pittsburgh hopes to be a continued relationship with the Penguins for many years to come. On Thursday, Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell announced that the team signed a 30-year lease for their new arena which makes them contractually bound to stay right where they are until June 30, 2040. That's right, you heard me correctly.

Back in March, Penguins owner Mario Lemieux finally reached the goal he had been seeking for the past seven years. That was to secure funding for a desperately needed new arena for his National Hockey League franchise in Pittsburgh. Lemieux along the team's chief executive officer Ken Sawyer were successful in hammering out a deal with Rendell, Allegheny County chief executive Dan Onorato and Pittsburgh mayor Luke Ravenstahl to get the arena built.

This quest was accomplished under intense pressure with the fans and the NHL keeping a close watch on the negotiations as well as officials from other cities interested in housing the franchise. Prior to this agreement being reached, the one and only one option that Lemieux had to get the funding needed to raise $290 million for the new arena was to team up with Isle of Capri, a company that was willing to pay the full cost under the condition they win a state license to bid a casino in Pittsburgh.

When the Isle of Capri bid failed last December, Lemieux had all but given up hope the Penguins would be able to stay in town. The relocation talk picked up steam and speculation clearly had Kansas City as the frontrunner to get the team next season given their own new arena was in the late stages of construction and Sprint Center would've been ready to house the Penguins. Before the Pittsburgh arena agreement was reached, the Penguins lease at Mellon Arena was set to expire on June 30th.

With the new arena in Pittsburgh set to open in 2010, a lease extension was previous signed for Mellon Arena while the team continues to play there in the meantime. The lease for new arena was authorized by the city of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County's Sports and Exhibition Authority on June 7th and signed by the Penguins on September 18th.

Three-time All-Star Sean Burke retires

It's hard to believe how time has flown by where now I see that another veteran goaltender has called it a career.

After a lack of interest from the 30 NHL teams including the team he played for last season, Sean Burke announced his retirement on Tuesday after 18 seasons in the league. He finished up with the Los Angeles Kings in the 2006-2007 campaign where signed as an emergency roster addition thanks to injuries to their top two goaltenders. In 23 games, he complied a 6-15 record on a team that one of the worst records in the NHL last season.

I remember when Burke first broke into the league with the New Jersey Devils and had a major impact on their success. He had a 10-1 record in 13 games during the 1987-1988 season. The 24th overall draft pick in 1985 was between the pipes on the night the Devils clinched their first-ever playoff berth. Another vivid memory I have of Burke was him being the one reason why in my final road trip for an NHL game in Hartford on October 7, 1995 didn't make it a happy one. The Whalers blanked the Rangers 2-0 that afternoon. He was still playing for Hartford when the team played their final game prior to their relocation to North Carolina in 1997.

Burke did spend most of the latter portion of his career with the Phoenix Coyotes in good times and in bad. He was their starting goaltender during the 2001-2002 season when the Coyotes last made the playoffs and recorded a career-high 33 wins in 60 games. Hard to believe that was five years ago. That goalie mask with the motorcycle painted on it definitely is etched into my hockey memory bank.

Just before the lockout, Burke returned to Philadelphia during the stretch run of the 2003-2004 campaign, but only played 38 more games in the NHL. At this point in time without a team calling to see if he's available to try out at training camp for any of the 30 teams, the 40-year-old Burke realized it was time to put away the goalie equipment and retire.

Is Burke a future Hall of Famer? Not likely. He has 324 regular season wins to his credit (19th on the NHL's all-time list), but outside his rookie season, he didn't fare that well in the playoffs and no Stanley Cup championship to his resume. With a 336-373-101 career record (including playoffs) and 9 of his 12 postseason wins coming in 1988, it doesn't make for a good case to make the Hall of Fame.

Either way, with his three All-Star appearances (1989, 2000 and 2001) and 38 career shutouts, it shows Burke had an accomplished NHL career.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Winnipeg hockey media continues to bash Phoenix

For the second straight September, the Phoenix Coyotes paid a visit to their former home. For the second time, they went down to defeat. Is there a spell being cast on the team once known as the Winnipeg Jets to never win a game of any kind there again? Highly doubt it. After all, in this case, it is only the preseason.

If you have followed the National Hockey League for as long as I have, you know that this sport is the only one of the major four whose birthplace doesn't reside in the United States. At the same time, it's generally colder in Canada even during the summer season. Understood. But what I have seen time and time again from the Canadian media and that nation's fans really has gotten on my nerves.

While the game of hockey is held in such a high regard in Canada as if it is a religion, countless people in the Great White North constantly complain and bash Americans for not embracing it at the very same level in their country. At the same time, Canadians unjustifiably blame the United States for the NHL's problems. Forget about it just being sad to see, it is downright appalling.

On many occasions, the worst culprits of the Canadian media who regularly bash the American fans and media for what is wrong with the NHL I can safely say are Toronto Sun hockey columnist Al Strachan and Toronto Star hockey columnist Damien Cox. Oh look... surprise, surprise! They're both from Toronto, the self-proclaimed center of the hockey universe. I don't know what city has a more inflated ego in making such exaggerated claims. Would it be Toronto for hockey? Or would it be Dallas claiming they have "America's Team" in the Dallas Cowboys? Oops, that's right, I forgot. Dallas has the most popular cheerleaders who have their own annual swimsuit calendar. Did I forget to mention that the Lone Star State shoves their famous slogan up my butt, "don't mess with Texas"? Um how about this slogan for y'all in Texas, don't f*** with New York.

Excuse my mouth there, but let's get back to the issue here.

The NHL has never been on the same stage as the National Football League, Major League Baseball or even the National Basketball Association. That's a fair statement to make in terms of it being the case. Before Gary Bettman left his NBA post and out of the shadow of David Stern, the NHL didn't have a commissioner. Bettman's predecessor John Ziegler held the title as league president. Not exactly the best of people to run the league, hockey as a major sport was barely on the radar in the United States under his watch. Can you recall there being a national television contract to regularly broadcast their games on CBS, NBC or ABC? I don't. There was CBS' coverage of the 1980 Stanley Cup Finals where the Islanders won their first championship. NBC televised Mario Lemieux's memorable 1990 All-Star performance in front of his home crowd.

So there were a few instances it was not a problem to remember the NHL making it onto national television in the United States. But the huge problem was the lack of consistent exposure of the game on a national level. In the 1980s and into the early 1990s, the NHL was most seen on the regional network channels and had basically regional hardcore following. Back then, the southern-most NHL city was Los Angeles.

As Wayne Gretzky stormed to atop the NHL stage while playing in Edmonton, most fans in the United States seldom caught a glimpse of him on live television unless he was playing your hometown team. "The Great One" became Canada's hockey son and there was no other household name bigger than Gretzky.

Back then, player salaries was never a serious topic of public conversation, but imagine what Gretzky in his prime would command in today's NHL. We cannot begin to imagine. But as the league began to show signs of increasing revenue and growing as a business, the economic landscape changed. Then came higher operation costs, a weak Canadian dollar and higher player salaries. Some of the smaller cities in the NHL like Edmonton had an increasingly difficult time meeting the price of retaining the most-talented players. It would prove to be the case when then-Edmonton Oilers owner Peter Pocklington made what many believe was the unthinkable trade of Gretzky to the Los Angeles Kings on August 9, 1988. The NHL as we know it changed forever.

Gretzky's move south to the City of Angels would help professional hockey grow in the Sun Belt enough where expansion teams were placed in cities that never had an NHL team. If it wasn't for #99, chances are there would be no Anaheim Mighty Ducks as the Kings' regional rival. I cannot say for sure that the Tampa Bay Lightning or Florida Panthers would've necessarily ever been born. Same could be said for the Minnesota North Stars finding Dallas as a viable new home. And, Atlanta might not have been given a second chance either with the present-day Thrashers.

We head to a city in the Canadian Prairie region about 55 miles north of the United States border. With about three-quarters of a million people, the city of Winnipeg, Manitoba once had an NHL team to call their own for 17 years. They've had one of the very best legion of fans anywhere when it comes to making the game of hockey an important part of their lives.

Setbacks in economic parity across the NHL led to the demise of two Canadian franchises and eventual relocation south of the border in back-to-back seasons. In each case, it was financially difficult to remain in operation in Winnipeg and Québec City and by July 1, 1996, Canada lost two of their original World Hockey Association members previously absorbed into the NHL to Phoenix and Denver respectively. It was like a member of the family died in both cases. Understandably so.

With these franchise shifts to the southern United States where there hasn't been a long-time following of NHL teams of their own, lingering bitterness has never ceased. The health of the NHL also began to suffer economically as team expenses on player salaries took up an increasingly higher percentage of their payrolls and away from other important parts of operating a franchise. When the Winnipeg Jets became the Phoenix Coyotes, it has been thought to be last time this Canadian city would ever see NHL hockey. Same can be said for Québec City when the Nordiques became the Colorado Avalanche.

But an unhealthy NHL led to a crippling lockout that wiped out the entire 2004-2005 season as the owners and players were far apart on how to share any revenue they'd get. In the end, the owners got a salary cap and a number of restrictions to keep spending under control and help try leveling the playing field between the big markets such as New York City, Toronto, Philadelphia and Detroit and the smaller markets such as Pittsburgh, Buffalo and the other five Canadian NHL cities compete. Ironically on this very day, for the first time since 1976, the Canadian and American dollars were even in value.

Before this new collective bargaining agreement was reached, there was no way that Winnipeg could stand a chance at regaining membership into the NHL. Since June 1, 2003, Winnipeg resident Darren Ford created the Return of the Jets Campaign web site to rally fans and the local business community together to aid an attempt to bring another NHL team to the city. While Ford's passion and dedication for the Jets and the campaign cause is unquestioned, some fans and the Winnipeg media have bashed the city of Phoenix for not only taking their beloved Jets, but not showing the same support they did.

Support for the Coyotes had shown much promise in the first five years the franchise has been in Phoenix where the team was competitive and making the playoffs. But with the increasing operation difficulties of playing in a basketball arena with obstructive seating and no share of the revenue from the luxury suites inside US Airways Center, the team was forced to shed payroll with the most pricey players. They included the most popular and productive Coyotes in Keith Thachuk and Jeremy Roenick. Soon thereafter, the franchise was sold and only made the playoffs once in the last six seasons, none since 2002. Inept hockey decisions led to the team's demise on the ice and fans have stayed away in droves. Not even a new arena for the Coyotes built in neighboring Glendale, Arizona could stop the bleeding. The lockout has proven to have had very harmful effects on the fan base in Phoenix. The highly successful Phoenix Suns or the one-year return of Roenick donning the brick red jersey to rekindle interest in the team hasn't helped the Coyotes' fan support either.

Despite some of the legitimate understanding of why the Phoenix Coyotes have struggled in recent years, they are everybody's punching bag. Even with the most revered man to play hockey as part of team ownership and as a full-time head coach, Gretzky's squad isn't expected to have any success. The Hockey News has the Coyotes listed in their 2007-2008 yearbook to finish dead last among the 30 NHL teams.

The ones doing the punching and throwing stones also come from north of the border and yes, even in Winnipeg. "Why does Phoenix have a team?", they argue. "They have no fans." Here's where it really sets me off. Then we wonder if some fans are brainwashed by the media. Ready to hear what was said today?

As we've heard for months about the Nashville Predators' future looking cloudy with the "for sale" sign posted outside Sommet Center and the relocation talk surfacing. That team may stay in Music City as a local investors group might rescue that franchise. But the relentless Canadian mouthpieces continue to bark up their collective storm of hate towards the Sun Belt.

"You see, we probably don't even know just how many NHL franchises are on the brink of collapse," Winnipeg Free Press sports columnist Randy Turner ranted. "So who's next? Phoenix? Atlanta? To be honest, all this speculation is old news, too. Of course it's no secret that hockey isn't working in Arizona or Tennessee or Georgia. How shocking."

Okay, Mr. Turner. I guess when the Coyotes are horrible on the ice and the fans have become dischanted with the team, time to close the doors on Phoenix, right? Funny, nobody in Canada dares to suggest for the Boston Bruins and especially the Chicago Blackhawks to fold because their fans aren't attending games either. Oh yeah, they're Original Six teams. Oooo, we don't ever utter that retraction word with either of those two teams, do we?

From the same newspaper that covered Wednesday night's 3-2 Toronto Maple Leafs preseason victory over the Coyotes at MTS Centre, another writer covering the game made this arrogant statement in the game notes section. Gary Lawless wanted to scream at us that no Phoenix media made the trip to Winnipeg for the preseason game.

"The Coyotes came to Winnipeg but brought no media. No print reporters, no radio team and no TV broadcasters. The Moose, an AHL team, travel with two print reporters and a radio broadcaster at all times. This won't be news to you, but there's no contest between the two markets. Winnipeg loves hockey and Phoenix doesn't care."

Excuse me, Mr. Lawless, but did you ever think that during the PRESEASON, it is that important for the Coyotes, the Arizona Republic, the East Valley Tribune, anyone from FOX Sports Arizona or the local television stations to send any reporters to a relatively meaningless preseason road game? Given that the Arizona Diamondbacks are in a bitter fight to win the National League West division title, I cannot say a preseason hockey game in Canada is more significant. Winnipeg has what, the Blue Bombers in a professional football league that's not the NFL, an American Hockey League franchise that is at Triple A calibre in comparison to Major League Baseball and a minor league baseball team few here even know by name.

There was Phoenix media present in Winnipeg for last year's game because there was much more significance behind it. I don't need to explain what that is. What sense of urgency do I find this time around for these media organizations to send reporters to a neutral site preseason game? I'm satisfied enough with an Associated Press recap, a box score and game notes of THIS game from the local beat writer from his or her home base.

I have said this on a number of forums I visit where especially many Canadian fans express their narrow-minded (and sometimes ignorant) views of the Coyotes. Canada has much fewer professional sports options on their platter than the United States. Hockey is the top sport in Canada and that's fine. I don't have an issue with that. Same with their solid year-round hockey coverage. All the power to you. You want a medal for in-depth preseason hockey coverage that even spring training baseball in the United States gets?

Ever since the Return of the Jets Campaign was launched four years ago, I have given Mr. Ford my unwavering support. I want a new Jets team in Winnipeg just as much as he does. I may not live in his town nor had I shared the same hockey experiences, but I certainly appreciate from afar what Winnipeg has done in their making hockey a part of the fabric of their city. When the Jets were there, I had appreciation their team. Fans there have every right to be angry with the loss of their beloved team. They have every right to be upset with how the NHL has struggled to increase its potential league-wide. But then there are those that bash the city of Phoenix for why they no longer have their hockey team. That's where I have a big bone to pick with Canadian fans, not just singling out Winnipeg hockey fans. In fact, I interact with Winnipeg fans fairly often where they know where I stand with any issues and there's a mutual respect for between my views and theirs.

Yet I continue to hear this garbage from members of the Canadian media such as Gary Lawless.

To quote a friend from the Valley of the Sun, it's funny how the Canadian media and the public at large feels the need to ask for our apology at every turn for the fact that their teams moved south of the border or new teams were awarded to cities they feel are unworthy. Like they're superior or something.

That's right, no Phoenix media, so Phoenix doesn't care about hockey. What a load of crap. The Canadian media at its finest. For once in your careers, you and your colleagues across Canada can just shut your giant pie hole and worry about your own damn teams.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Curt Keilback mad at Coyotes as team visits Winnipeg for second time

Not all is peaches and cream in Coyote Country today. Yes, the team has not made the playoffs in five years and expectations are very low with their outlook for any significant success during the upcoming season. However, this particular story will loom over the Phoenix Coyotes as they make their second preseason trip in as many years up to Winnipeg since they departed their original home eleven years ago.

Dating back to when the team was the Winnipeg Jets, one constant that was a part of this franchise before and after it relocated to Phoenix in 1996 was Curt Keilback. He had been a broadcasting fixture for as long as fans can remember. But on May 4th, the Coyotes shockingly fired Keilback as their television play-by-play announcer following one of the worst seasons in franchise history. The news shocked many in the hockey world and it certainly caught the attention of Winnipeg.

Prior to the Coyotes facing off against the Toronto Maple Leafs at MTS Centre, Keilback let it be known a little louder that he is still angry over his dismissal. Perhaps hockey observers didn't know he was this bitter until now.

Apparently, Phoenix Coyotes president and chief operating officer Doug Moss didn't give Keilback a good enough explanation for their decision. The team named Dave Strader as Keilback's replacement on July 2nd to team up with returning color analyst Darren Pang.

"I've often heard that when you get mad about something, after a while you cool down," Keilback told Winnipeg Sun hockey writer Paul Friesen. "I get madder. It didn't make any sense. As long as I'd been there, I deserved better than that."

Cannot blame Keilback for how he stills feels.

At the same time, the Coyotes know they're in a rebuilding mode as they're focusing on youth to help get them back to respectability and compete for a Stanley Cup championship in the future. While the team and the city of Phoenix continues to be under the microscope for whether or not this will finally end up as a stable and successful NHL market, recently hired general manager Don Maloney hopes duplicate the same success with the Coyotes as he did in helping the build the New York Rangers in the last two years back into a championship contender.

If he is able to do that, many of the questions should be answered as to where this franchise will stand in Phoenix. Winnipeg fans may argue that they supported the Jets unconditionally, but in order to shake the "fairweather" label, Phoenix sports fans will need to visibly show their support by more showing up at Arena. That will come with tangible results on the ice and a better leadership role from the front office.

Even though Friesen reports in his article that the preseason game in Winnipeg is not a sellout as it was the case last year, Canadian Press hockey writer Pierre LeBrun mentioned on Rogers Sportsnet last night that the Manitoban capital city remains on the NHL's radar for a membership renewal to the league. But LeBrun feels that Las Vegas is the frontrunner for a possible expansion team should the league decide to travel down that road.

NHL's game schedule format change expected by next season

It has been talked about and it has been of much debate in the two years since the 2005 lockout. An unbalanced, intraconference-laden game schedule for each of the 30 National Hockey League teams was intended to emphasize rivalries and especially for the Western Conference teams, cut down on travel expense. Apparently, it might have been too much of a good thing when it came to division rivals playing each other eight times in a single season. At least for some, that schedule format has hurt a handful of teams more than it helped.

After a four-hour meeting with the owners on Tuesday in Chicago, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said that the Board of Governors have agreed to meet in late November to formally vote on a new game schedule format that will be more balanced and see teams play the opposite conference teams at least once per season. During the 2007 All-Star break in Dallas eight months ago, a proposal to change the schedule format fell just one vote short of the two-thirds majority needed. Much of the reason why primarily had to do with the desire to have the current format complete a three-year cycle of any team playing an opposite conference opponent at least once.

The current format has each team play their each of their division rivals eight times and a total of 10 games against non-conference opponents (five of them as road games). What new schedule format that will be used has yet to be agreed upon.

In my opinion, this is sorely needed. I love division rivalry games like the next diehard hockey fan. But sometimes even when best served in rekindling old rivalries or jumpstarting new rivalries, it may be too much or better yet, it could potentially get stale. This would be especially the case if both division teams are non-playoff factors. There is a need for fans to see stars from the opposite conference at least once a year. It makes sense. The media mentions Sidney Crosby having yet to visit some Western Conference cities in his infant career and he's now entering his third season already.

Whatever is decided upon by the commissioner and the Board of Governors, there needs to be a balance between having the right amount of rivalry games and having room to schedule at least one game against each of the 15 opposite conference teams per season.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

AMP NHL Winter Classic tickets sold out

As I expected, the AMP NHL Winter Classic between the Buffalo Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins on New Year's Day is sold out. The Sabres official site posted an announcement on the outdoor game tickets being snapped up within one hour. In just the first 30 minutes alone, roughly 41,000 tickets were purchased.

Wow, was that fast. If you didn't act on getting tickets this morning, you're out of luck. You can always try ticket brokers, Stub Hub or eBay if you're lucky to land any available seat. Fans were already lining up outside the HSBC Arena box office in downtown Buffalo last night as WKBW-TV's John Borsa uncovered in a live report.

The National Hockey League's intentions are loud and clear. They wanted to have the right city be the first to host an outdoor game in the United States, have the right teams to take part and draw the largest television American audience ever to see an NHL game. The first two goals should be met with ease, but the third will still be a challenge. If the suits in New York are smart enough, they should be paying for an onslaught of promo spots on local television and sports network commercial breaks to advertise the event.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Sabres will host second-ever NHL outdoor game

It was a wildly successful event nearly four years ago in Edmonton. An outdoor regular season National Hockey League game in the brutal cold got fans not only excited, but absolutely jacked up to see two Canadian teams play an affair that meant something. It wasn't just for the fans to witness history being made, but the game actually counted in the season standings.

Many memories were made at the Heritage Classic when the Edmonton Oilers hosted the Montreal Canadiens on November 22, 2003 at Commonwealth Stadium. The day before, many Oilers and Canadiens legends skated on a hockey rink set up on the field where the Canadian Football League's Edmonton Eskimos usually play. The next night, players on the two teams that season squared off before an NHL-record crowd of 57,167 witnessed the Canadiens claim victory with a 4-3 trimuph. But I will always remember Jose Theodore wearing that red and blue touque on top of his goaltender mask. It became a big sales hit at league merchandise outlets, especially in Canada. Then again, when it is -4° Fahrenheit (-18° Celsius) outside, you're bound to wear one.

We fast forward to nearly four years later. For the past 12 months or so, rumors circulated about another outdoor game. Boston, Detroit and New York City were mentioned sites. While a Rangers vs. Islanders matchup is still being looked into for a future game, Buffalo Sabres play-by-play announcer Rick Jeanneret as the master of ceremonies helped make the big NHL announcement today. The Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins will faceoff on January 1, 2008 in the AMP NHL Winter Classic at Ralph Wilson Stadium in nearby Orchard Park, New York (a southern suburb of Buffalo). The current home to the National Football League's Buffalo Bills will also have a regulation size hockey rink placed on the field just as was the case in Edmonton. Will it be as cold as it was the first time around? It's possible, considering it gets really cold in Buffalo during January. God knows about how much snow will be on the ground by then given the frequent lake effect snows that fall there every year.

With their team having come off two straight appearances in the Eastern Conference Finals, Sabres fan interest for this game should be sky high. The league having rising Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby as a big part of the event has the potential to help market the game's future here in the United States.

"Many of our players have great memories of playing outdoors when they were growing up," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said at the press conference. "This game provides a wonderful opportunity to showcase our great players, honor hockey's heritage and ring in the New Year with the best fans in sports."

Unlike the first time around, the game will be shown live across the United States on NBC while CBC and RDS will do the same in Canada. The AMP NHL Winter Classic is expected to sell out with over 73,000 tickets to be had. If that's done, another all-time single game attendance record will be set.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

RBK Edge jersey sets for all 30 teams leaked by EA Sports?

This is a big topic today in addition to the 2007 preseason schedule that begins tonight.

While numerous fans have anticipated the release of two National Hockey League video games, it is apparent that one of them has leaked the designs of all the new RBK Edge jerseys set to debut for the 30 teams. This is more notable for the ten clubs that have yet to officially unveil their new jerseys.

EA Sports' NHL 08 has an "unlock code" feature to their XBOX 360 version of the game where gamers can access and use the new jerseys of all 30 teams. Keep note of the fact that on its official site, you will see last year's uniforms on the players in screenshots and game preview video clips. Despite being available to Canadian consumers earlier in the week, the new video game is now available everywhere (including the United States) as of today.

Chris Smith's NHL Tournament of Logos blog has all the information you can feast your inquistive eyes on with the first of his two entries on the subject, "EA unlocks unreleased jerseys?" His second blog entry includes a full gallery showing jersey torf previews of all the home and away jerseys of the 30 teams. Keep in mind after Anaheim released their new jersey (that is set to debut tonight in a preseason game against Los Angeles), don't completely believe the designs of the 10 remaining teams yet to unveil until they have been officially released to the public.

I still plan to put together a recap and overview of all 30 teams with their new jerseys and any that have new logos shortly after all are released by September 21st.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Mark Bell suspended for first 15 games of season

Earlier today, the National Hockey League announced that they have suspended Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mark Bell for the first 15 games of the upcoming season. Bell got himself into trouble for being responsible for a drunken driving hit-and-run accident in California earlier this year. After he plead no contest to the charges, the NHL levied disciplinary actions against Bell for violating the league's code of conduct while employed by one of the 30 teams.

In the days and weeks since he was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol and leaving the scene of an accident, Bell plans to return to the Maple Leafs with the intent of learning from his mistake.

"Mark has made extraordinary strides in his rehabilitation. This positive progress was a material factor in reducing what could have been a lengthier suspension," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a league press release. "The NHL supports Mark's commitment to learning from his past mistakes and his efforts to move his life forward in a positive direction."

The NHL's By-Law 17 suspension of Bell will begin after doctors administering his rehabilitation in the Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health program give the green light on reinstatement to active player status. Even after this process is completed, Bell will have to serve jail time in California after the upcoming 2007-2008 season for pleading guilty to felony and misdemeanor charges for the drunken driving incident.

The Maple Leafs have yet to make a comment on today's development, but it should be interesting to see how things pan out with Bell throughout the season.

Barrasso and Dunham join coaching ranks

Add two notable former National Hockey League goaltenders to the coaching fraternity.

Five days ago, the Carolina Hurricanes named two-time Stanley Cup champion and 1984 Vezina Trophy winner Tom Barrasso as their new goaltending coach. Barrasso is most remembered for backstopping the Pittsburgh Penguins to a pair of Cup titles in 1991 and 1992. He is considered one of the best American-born goaltenders to play in the NHL as he accumulated 430 career wins (61 of them in the playoffs) and was a member of the United States' mens hockey team that won a silver medal at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games.

Barrasso didn't always have the best relationship with the media, but his accomplished career definitely spoke volumes in earning the respect from many as among the best in the game. Now the Boston-native gets to teach the young and talented Hurricanes goalies what he's learned during his 19 seasons as a player. Cam Ward won his first Stanley Cup championship as a rookie in 2006 and now the 42-year-old Barrasso will get to help him move his career to a new level.

"My job is not to try to convert anybody. My job is to make them as technically sound as they can be, make them as mentally comfortable in goal as they can be so they can perform at a high level," Barrasso told Carolina Hurricanes official web site contributor David Droschak.

Another goaltender that played with Barrasso on the 2002 United States' mens hockey team was Mike Dunham. After he saw there was wasn't much interest around the league to continue his decade-long playing career, the New York Islanders named Dunham their new goaltending coach on Monday.

Interesting, it's now been back-to-back summers that we've seen an Islanders goaltender who played for them the previous season retire to join their hockey operations. Garth Snow backed up Rick DiPietro in the 2005-2006 season. Then in a move that raised eyebrows around the league, team owner Charles Wang named Snow as their new general manager, replacing the departed Mike Milbury. Snow said when he was hired to the position that it is a challenge he coveted for quite some time to take on. Dunham backed up DiPietro last season after seeing limited duty with the Atlanta Thrashers in 2005-2006. Now Dunham will help DiPietro (currently Team USA's top goaltender in international competition) get him to the next level in the NHL and that is having some postseason success. Oh yeah, did I mention Wang and Snow signing DiPietro last year to that ridiculous 15-year contract extension? Talk about putting pressure on the guy to perform, geez.

The 35-year-old Dunham was just the third NHL goalie to play for all three New York metropolitan area teams. Who are the other two, you ask? John Vanbiesbrouck and Kevin Weekes. Dunham was drafted by the New Jersey Devils in 1990 and played his first two seasons there before immediately being taken by the Nashville Predators in the 1998 expansion draft. He was Nashville's starting goalie for their first five seasons in the league before Dunham was traded to the New York Rangers in 2003. After the Rangers moved in a different direction with their goaltending corp, Dunham finished his 10-year run with the Thrashers and Islanders.

This week, the two goalies that backed up Mike Richter during the 2002 Winter Olympic Games will each begin a new chapter in their hockey careers as goaltending coaches. Their next challenge awaits them.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

NHL training camps open to mark start of brand-new season

Those of you that have been longing for the first official sign hockey season is almost here would be the start of training camps around the National Hockey League.

Yesterday was the first day with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Los Angeles Kings opening camp. The 2007 Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks will do the same later today while the other 27 teams will get started by no later than Friday morning.

Many rookies and prospects have already been participating in tournaments across the United States and Canada, but will still compete with veterans for any available roster spots.

I do wonder if there will be a few pleasant surprises this month of any new players stepping up to the plate and earning a chance to play in the NHL this season. But at whose expense though? Will it be in surplanting a grizzled veteran? We shall see.

Rangers announce plans to retire Brian Leetch's #2 to MSG rafters

This is an event I've been waiting for ever since Brian Leetch played his final game as a member of the New York Rangers in March 2004. Even though he made an ever-so-brief stop in Toronto and played his 18th and final NHL season in Boston, he will always be remembered in my mind as a Ranger. Sixteen years can only validate my belief. When he played his only game as a visiting player at Madison Square Garden, seeing him in that Bruins uniform just didn't look right at all. The arena certainly didn't have the same atmosphere the night Ed Giacomin returned in a Red Wings uniform, but fans gave Leetch a long standing ovation he'll never forget.

Five days ago, the Rangers announced that they will retire Leetch's #2 at Madison Square Garden when the Atlanta Thrashers come to town for a January 24, 2008 game. It will certainly be special. It felt like it was literally yesterday when his 1994 Stanley Cup champion teammates Mike Richter and Mark Messier each had their numbers retired. When this night arrives, I'll definitely have my VCR ready to record.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Mixed decisions for three veterans' careers

If you've been following the National Hockey League as a fan for over 20 years as I have, then you've seen the professional careers of Pierre Turgeon, Jeremy Roenick and Scott Niedermayer evolve into what have been very accomplished ones to date.

Turgeon decided two days ago to officially retire as a player after playing 19 seasons in the NHL. I remember earlier this summer some hints he was going to call it quits, so I knew it was only a matter of time before he did so. It seemed that the last few years have been forgettable ones and only played 17 games for the Colorado Avalanche last season due to leg injuries. When I'd see #77 on his sweater, I would only think of maybe two players. One of them being Turgeon. I remember him breaking into the league with the Buffalo Sabres donning the blue and gold. Then I recall the boarding incident on Long Island where Washington Capitals forward Dale Hunter three a vicious cheapshot check on Turgeon into the sideboards during a 1993 playoff game. This was done after Turgeon scored a memorable goal in an Islanders victory. Another big moment of his career I can think of immediately was when he carried a symbolic torch for the Montreal Canadiens when that team played their last game at the Forum and then their first at Bell Centre. While he played well for his next team in the St. Louis Blues, he didn't exactly put up the kind of numbers I was used to seeing as a member of the Dallas Stars and then his final team, the Colorado Avalanche. The Montreal-area native scored 515 goals and had recorded 812 assists for 1,327 points in 1,294 games in his career. Not too shabby to say the least. Is he a Hall of Fame candidate? It remains to be seen, but I'm sure we'll find sooner or later.

Despite reports indicating he was retiring, Jeremy Roenick decided to play at least one more season and go for that elusive 500-goal plateau. Two straight forgettable campaigns since the lockout have had observers thinking he was done. J.R. had just 20 goals in his 128 games played. Los Angeles Kings fans will probably remember him more for his dancing on the ice during one game than anything else. I remember the gushing optimism coming from him after making a return to Phoenix last summer and being pumped up to rejuvenate himself and the fans. It obviously didn't pan out for him. The Coyotes are in their worst period in club history and rebuilding. They had no plans for him to return for another season, especially with his incident in Vancouver last December where he left General Motors Place in the middle of a game to go eat dinner and also for his lack of production on a bad team. At least he went out on a good note where he scored an empty-netter in his final game as a Coyote. Where is Roenick now? He signed a one-year contract worth $500,000 to play for the division rival San Jose Sharks. J.R. sure wants that ring, doesn't he? Can't blame him for trying.

But the most frustrating decision (or lack thereof here) is what Scott Niedermayer wants to do. Does he retire on a high note with his fourth Stanley Cup ring after winning one with the Anaheim Ducks back in June? Or does he still want to go for a repeat? He had a media conference call yesterday to take questions about his thoughts on what he wants to do. Turned out to be a waste of time as he is still undecided. I certainly don't want to see this as a distraction at training camp for the Ducks and if this is the case for any other NHL team, who needs it? That's all we'll hear throughout training camp and into the preseason as reporters ask the coaching staff or players... "Is Niedermayer coming back? Is Selanne coming back? Heard anything?" I can see that now. Teemu Selanne hasn't made up his mind either as his decision apparently hinges on what Niedermayer decides to do. Ugh, just decide already so the Ducks can move on with or without you. They are either way, but where general manage Brian Burke goes from here remains to be seen. But if both retire, he can lean on safety net replacements in Mathieu Schneider and Todd Bertuzzi. This should get interesting for how much longer Niedermayer and Selanne everyone waiting.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Dallas Stars ad campaign raises eyebrows, but also praise

While us hockey fans cannot wait for training camp to arrive in 10 to 14 days, one National Hockey League team appears to be helping themselves and perhaps the league get noticed. I'm talking about trying to steal some attention away from Major League Baseball's pennant races or the start of the college football season this Labor Day weekend or even the upcoming National Football League season set to begin less than a full week from now. Whether or not this effort pays off remains to be seen.

The Dallas Stars launched an interesting ad campaign last week called Come Into The Cold to help increase sales on season tickets for the upcoming 2007-2008 NHL season. They created some slogans put to use on billboards across the Metroplex aimed at taking a sarcastic jab at the other three major North American sports leagues. We turn our main attention to a billboard near the American Airlines Center in downtown Dallas that reads "the only thing our refs shave is the ice", a knock against recently-disgraced former NBA referee Tim Donaghy. While NBA commissioner David Stern didn't comment, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban didn't seem to mind and actually thought it was in good humor. How about one that knocks America's favorite pastime with this ad "maybe baseball should stop using the word sacrifice". I assume the Stars are referring to how much hockey players sacrifice their bodies for the good of the game and baseball players don't in their eyes. Then again, don't the Texas Rangers have the second highest total of hit batsmen (batters hit by a pitch) in the American League this season? Doesn't that mean anything?

Hmmm, how about this gutsy move by the Stars to take a shot at the NFL and of course the Dallas Cowboys, the one team that really owns the city. "One game a week? Is the N in NFL for Nancy?" definitely could make a point that while football players take a beating once a week, it makes you wonder, could hockey players endure that from 300-pound men? Either way, that swipe at football's most overglamourized team is hilarious if you ask me. "America's Team"? Pfft, yeah right.

Austin, Texas-based Door Number 3, the advertisement agency that jointly worked with the Stars on this billboard campaign seemed to do exactly as they intended. That would be to gain some attention from the slogans and get sports fans talking at their water coolers. I have only seen mention this story at any significant length and even made a few humorous suggestions of billboards for other teams. Pretty funny ones, too!

But I cannot sure for sure if it gained much attention by the local media, but the Dallas Morning News at least covered this story. Either way, whether or not this ad campaign works to the Stars or the NHL's advantage remains to be seen. But undoubtedly, it was cleverly done and hilarious to many who have either seen the billboards or are just learning about them now.

"It's edgy. But we're really good friends with the Mavs. They're our partners in the building (American Airlines Center). I think we thought it would be taken the right way," Stars president Jim Lites told the Dallas Morning News. "It's not a slap at them. It's more of a snip. I think the same goes for the Cowboys. The NFL is the big daddy."

The thing is this though... the Dallas Stars better back up their play with where their big mouth is! Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones sure has been quiet about what he may think of the Stars' PR move, but wouldn't it be interesting if sends a jab right back at the Stars?

Saturday, September 1, 2007

NHL Tournament of Logos blog is big hit among fans

During this summer, I found a wonderful blog to help keep my passion for hockey up at a healthy level as I deal with the offseason, a duration of 2½ months. It is called the NHL Tournament of Logos.

What makes this blog very entertaining and useful is that Chris Smith (the blogger) decided to create a "tournament" of what is the best logo in the National Hockey League as a result of fan polling. Fourteen first round logo matchups were featured with two teams (Carolina and Colorado) getting byes. These matchups included the new primary logos of seven teams that made a change. The Sharks vs. Canucks matchup where the winner is determined by the end of tonight, it is the last one in the first round and both feature their new logos. Only three of the Original Six teams advanced to the second round. For the logo tournament bracket, go to the upper right side of Chris' blog home page and click on the image for a closer look.

The NHL Tournament of Logos blog has become a big hit with other hockey fans as well and it is most evident in the number of hits Chris reported in one of his posts earlier today where 110,000 visitors stopped by his site (including me) on Wednesday. This was when the Vancouver Canucks unveiled their new uniforms. Over one million hits have been recorded since that blog went up and running on the internet. Chris has future plans in store for the blog even after this logo tournament ends.

I expect to do my own personal roundup of all the new RBK Edge jerseys that the 30 teams will be wearing this upcoming season in the near future, but more notably the teams that have brand-new designs and/or logos to accompany them.