Saturday, November 29, 2008

"Greatest Days Hockey: Epic Endings" premieres November 30th on MSG Network

Usually one would think this kind of sports program would air during the summer months to help ease hockey withdrawal between the night the Stanley Cup champion is crowned to when training camp begins to prepare for the following season. That is what Fans' Most Wanted: Rangers did for New York Rangers fans last summer on MSG Network.


Another such series on MSG Network is set to debut on November 30th (this coming Sunday) at 4:00 PM Eastern Standard Time. Titled as Greatest Days Hockey: Epic Endings, it covers the memorable New York City metropolitan area hockey teams and games they played which many local National Hockey League fans will remember forever.

The first installment of this series focuses on the Rangers' epic battle and triumph over the New Jersey Devils in Game 7 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals. For a very quick sneak peek, take a look at a video clip by clicking on the hyperlink below.

MSG Network (November 27):
Matteau's Goal Wins It

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

latest NHL.com article on alternate jerseys

I read a feature article posted earlier today by Dan Rosen on the National Hockey League's official web site (NHL.com) and he tells us how much fans seem to be more embracing to throwbacks of yesteryears these days. Some teams have listened.

For example, given just a subtle change or two from originals, the Buffalo Sabres, Edmonton Oilers, New York Islanders, Pittsburgh Penguins, Toronto Maple Leafs and Vancouver Canucks gave that nod to the past with their new alternate jerseys they began wearing this season.

This evening the Philadelphia Flyers will join this group of teams as they will unveil to season ticket holders at the Meet The Team! event at the Wachovia Center a new alternate 1970s retro orange jersey.

The Chicago Blackhawks just brought back their popular black version to the primary home and away jersey design we've seen for many years, only in this case it was fit into the jersey template that is now in its second season of use. Along with the Detroit Red Wings, they each will wear for one-time only a very retro jersey during the upcoming Winter Classic in Chicago on New Year's Day. Here, both teams will show fans what they once wore during the early years of their franchise's existence.

However, the Atlanta Thrashers, Carolina Hurricanes, Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues went in a different direction with new looks and even new alternate crest logos. About to be unveiled are the Ottawa Senators and Tampa Bay Lightning where like the Stars and Thrashers, they will simply have a glorified wordmark across the front of their jerseys. The Anaheim Ducks were the first to start this trend two years ago when they broke away from the original Disney-themed look, including the familiar duck mask crest logo.

Icethetics site founder and blog author Chris Smith was asked by Rosen to weigh in on what fans seem to prefer nowadays in jersey designs.

"Overwhelmingly fans seem to love the throwback third jerseys. They don't sound happy about the new-style jerseys we're seeing with Atlanta and Ottawa (what's been leaked anyway) though fewer complaints for Tampa Bay's," Smith said. "They love what the Oilers, Islanders, Canucks, Penguins and Sabres are doing and I can't say I disagree."

I can truly say I enjoy the amount of work Smith has dedicated to giving fans a destination where they can talk about team logos, uniform designs and anything in between. In recent months, his site has become a popular place to find out the latest scoop on new NHL team logos and alternate jerseys. From the NHL Tournament of Logos blog to the Icethetics blog to now the new Icethetics web site, we have been able to find the latest news updates on such items.

Smith posted a new entry on his web site about Rosen's article.

After taking a vacation for the 2007-2008 campaign as Reebok Hockey took care of meeting production demand of the primary home and away jersey sets for the 30 teams, the third jersey program is back. How well the other alternate jerseys to be unveiled in the immediate future will be received by the fans remains to be seen. But one thing is for sure, there will be plenty of opinions to be said.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Lightning fire head coach Barry Melrose

With the Tampa Bay Lightning overhauling their roster from last season's failure and the drafting of a potential superstar in Steven Stamkos, management thought the hiring of Barry Melrose as their new head coach would help turn the franchise fortunes around.

But 16 games into this 2008-2009 season, Executive Vice President and General Manager Brian Lawton pulled the trigger in relieving Melrose of his duties. First-year associate coach Rick Tocchet takes over on an interim basis. This comes on the heels of the Lightning's 4-3 home loss to the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings last night.

A pure indicator of Tampa Bay's slow start would be how Melrose was unable to get more production from Stamkos, a player with high expectations that had just 4 points in his 16 NHL games. Both goals he scored were in Tampa Bay's 5-2 road victory over the Buffalo Sabres on October 30th.

"This was a tough decision to make," Lawton stated in the team news release. "Barry is a good man and we have a great deal of respect for him. We wish him nothing but success. However, the results were unacceptable and the players have to understand that we need to be better. Hopefully this change helps push them."

This will be Tocchet's first head coaching job in the National Hockey League. Following an 18-year playing career and being an assistant coach with the Colorado Avalanche and Phoenix Coyotes over a five-year period, he was hired by the Lightning on July 9th to be a part of Melrose's coaching staff.

But Tampa Bay's 5-11 start (that is identically matched by the Dallas Stars) appeared to signal at least to the front office that Melrose wasn't the right fit at this point in time to help right their season. Lawton believes now is Tocchet's proving ground.

"As for Rick Tocchet, we think this is a great opportunity for him and we believe he's the type of coach who can take the team to the next level. Our players have a great deal of respect for him."

Melrose had led the Los Angeles Kings to the 1993 Stanley Cup Finals, but wasn't able to duplicate that success before he was fired two years later. He would not return to the coaching ranks until this past summer when the Lightning brought him into the fold. For the 13 years in between, he was the lead NHL analyst on ESPN and ESPN 2, including the successful NHL 2Night show.

Tocchet's head coaching debut will be on Sunday when the Lightning visit the Carolina Hurricanes.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Michelle and Dave's wedding featured on Capitals web site

Back on July 10th, I wrote a very special blog entry about an Arlington, Virginia couple that tied the knot earlier this year. But it was not your average wedding.

Michelle and Dave are two very dedicated Washington Capitals fans who wanted to make their special day a spectacular one. They pulled out all the stops to have the wedding tailored to a theme that was all Capitals. This included their wedding cake made into a life size mold of the Stanley Cup as created by Duff Goldman. The cake itself was featured on the August 28th episode of Ace of Cakes on Food Network.

As I had mentioned in my original blog entry, the Washington Capitals organization had a production crew film the festivities. I am now giving you a heads up that the fruits of their labor is now complete and was posted today on their official web site.

Gustafsson at On Frozen Blog also made mention with a blog post about the video posting.

The video is beyond worth checking out. I got goosebumps and held back tears from seeing this. It inspired me then and it sure does now. Undoubtedly, Michelle and Dave have got to be one proud couple today to see what their team has put together for them and Capitals fans everywhere.


video courtesy: Washington Capitals

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sad news about a Minnesota Wild fan

When read this today on the Star Tribune's web site, I was heartbroken to hear this about a dedicated Minnesota Wild fan who also loves the Phoenix Coyotes (love that fan combination!).

Wild beat writer Michael Russo wrote on his Russo's Rants blog about a woman named Lori Luoma he recently met at Tom Reid's Hockey City Pub in St. Paul. But now Russo informed us that he received an e-mail from one of Lori's friends telling him that Lori suffered a major brain hemorrhage and won't survive.

It is truly heartbreaking to hear of this. If Lori is unable to make it, I do wonder and hope the Wild are able to acknowledge her in some way.

Star Tribune's Russo's Rants blog (November 11):
Sad news about a Wild fan

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Islanders unveil their latest alternate jersey

Despite not having not been many pleasant memories for suffering New York Islanders fans over the last 20 years, if there is anything for them to be really proud of, it is the glory days of the team's four straight Stanley Cup championships from 1980 to 1983.

When the Islanders dominated the National Hockey League during that time, they wore a very familiar logo and color scheme. While only for a short time during the mid 1990s did their classic logo disappear in favor of a widely unpopular blue raincoated fisherman, it is displayed front and center on a brand new alternate jersey that was unveiled late Monday at an Islanders Business Club event (see the video clip below).


video courtesy: New York Islanders

Michael Schuerlein of Islesblogger.com was the first to post a story back on July 28th that confirmed the team would be introducing a new alternate jersey.

The Islanders' new alternate jersey is flashback to that past as it is a royal blue base color with a thick orange stripe above an equally thick white one to cover the bottom-most portion. While the throwbacks we saw worn for a few games two seasons ago had orange numbers and lettering like the 1970s jerseys had, the team decided on having them in white instead with a thin orange outline.

Islanders Business Club executive director Mike Bossy unveils the team's new alternate jersey on October 27, 2008. (photo courtesy of New York Islanders)

Players also will wear matching royal blue hockey pants with an orange stripe down each side outlined in white. The socks are also royal blue with an equally thick orange stripe right below the knee as the jersey with a thin white stripe underneath it. But these sock stripes are interrupted in the back. That is something that is more noted for the Reebok Edge styles for socks.

The team will wear these new alternate jerseys for a total of 15 games this season and the first time fans can see them on the ice will be on Saturday night when the Islanders host the Montreal Canadiens at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. It will be a part of a "Throwback Night" promotion sponsored by Modell's Sporting Goods.

"I think the new jerseys are fantastic," Islanders legend Bobby Nystrom said. "The colors really bring me back to our early teams. I think the fans are really going to buy into the jerseys because anybody who saw the team when we played, will appreciate the original colors. Plus, I like the subtle change the made to add another strip to the stick, signifying the four Cups."

(left to right) New York Islanders legend Bobby Nystrom, forward Josh Bailey, Islanders Business Club executive director Mike Bossy, forward Mike Sillinger and legend Clark Gillies attended the team's new alternate jersey unveiling event on October 27, 2008. (photo courtesy of New York Islanders)

Meantime, if you'd like to see what a couple of Islanders bloggers have posted about the new alternate jersey, I recommend you take a peek at Schuerlein's exclusive photo gallery and Dee Karl's entry at her NY Islanders 7th Woman blog about her day in which she attended the event and the game that followed, the Islanders hosting the archrival New York Rangers.

Karl wrote:
"I like them. They have a nice, clean look to them. I'm glad they left the piping off and the lettering is white outlined in orange. Much better than the orange 3rds from before (that I own like six of, damn it!)."

If you'd like to hear more about the new alternate jersey, check out this second video clip where you'll even hear player feedback. It sounds like the players and the fans are excited about Saturday night when it'll be the first game the Islanders will play in the new uniforms.


video courtesy: New York Islanders

UPDATE (October 30):
Chris Botta of NYI Point Blank reports that the Islanders are looking into making their just-unveiled alternate jersey as part of a permanent full-time uniform set. It is the team's hope it would be done as early as next season. If not, they're targetting the 2010-2011 campaign. Thanks goes out to Chris Smith at Icethetics and Sean Leahy at his Going Five Hole blog for their roles in giving us a heads up on this new development.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Icethetics provides leak of Phoenix Coyotes' new alternate jersey

Normally I would prefer to wait until this is official news, but because this is of personal interest, I would share what was made public hours ago.

During his live chat conducted last night at his Icethetics blog, Chris Smith revealed at 10:30 PM Eastern Daylight Time a leaked image of what may end up being the Phoenix Coyotes' new alternate jersey.

I'm not going to provide my own comment on it until this jersey ends up as officially the real thing. But I will say that if it is what it looks like, I'm truly disappointed.

If you want to see it for yourself, go to his blog entry I've provided below.

Icethetics (October 18):
Coyotes third jersey leaked!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Cablevision adds NHL Network HD to channel lineup

I'm not sure if anyone here has caught this, but this is wonderful news for hockey fans in the New York City metropolitan area.

It appears that now we know why people that live in my area have seen an extended free preview of NHL Network longer than your usual one week timeframe like NHL Center Ice has.

Around 2:00 AM Eastern Daylight Time this morning, Cablevision added NHL Network HD to their iO Digital Cable channel lineup. Cablevision customers can find this great new addition on channel 791, as listed on their HDTV page under the sports tab. The total number of high definition channels that Cablevision provides increased to 65 (including the premium channels), but this is still nowhere close to what their competitors offer.

PR Web was the first to break the news publicly online with their news release. This was also dated yesterday, but Cablevision themselves did not provide one on their web site until roughly two hours ago.

Cablevision official news release (October 14):
Cablevision continues high-definition expansion with launch of five new free HD channels for iO TV customers

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Time to drop the puck!

Yes I know that last weekend, NHL Premiere series in Stockholm and Prague officially kicked off the 2008-2009 National Hockey League season. But the bulk of season openers begins with tonight's slate of games that actually count in the standings.

Before I give you all the news sources you need to read up and get your juices flowing as far as hockey on the brain goes, let's take an quick look at what is on tap for tonight.

Toronto at Detroit, 7:00 PM Eastern Time
(TV coverage: CBC and Versus)
The league made sure that this game was schedule to kick off the new season and that two Original Six rivals are front and center for all hockey fans to see. We know the history of the teams. But most importantly, we're interested in seeing the Detroit Red Wings' 11th Stanley Cup championship banner go up to the rafters at Joe Louis Arena. The Toronto Maple Leafs may not be that competitive of a team as projected by the hockey observers we see on television, hear on the radio or publish in print, but they're an attractive opponent to watch play the Red Wings for viewers on both sides of the border. As part of today's NHL Faceoff 2008 festivities, fans are being treated to live music from Def Leppard over at the Fox Theater in downtown Detroit, just blocks away from the arena. And then via satellite, Ottawa native Alanis Morissette will perform from Montréal... Oh and I highly recommend you go to the NHL.com home page and when you see the "Tonight We Rock!" headline, move your cursor over the main content box and click the play button icon. You'll see an awesome hockey music video to Def Leppard's new hit song "C'mon C'mon".

Boston at Colorado, 10:00 PM Eastern Time
(TV coverage: Versus)
This matchup may not have the marquee value that the Maple Leafs-Red Wings one does, but those fans especially in Boston and Denver will get to enjoy the season opener for both teams. Tony Granato returns to behind the bench for the Colorado Avalanche for the first time in four years as he takes over for Joel Quenneville. Joe Sakic is back for a 20th NHL season for Colorado. Patrice Bergeron plays his first game for the Boston Bruins since sustaining a serious concussion early last season.

Calgary at Vancouver, 10:30 PM Eastern Time
(TV coverage: CBC)
Todd Bertuzzi faces one of his former teams as he makes his debut with the Calgary Flames. His presence bolsters a top scoring line with Daymond Langkow and Jarome Iginla. Mike Cammalleri will also play his first game in a Flames uniform and upgrades the second scoring line. Roberto Luongo as the newly-named captain will be between the pipes for the Vancouver Canucks, a team that failed to make the playoffs last season and lost Luongo's predecessor in Markus Naslund as well as Brendan Morrison to free agency. But the arrival of Pavol Demitra will help make up for the loss of two important forwards on the club. Calgary has lost its last five season openers, so it should be interesting as to whether or not they'll break that streak with this divisional road game.

Anaheim at San Jose, 10:30 PM Eastern Time
(TV coverage: FSN Prime Ticket and Comcast SportsNet Bay Area)
Unlike last season, the Anaheim Ducks will begin a new season with re-named captain Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne back in the fold for another year. Selanne just recently signed a new 2-year contract while Niedermayer has already committed to playing at least one more season. The Ducks don't fare well in season openers as there are 4-10 in such games. Brendan Morrison makes his debut for Anaheim while Dan Boyle and Rob Blake do the same for the San Jose Sharks. Todd McLellan runs the Sharks bench for the first time after leaving the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings over the summer. San Jose is hoping to see Vezina Trophy finalist Evgeni Nabokov duplicate the success he had last season, but that the team as a whole can overcome a bitter 6-game Western Conference Semifinal loss to the Dallas Stars. The memory of their season ending on Brendan Morrow's series winner during the fourth overtime should enough motivation for this season... NOTE: You can also watch this game tonight during the debut of NHL.com's NHL GameCenter Live. It is the start of a three-day free preview where you can see games online just like you did with the former NHL Center Ice Online, only it's better.

Here are some season preview hyperlinks from the usual suspects to catch you up to speed. Try not to call me lazy, but if you want preview articles and feature stories from a specific team, you'll have to check out the individual team official web sites.

The Sports Network (TSN)
2008-2009 NHL preview page

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC)
2008-2009 NHL season backgrounder

ESPN
2008 NHL preview page

FOX Sports
A look at the new season

Rogers Sportsnet
NHL Preview 2008-2009

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Martin Brodeur unveils new goaltender mask

For a future Hockey Hall of Fame goaltender, we have become accustomed to seeing a particular mask and knowing immediately who's it was. With the familiar red with white trimmed "J" logo on the forehead and red flames along the sides of a black mask, you'd know it has been owned by none other than New Jersey Devils netminder Martin Brodeur.

But Brodeur debuted a new goaltender mask at practice this morning at AmeriHealth Pavilion inside the Prudential Center.

New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur practices
this morning inside the AmeriHealth Pavilion in
Newark, New Jersey as he wears his new mask.

(photo courtesy: New Jersey Devils)

According to the Devils' news release:

"The new 'MB30' logo combines Brodeur's initials with the number he has worn since his first full season in New Jersey, and incorporates the horns and curled tail that are familiar to any Devils fan. The interior is subtly accented by the crisscrossing shape of a goal net."

Martin Brodeur's new mask (photo by Denis Brodeur, Jr.)

We've been used to the same mask since the 1993-1994 season. But there is just the small change in the overall look with an "MB30" logo instead of the "J", an icon that as mentioned by Don LeGreca this afternoon on NHL Live! dates back to Brodeur playing with the American Hockey League's Utica Devils (now the Quad City Flames) the season before.

But Brodeur explained it was time for some kind of a change.

"We talked about it a long time to try and personalize the mask by putting my initials and number on top of it," he said. "It's still the same look, just a little different on top. We wanted to make a change."

Fans will get to see him sport the mask for the first time when the Devils open the new 2008-2009 National Hockey League season when the host the New York Islanders on Friday night.

But also on that day, Brodeur will launch his own brand-new web site martinbrodeur30.com, an online destination where you can find everything you need to know about him and his hockey career.

Brodeur's upcoming web site features his "MB30" on the home page. It is set for launch on October 10th.
(image courtesy: martinbrodeur30.com)

And speaking of his career, the Devils goaltender is on the verge of setting new all-time NHL records this season and they are big ones. Having won the last two Vezina Trophy awards, Brodeur is just 14 wins away from passing Patrick Roy's 551 for first overall in league history. With 8 more shutouts, Brodeur will pass Terry Sawchuk's 103 to become the all-time leader as well.

So get accustomed to hearing Brodeur's name frequently in the weeks and months to come. For fans of Brodeur, Devils fans and hockey fans as a whole, it should be a historically memorable season for the man donning the Devils' "NJ" logo on his chest as he has for the last 15 years.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Cup Crazy's 2008-2009 Phoenix Coyotes season preview

I'm not sure if I'll be doing this for all 30 National Hockey League teams, but for now, I will do this one from the start. Here, my focus is on the Phoenix Coyotes.

The Coyotes are a team in which they are at a crossroads in regards to their future. The lack of playoff activity in Phoenix has taken its toll on the fan base and its economic well-being. Despite playing in a beautiful new arena that is just under five years old, attendance has been a problem. But there are reasons now for why fans should be coming out in larger numbers to show their support for the Coyotes.

It has been seen before. For an example, prior to the start of the 2003-2004 season with impending opening of Jobing.com Arena, a new team logo and uniforms and the free agent signing of future Hall of Famer Brett Hull, there was a general sense of excitement in the team with the branding overhaul and ownership taking hold. But still, the Coyotes failed to make the playoffs. Then coming out of the lockout, former general manager Mike Barnett did a major makeover of the roster over the course of the 2005-2006 season by bringing in the likes of Ladislav Nagy, Petr Nedved, Geoff Sanderson, Steven Reinprecht, Dave Scatchard, Oleg Saprykin, Mike LeClerc, Jamie Lundmark, Oleg Kvasha, Denis Gauthier, Dennis Seidenburg, Sean O'Donnell, Jamie Rivers, David Tanabe, Krystofer Kolanos, Josh Gratton, Pascal Rheaume, Michael Rupp, Jeff Taffe, Curtis Joseph, Philippe Sauve and Brian Boucher.

Only Reinprecht remains from that group of players.

Did that overhaul work? No, it did not. Phoenix finished last in the Pacific Division with a 38-44 record and 81 points. Only three Western Conference teams finished with a lower point total then them.

Then the following year, it was Ed Jovanovski, Owen Nolan, Yanic Perreault, Georges Laraque, Nick Boynton and the return of Jeremy Roenick. Once again, Phoenix's 2006-2007 season was a failure to make the playoffs and by doing even worse. With a 31-51 record and just 67 points to settle at the bottom of the Western Conference, only the Philadelphia Flyers were worse off in the entire league than the Coyotes.

Among those players mentioned, only Jovanovski is still in a Coyotes uniform today.

Even though it has been six years since hockey fans in Phoenix have seen playoff hockey, last year brought hope. With Don Maloney taking over as general manager of the team, he once again helped re-shape the roster and an influx of youth. Players such as Daniel Carcillo, Daniel Winnik, Martin Hanzal, Matt Jones and Keith Yandle were those who helped make a positive impact. But when all was said and done, the Coyotes fell short of the final West playoff spot by just eight points. Phoenix was contention up until the last two to three weeks of the regular season.

But this offseason that is about to officially end seems to be different. Whether or not that is true remains to be seen.

The Coyotes took a major step forward by making a blockbuster trade at the 2008 Entry Draft by acquiring All-Star forward Olli Jokinen from the Florida Panthers for Boynton, fellow defenseman Keith Ballard and a 2008 second round draft pick (Colby Robak). Ballard was one of Phoenix's up and coming star defenseman who brought an element of hard-nosed hockey along with his steady blueline play. He was even considered to be a future captain by many observers. But in order to get something, the Coyotes had to give something of significance up. That was Ballard.

Then at the draft itself, the team selected forward Mikkel Boedker as the eighth overall draft pick and forward Viktor Tikhonov at #28 overall. Both were very satisfying choices for part-owner and head coach Wayne Gretzky and may very well be with the Coyotes to begin the new season. Then through free agency, Phoenix inked forwards Brian McGrattan and Todd Fedoruk to provide protection for the skilled players on the club.

One of those players they intend to protect is a someone who will play in his first full rookie season. Highly touted forward Kyle Turris brings the kind of skill Phoenix desperately needs, someone that can score but also be helpful in finding open teammates with his good on-ice awareness. After he made his NHL debut late last season, the 2007 third overall draft pick didn't look out of place and had the kind of confidence you'd typically find in veteran players. If he lives up to his potential, don't be surprised if he is a contender for the Calder Trophy.

Overall, the Coyotes did pretty good for themselves in improving the makeup of the team during the summer.

With the acquistion of Jokinen, the Coyotes have themselves a top flight forward for the first time in many years. He is most likely to be paired with captain Shane Doan and a player that scored 22 goals in his rookie season last year. That would Peter Mueller. With Jokinen feeding him the puck and having already notched a season under his belt in playing with Doan, this could very well be a dangerous top scoring line for Phoenix.

Will it be a breakthrough year for Mueller? If his hat trick in a 5-1 preseason win over the San Jose Sharks on September 29th is any indication, the answer might as well be "very likely" to most certainly "yes".

Where do the Coyotes fare best? Their top scoring line with Doan, Jokinen and Mueller would be an obvious strength. In what some may consider to be a brillant roster move by Maloney last season, the waiver wire pickup of goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov drastically improved Phoenix's goaltending to a point he earned himself a new contract and become the undisputed starter. As he enters his first full season in the desert and should he be stellar between the pipes, there is no telling how many more wins the Coyotes get this upcoming season.

But where is Phoenix's weak areas? Working against them is inexperience in the most important games. As one of the NHL's youngest teams, it showed down the stretch last season when trying to snag a playoff berth that ended up out of reach. It is great to see them get younger and highly talented players, but until they perform in key situations against quality opponents, there may be growing pains with this group.

And despite the loss of Ballard, there is the uncertainty with how the defensive corps will perform. Can Jovanovski, Derek Morris and Zbynek Michalek provide enough stability on the blueline to lessen the pressure on Bryzgalov or even backup goaltender Mikael Tellqvist? Can Jones or Phoenix's free agent signees David Hale and Kurt Sauer help out? This is a question mark and has to be answered almost immediately.

At the same time, after the Doan-Jokinen-Mueller line, can Gretzky rely on steady offensive production from his other three lines? He's going to need everyone to put up numbers consistently to get somewhere in 2008-2009.

Where does this team end up by next April? It is safe to say the Coyotes will contend for a playoff spot, but given it is a highly competitve Western Conference, it will be a tough task. Phoenix will need a team or two to underachieve while they must meet or exceed expectations. It is still possible the Coyotes may not finish higher than fourth in the Pacific Division. Should Bryzgalov have an outstanding season, top scorers and complimentary players have solid years and if Gretzky and Maloney agree to make any transactions that addresses weaknesses in the team, Phoenix should be playoff bound.

Excitement and optimism is higher than it has ever been since their last playoff appearance, but Gretzky and company is ready to take that next step toward contending again. Now it is finally time to deliver.

Friday, October 3, 2008

NHL Network announces 2008-2009 broadcast schedule in United States

Better than being late, but finally the National Hockey League announced earlier this evening the NHL Network's 2008-2009 broadcast schedule for United States viewers.

According to the league's news release, NHL Network will show 75 regular season games to at least 80 million homes across the country through carriage agreements that include Cablevision, Charter Communications, Comcast, Cox Communications, DIRECTV, DISH Network and Time Warner Cable. Here's better news for you. All of the games will be available in high definition.

Among the highlights...

*Hockey Night in Canada games available on NHL Network

*17 Wednesday Night Hockey broadcasts from The Sports Network (TSN)

*5 original NHL Network produced games

For the entire NHL Network broadcast schedule for American viewers, click on the news release hyperlink I provided above.

The new NHL.com now up and running

After I had posted my recent blog entry about the upcoming change, the National Hockey League's official web site has received its makeover. As of this afternoon, the transformation is now complete.

Enjoy your stay with the nazzy new design and improved navigation tools. It's loaded with goodies, including what I'll likely touch upon about a week from now. That's the new NHL GameCenter Live (basically a re-launched version of the former NHL Center Ice Online).

If you want to know more about the new NHL.com, see my September 25th blog entry titled "NHL.com provides preview of its upcoming makeover".

Icethetics provides league-wide alternate jersey update

Chris Smith just wrote a nice blog entry this morning for his Icethetics blog. It has an updated overview of all the alternate jerseys some National Hockey League teams will wear this upcoming season.

First, he does a quick rundown of the four teams that have unveiled their new alternate jerseys in the Carolina Hurricanes, Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres and St. Louis Blues. What I found interesting was that he had to clarify the meaning of the hurricane flag as the crest logo by providing a link to the National Weather Service web site for more details.

Then he updates us on the unveiling dates of other teams that plan to have new alternate jerseys.

For a look at his blog entry, you can go here:
Icethetics Season Preview, Part V

Thursday, September 25, 2008

NHL.com provides preview of its upcoming makeover

The National Hockey League gave fans a preview of what is to come as the start of the 2008-2009 regular season is only days away. The look of their official web site is getting its latest makeover done in time for opening night.

A beta test web site for NHL.com is now available for viewing. It is to be the new look for the NHL's official
web site.
(image courtesy: National Hockey League)

When I saw it yesterday, I think this has a more professional look to it. It's sleeker and with the latest bells and whistles. At first, I thought the team logos up top wasn't keeping its colors where maybe it's supposed to blend in with the rest of the page that's dominantly in black and silver, but I see that when you place your cursor on them, they appear in color.

Now I wonder if that means the individual teams will be undergoing another makeover, too.

Back on Friday, the Buffalo Sabres introduced a new media player for Sabres TV. This comes as no surprise that they're doing this with the other teams. I saw the Toronto Maple Leafs did and the Anaheim Ducks are testing theirs.

Some people may ask why again is there another makeover? Well, to me a lot of times, there is a good feeling to make improvement that are introduced at the start of the new season. It gives fans that sense of excitement of something new, fresh and improved for opening night. If it's not as good, then there should be no need to fix it.

This is however, a nice improvement. If it is also to be done for the 30 team sites, wow, that would be nice.

Within the NHL.com makeover is a complete re-vamping of their multimedia access section of the site. Recently, fans have had the opportunity to watch NHL Center Ice Online, the internet version to the television subscription service where you can access out-of-town NHL games for a fee. It is set to be re-named NHL GameCenter Live. You can see a three-day free preview of the service from October 10th to October 12th.

To access the NHL.com beta test site, go to www.nhl.com/beta.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Sabres unveil their latest alternate jersey at "Puck Drop 2008"

The Buffalo Sabres kicked off today's Puck Drop 2008 festivities at 9:00 AM Eastern Daylight Time this morning and fans across the Western New York region couldn't have been more thrilled.

With yesterday's launch of their brand new online media player, a special edition of Sabres TV provided a live internet video stream of this morning's festivities from HSBC Arena in downtown Buffalo. Kevin Sylvester and Mario Genero co-hosted the Sabres TV coverage with glimpses of a beautiful mural inside the arena's main concourse and the Blue vs. Gold scrimmage. As far as the mural is concerned, it commemorates last season's AMP Energy Winter Classic that was played on New Year's Day.

Speaking of that memorable game, The Making of a Classic DVD went on sale today. As I mentioned back on Monday, if you weren't able to attend Puck Drop 2008, you can order the DVD online at Sabres.com or visit the HSBC Arena box office during regular business hours.

The Buffalo Sabres' vintage logo is displayed on the center ice video board at HSBC Arena during the alternate jersey unveiling ceremony on September 20, 2008.
(image courtesy: Buffalo Sabres)

After the scrimmage was played, the Sabres players headed to the locker room and then returned for an on-ice ceremony to unveil the new alternate jersey. Fans saw a video presentation on the center ice high definition video screen of great moments in Sabres history. When you got to see the vintage primary logo first appear, it felt so right that it is back.

One highlight that sticks out immediately is the "May Day!" goal from Buffalo's 1993 playoff series victory over the Boston Bruins. Brad May scored the winning goal that sent the Aud into a frenzy. But television play-by-play announcer Rick Jeanneret's livecall was absolutely what makes watching it over and over again worthwhile.

Then Jeanneret introduced to the crowd the main roster players that were all decked out in the new alternate jerseys. An estimated 10,000 fans cheered loudly as they got to see them publicly for the very first time.

Tim Connolly heads out onto the ice during the alternate jersey unveiling ceremony at HSBC Arena in Buffalo on September 20, 2008. (photo by Bill Wippert/Buffalo Sabres)

And then the team circled the ice surface to give the fans a closer look before giving a final salute from center ice. This day was truly for all the dedicated Sabres fans that came out for Puck Drop 2008.


Buffalo Sabres players skate around the ice surface during the alternate jersey unveiling ceremony at HSBC Arena
in Buffalo on September 20, 2008.

(photos by Bill Wippert/Buffalo Sabres)

As mentioned on their August 14th news release, the jersey features a modernization of the team's vintage design. Paul Szeglowski of his outstanding Lets Go Sabres blog explained that with the vintage crest logo being brought back with some minor alterations, he believes that the Sabres feel will help it stand out more against the darker navy blue base color of the jersey.

Buffalo Sabres director of creative services Frank Cravotta shows the variation of preliminary designs in creating
the team's new alternate jersey.

(image courtesy: Buffalo Sabres)

Sabres director of creative services Frank Cravotta reaffirmed that to Erin Pollina in today's official news release.

"The first thing we wanted to do is go to our new color scheme, which is the deeper blue and gold," Cravotta said. "After that we added the striping pattern, introduced some silver accents in it and put some silver vertical piping along the front... It makes for a new and unique look."

Buffalo Sabres players salute the crowd during the alternate jersey unveiling ceremony at HSBC Arena in Buffalo on September 20, 2008. (photos by Bill Wippert/Buffalo Sabres)

Did the fans approve? According to 10-year-old Brendan Bittner of Hamburg, New York, I think it is safe to say he does.

"I think it looks awesome," Bittner told Matthew Spina of the Buffalo News. His mother Kathleen agreed.

"It has the old '70s logo sort of combined with the new type of logo," she said. "It just looks really cool."

Speaking of the Buffalo News, their regular Sabres beat writer John Vogl reported from the arena today with an overall recap of the events. It includes some fan interviews with one of particular interest as Chris Kostka of Ajax, Ontario is proud to see his son Mike trying out for the team (he's on the official training camp roster).

Two Buffalo television stations provided excellent coverage of Puck Drop 2008, including the mention of the new alternate jersey. Adam Benigni of WGRZ-TV also gave an overview of both the scrimmage and the jersey unveiling ceremony. Michele McClintick of WIVB-TV had described the atmosphere at HSBC Arena as simply "rockin' again". You can also check out her report from the site of today's festivities.

Just like the Carolina Hurricanes' new alternate jersey, if you want to purchase an authentic Sabres' one, it'll cost you big bucks. Expect to pay as much as $350 for a fully customized game jersey that is exactly be what the team will wear for 15 times this upcoming season. Due to what is expected to be high demand and production being high, don't expect delivery until around the time of its debut on November 26th when the Bruins visit Buffalo.

Production of the Buffalo Sabres' new alternate jersey expects to be quite high as fans are already placing pre-orders today. (image courtesy: Buffalo Sabres)

As stated in the team news release, fans can now pre-order the alternate jersey at the Sabres Store in HSBC Arena with at least a $55 deposit for each jersey. But if you're customizing it, you need to pay in full.

Meantime, I strongly recommend you also pay a visit to Chris Smith's Icethetics blog for his coverage of today's jersey unveiling. He also provided a photo slideshow of the jersey, but I especially like the nice large photo of Teppo Numminen he posted.

Without question, I believe the Sabres' new alternate jersey will be a big hit with the fans. It is my hope that eventually this becomes the full-time home jersey. After that, hopefully the team creates a road white version and then brings back the classic royal blue vintage jersey we saw last season to become the full-time alternate. Now THAT would really do some good completely restoring in pride in the team brand, not that "Buffaslug" we see now.

If you would like to see a very condensed (and I mean shortened) version of the Sabres TV coverage of the alternate jersey unveiling and other Puck Drop 2008 events, check out the video clip below.


video courtesy: Buffalo Sabres

Friday, September 19, 2008

Teemu Selanne signs pro-tryout contract to return to Ducks

The Anaheim Ducks still have to clear salary cap space before signing him to a standard player contract. It is pretty much just a formality that has to be completed.

Teemu Selanne ended all speculation about his future by signing a professional tryout agreement so he can take part in formal workouts with the start of training camp on Saturday morning in Anaheim. So in other words, he's back!

"The Finnish Flash" as he's been nicknamed since he began his National Hockey League career with the Winnipeg Jets with a huge bang by scoring a league rookie record 76 goals in the 1992-1993 season. The highlight of his career would obviously be playing a key role in the Ducks' 2007 Stanley Cup championship campaign. Selanne put up 94 points (48 goals and 46 assists) in all 82 games of the 2006-2007 regular season and then tallied 15 more in the team's successful playoff run.

But at this time a year ago, the 38-year-old Selanne did contemplate retirement and didn't decide to come back until January where he scored 12 goals and had 11 assists in just 23 regular season games last season. Anaheim as the defending champions was bounced right out of the playofs in an opening round defeat to the Dallas Stars where he put up just 4 points (2 goals and 2 assists) in 6 games. Given the idea his quiet 2007-2008 abbreviated season was relatively quiet compared to past years, Selanne is hungry to not only get back out on the ice, he wants to play and win. This is despite the fact he's only been working out in recently and only now has he made it official on the eve of training camp that he'll give it a go.

"I have been a risk taker all my life," Selanne told Matt Vevoda of anaheimducks.com. "I have been skating already six weeks and any day something could happen. I don't want to miss the camp. I really believe that this time is very important. That's why I did it."

In a serious change of mind of where he stands with his playing career, Selanne revealed to Orange County Register reporter Dan Wood that he could possibly sign a two-year contract with the Ducks and even may consider playing one final time for the Finnish Olympic hockey team for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

"The Olympic year next year (2010 in Vancouver) is something that's in my mind," Selanne said. "I've played four times in the Olympics, and it's an unbelievable experience. I know it's going to be the last time when NHL players are going to be participating in the Olympics, so obviously it's something quite special."

While at this point he's non-committal beyond the upcoming season, he will take those additional playing years into consideration.

"The good thing is I'm healthy," he added. "I feel very good physically, and now mentally I'm fresh. Obviously, I want to finish my career in Anaheim, with the Ducks. That's a big thing for me. That's why a two-year deal would work better, but let's see what happens."

Selanne is the all-time franchise leader in seven statistical categories. He has scored 325 of his 552 career goals in a Ducks uniform and currently has the fourth-highest goal total among active NHL players.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

NHL Live returns on September 22nd

Have you missed Don La Greca and E.J. Hradek talking some hockey? I'm sure many diehard hockey fans have. You are in luck though as NHL Live! returns to the airwaves this coming Monday after its summer hiatus.

In the National Hockey League's press release just minutes ago, it states you will be able to tune in to NHL Home Ice XM 204 or the cable television simulcast on NHL Network weekdays between 12:00 PM to 2:00 PM Eastern Time. The show will be re-aired on NHL Network that day between 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM Eastern Time. You can also catch a live internet feed on NHL.com's NHL Network Online.

With the merger of the two satellite radio giants in XM and Sirius into what is now Sirius XM Radio (as stated in Sirius' press release and XM's press release), the NHL also announced that starting October 6th, Sirius subscribers in the United States will get to access NHL Live! (that had been on XM).

Fans will remain a part of the show. Outside the show's guests that will be interviewed, fans can send e-mails or call in and talk to La Greca and Hradek to talk about the latest happenings around the NHL. The co-hosts can be seen perched up in their enclosed studio high above the floor of the NHL Powered By Reebok Store in New York City.

With the American economic crisis, are some arena naming rights deals at risk?

While many middle class Americans have been hard hit in an enormous way during these worsening economic times, we've seen in the past several days major shifts in the financial market. To put it mildly, it has been very ugly.

Regardless of your politicial views in placing the blame on any one person or multiple others, we've seen the New York Stock Exchange's Dow Jones Industrial Average lose over 900 points this week. This is the most commonly known indicator of the health of the United States economy. There was the stock market crash in 1987. Then the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that sent Wall Street into a tailspin. But today, it's about greedy investors and simply bad management and decisions on the part of financial institutions and of course the federal government.

I don't want to bore you with that as you wonder what does this have to do with hockey? Well, the health of the American economy does effect the health of the National Hockey League. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner William Daly addressed the media yesterday after the NHL Board of Governor's September meeting in Toronto. Bettman was asked about how this week's Wall Street developments might have an impact on the league. You can watch the first 1:27 of the video clip below to hear his comments.

"Well, actually, we did, in terms of the state of the league and looking forward, discuss the state of the economy," Bettman said. "Obviously, nobody can predict how this is going to continue to unfold and when there might be a recovery, but interestingly enough, based on the projections that we're seeing, based on the data that we're getting with respect to things like season ticket sales, we're actually running ahead of last season, which was a record for us. So we haven't been experiencing any material short-term effects, but everybody is, of course, cognizant of what's going on with the economy."


video courtesy: Leafs TV

With the United States government bailing out failing financial institutions like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac earlier this year, the collapse of Bear Stearns and this week seeing Lehman Brothers and American International Group (AIG) go into bankruptcy, it makes you wonder if there will be a looming dark cloud over teams that have arena and other related naming rights put into risk. Today's latest development as reported by CNN Money's Aaron Smith has two giant banks considering a merger to stave off a collapse of their own. Morgan Stanley and Wachovia are in such talks.

Let us list the indoor arenas around the NHL that have naming rights agreements with banks or brokerage firms. We have the TD Banknorth Garden in Boston, HSBC Arena in Buffalo, the RBC Center in Raleigh, North Carolina, the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Florida, Scotiabank Place in Ottawa, Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh and the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.

Mellon Arena will be replaced in two years, so the Pittsburgh Penguins shouldn't stand to lose substantial money should Bank of New York Mellon Corporation go bankrupt. The new arena being built in Pittsburgh will have a naming rights deal in place, with or without Mellon having its name carry over.

If insurance companies or even struggling airline companies suffer even more serious impacts from the economy to effect their bottom line, don't be surprised if naming rights deals for the United Center in Chicago, the American Airlines Center in Dallas and the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey end up in jeopardy.

So why am I bringing this up? Well, for one, the NHL is still in a recovery from the lockout which wiped out the 2004-2005 season. There are still franchises are not yet on solid ground despite the new Collective Bargaining Agreement in place. Teams in those arenas that I mentioned like the Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers have not had the kind of revenues we've seen from the more established Original Six clubs like the Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Rangers, the top two revenue-generating teams in the league.

Teams like the Hurricanes and Panthers need all the revenues they can get. Yes, Carolina won the Stanley Cup in 2006 and the fan base has grown. But Raleigh is a market where the team needs to maintain corporate sponsorship stability. Without the Royal Bank of Canada (which has RBC Bank as its American headquarters), the company that owns the naming rights to the 9-year-old arena on the west side of Raleigh, the Hurricanes would be affected in some way just like other teams would. The Panthers have struggled in recent years with attendance and its on-ice success. The collapse of their arena naming rights agreement could have a bigger impact than it would in comparison to other teams.

Bettman says that the health of the American and global economy should not cause the sounding of an alarm, but this is something to keep an eye on. Naming rights deals are important revenue streams for the member franchises. Until we see these banks or insurance companies who are tied to these deals show signs they're in completely sound shape and until we see a market recovery, the concern factor won't go away.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford previews 2008-2009 season

If you're a Carolina Hurricanes fan and you want some kind of preview of what's in store for the upcoming season, where should you get it?

Well, we know we can turn to numerous sources to get all the scoops. But if you want hear from a man that is responsible for putting together the 2008-2009 squad, check out this video clip from their official web site where Hurricanes president and general manager Jim Rutherford fills us in.

The highlights of this season preview segment are:

*an update on the development of the Hurricanes' 2008 draftees

*Will Brandon Sutter make the team out of training camp?

*the importance of signing forward Eric Staal to a long-term contract extension

*What does defenseman Josef Melichar bring to the Hurricanes?

*giving former Hurricanes forward Jeff O'Neill a chance to return to the team

*how injuries to key players last season have healed

*David Tanabe's status with the team

*the importance of assistant coach Tom Rowe's with the organization

*Why did the Hurricanes sign Michael Leighton to back up Cam Ward in goal?

*the depth of their goaltending in the minor league system

*Rutherford's thoughts on opening night against the Florida Panthers



video courtesy: Carolina Hurricanes

Monday, September 15, 2008

Sabres to sell "The Making of a Classic" DVD starting September 20th

The Buffalo Sabres announced today that they plan to release a special DVD that gives fans a behind-the-scenes look at the memorable AMP Energy Winter Classic that was played on New Year's Day.

The first outdoor regular season game in National Hockey League history in which Sidney Crosby propelled the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 2-1 shootout victory drew an NHL record crowd of 71,217 fans to Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, New York that very snowy day, the perfect setting for all fans to witness this historic sporting event.

The Making of a Classic is a documentary that shows the work that went into putting together the event, including the process of installing the outdoor ice rink, the pre-game practices of both teams, exclusive locker room access, the opening ceremonies and of course, in-game action.

Let's just say this is a collector's item that Sabres fans don't want to miss out on buying. The first chance they can is at the team's Puck Drop 2008 event on September 20th at the HSBC Arena in downtown Buffalo. Part of the $10 cost for the DVD will go toward the Buffalo Sabres Foundation. If you're unable to attend, you can also buy it online at the team's official web site or the HSBC Arena box office.

For a preview of the DVD, check out this trailer.


video courtesy: Buffalo Sabres

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Hurricanes launch inspirational season preview trailer

This week has been a week in which Carolina Hurricanes fans can hang onto three things that will get them ready for the upcoming 2008-2009 season.

On Wednesday, the team unveiled their very first alternate jersey.

The next morning, they announced the signing of forward Eric Staal to a 7-year, $57.75 million contract extension through the 2015-2016 season.

And now today, the Hurricanes posted a preview page (image below courtesy of the team) when you enter their official team web site. It shows a closeup view goaltender Cam Ward and a slogan below his head that reads "The Storm Is Coming" and the date of the season opener (October 10th). You can click on one of two hyperlinks at the bottom of the page, either go on to the home page of the site or open the Hurricanes TV pop-up window where you can view a creative movie-style trailer put together for one simple purpose. Get passionate Caniacs pumped up for the new season.


I think it is safe to say this trailer does its job. Hurricanes fans should be ready in just a few weeks from now. Oh yeah, did I mention that the 9th annual Caniac Carnival will take place on September 21st? That day, you can buy single game tickets to any of the 41 regular season home games the Hurricanes will play. And, that's when you'll get your first chance to buy the team's new alternate jersey. Okay, now it's on to watching the trailer.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Is the NHL really considering European expansion?

This is a question that has been asked from time to time in recent years. When the first NHL Premiere series was played in London, England nearly a full year ago, it was brought up without any surprise.

Will the National Hockey League consider expansion into Europe down the road?

Coming off last year's NHL Premiere series between the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings played at the O2 Arena in London where both games sold out, you couldn't help but wonder. Could London or other major cities across the European continent support the highest professional hockey league on the planet? That question hasn't been answered, but maybe one day it will be put to the test.

William Houston of The Globe and Mail in Toronto had an article published this morning on this very subject.

NHL deputy commissioner William Daly told Houston in an interview yesterday that it is the league's ambition to expand into Europe within ten years. So we are talking about 2018 being a target year.

"As time goes on, you'll see us making increasing movement into Europe," Daly said. "Certainly, it's a possibility that within 10 years time we will be playing games there."

Make note that Daly said this is a goal, not any announcement that there will indeed be expansion teams being awarded to any European cities.

Since the early 1990s, the NHL has had exhibition games played in Europe. Then last year's NHL Premiere series to begin the 2007-2008 regular season. The only other time in league history that the NHL had kicked off a season overseas was when the Ducks and Vancouver Canucks played a pair of games in Tokyo, Japan just months before the 1998 Winter Olympic Games in the Japanese city of Nagano.

The timing of this to some observers might not come as coincidental at all considering there is a rising rival league based in Russia that has vowed to compete with the NHL. The Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) was founded earlier this year. The KHL absorbed all 20 teams from the now-defunct Russian Super League and has a total of 24 teams spanning Russia, Belarus, Latvia and Kazakhstan. It hopes to quickly expand to 30 teams by the 2009-2010 season, matching the current total of the NHL. Interestingly enough, we are now seeing their intentions to only bring in elite teams in Europe and Asia with those signing players that have played professionally and at a high skill level. Just this summer alone, we've seen several high-profile players that did not sign with an NHL team ended up going to the KHL. They would be Ray Emery, Jaromír Jágr, Jozef Stümpel, Alexander Radulov, Branko Radivojević, Andrei Zyuzin, Wade Dubielewicz, Niko Kapanen, Sergei Brylin and Ladislav Nagy.

Radulov is currently under indefinite suspension by the Nashville Predators. This is because he signed with the KHL's Salavat Yulaev Ufa on July 11th with one more season left on his contract with the Predators.

Houston also stated in his article that besides the KHL as their main competition, the Champions Hockey League based on the European club soccer model will begin on October 8th. What does Daly have to say about this development?

"We are obviously monitoring and watching with great interest how they succeed," Daly said.

To date, Toronto-based hockey agent Anton Thun and other high-powered people in the hockey world have been big supporters of placing NHL teams in Europe. But hearing Daly make these comments this week has made the strongest of intentions pretty clear as far as what new avenue the league would like to try.

Carolina Hurricanes president and general manager Jim Rutherford weighed in the idea. He's not against potentially adding European teams, but he'd prefer to place one or two new teams in Canada before looking across the Atlantic Ocean.

"(European) cities do a good job for international hockey tournaments, but can those cities afford NHL prices for 42 regular season games plus playoffs?" Rutherford asked. "I don't know the answer, but if they can, then at some point there will be expansion in Europe. But first we have to expand a couple more teams back into Canada, get back into Winnipeg and put another team in Ontario before we see expansion to Europe."

National Hockey League Players' Association (NHLPA) executive director Paul Kelly is open to European expansion, but only after any struggling North American franchises are stabilized.

"Once we reach that point, I do think we should at least explore the process of perhaps one day having a division of NHL teams based in Europe," Kelly said.

Daly likes the idea of placing six teams into a European division where the sport of ice hockey thrives from a fan standpoint, a business standpoint and especially an economic standpoint. Not that these would be the only cities on the radar screen, potential markets could include Stockholm, Helsinki, Prague, St. Petersburg and Moscow, as well as cities in Germany and Switzerland.

While I didn't mention Canada when I last discussed this subject, in my October 4, 2007 blog entry that recapped last season's NHL Premiere series, here is what I stated back then.

"So, the big question is, will the NHL ever place an expansion team in one of the major European cities such as London? ...NHL commissioner Gary Bettman didn't want to create speculation, but in an interview with Rogers Sportsnet's Paul Romanuk prior to the weekend series, he said it is a long way off before it can even be considered.

My reaction to that is good. Right now the NHL should just focus on fixing their own problems at home. Even with the new collective bargaining agreement that sacrificed a full season to acquire, there are still some markets in the United States that need time to stablize and grow, especially in the southern part of the country. With teams such as the Nashville Predators that has a cloud of uncertainty hanging over their head regarding its future, the NHL cannot even think about Europe before taking care of North American markets to make sure they're strong and financially competitive. With the possibility of having a pair of regular season games in played in Prague, Czech Republic between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins next season as reported on Sunday, at least the NHL can continue to bring its brand of hockey to other European cities even if they're just neutral site games."


Even though I support the idea of European teams down the road, I still stand by that statement.

And by the way, to update that development from a year ago, the Lightning begin the upcoming season in Prague on October 4th and 5th with two NHL Premiere games against the New York Rangers, not the Penguins as originally planned. The Penguins will face the Ottawa Senators twice in Stockholm on the same two days.

There are other challenges the NHL faces besides those here at home. Houston brought up the NHL having to deal with taxation laws that would impact on player salaries, the distance of travel between Europe and North America and the time difference between the two continents for television broadcasts. Undoubtedly, all this has to be factored in if the NHL can even think about having teams overseas. Daly addressed that issue as well.

"The North American economy has a certain demand for North American sports content," Daly said. "I'm not sure that, in the short term, most European economies match that level of demand in terms of types of prices you could charge."

He added, "So, in dealing with a sports-league concept, you want markets that are at least within the same universe to at least support and charge for tickets and support player payrolls."

Roughly a third of all players currently playing in the NHL are from Europe, so turning its attention to expand on its fan and business reach is naturally is something that should be looked into.

When the second NHL Premiere series games are played, don't be shocked you hear this question asked yet again by the media covering them.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Comcast SportsNet to air all their Flyers cablecasts in HD

For the very first time since the network's inception, Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia will broadcast all their game cablecasts in high definition.

In a news release posted just minutes ago on the Philadelphia Flyers official web site as well as at Comcast SportsNet's news page, the network announced that fans can tune in and see all 64 HD cablecasts slated for the upcoming 2008-2009 National Hockey League season.

"Our goal has always been to bring fans closer to the action and by delivering all home and road games, plus news and pre and post game programs in high definition, Comcast SportsNet once again fulfils that commitment to our viewers," Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia president Stephanie Smith said.

This is what fans and the television provider have waited for since Comcast SportsNet's first HD game broadcast on February 15, 2003 when the Flyers hosted the Carolina Hurricanes. By March 2004, all home games and select Flyers road games were in high definition.

In addition to the Flyers, all Philadelphia 76ers and Philadelphia Phillies games will be available in high definition on Comcast SportsNet HD. That begins with the Flyers' season opener on October 11th at the Wachovia Center against the New York Rangers.

Bruins unveil their latest alternate jersey

I did not see this coming in terms of its release date, so you will have to forgive me for it. What makes this piece of news interesting is that none of the Boston media outlets made a mention of it.

If you were at the "State of the Bruins" town hall meeting inside TD Banknorth Garden in Boston last night, you witnessed toward the end of the event a quiet unveiling of the Boston Bruins' latest alternate jersey.

There was just a single sentence in the news feature that brought up the jersey where it said:

"A very special surprise came at the end of the festivities when Milan Lucic walked onto the ice to unveil the Bruins new third jersey."

How kind of them to mention it. It was a surprise that the team didn't set aside a separate day in which there could've been an unveiling event like the Carolina Hurricanes did hours earlier.

Boston Bruins forward Milan Lucic shows fans gathered at
TD Banknorth Garden in Boston for the "State of the Bruins" event the team's new alternate jersey on September 10, 2008.
(photo courtesy: Hub Hockey)

Hub Hockey
, an excellent Bruins fan blog on the latest happenings of the team, was the only source to provide any news of the unveiling and publicly provide proof. In a blog entry that was posted that night, it reveals a black jersey design featuring the current secondary logo for the crest and the primary logo on the shoulders. Two gold stripes with a white one in between them wrap around the sleeves just below the elbow area.

Lucic turns around to show Bruins fans at TD Banknorth Garden the back of the team's new alternate jersey on September 10, 2008. (photo courtesy: Hub Hockey)

Chris posted in his August 26th Icethetics blog entry what appeared to be a sneak peek thanks to The Sports Network (TSN). Toward the end of the video clip, it shows Patrice Bergeron shooting some pucks during an offseason practice session. But if you didn't look quick enough, you miss seeing him wearing what turned out to be this new alternate jersey the Bruins will wear in at least 15 home games during the 2008-2009 season.

Lucic shows Bruins fans the team's new alternate jersey on September 10, 2008. (photo courtesy: Hub Hockey)

A recap of last night's event was posted at Hub Hockey and provided a detailed look at what the Bruins' plans are for the upcoming season and beyond. Among those that took part in the town hall meeting are familiar faces on the Boston sports scene in Bruins television color analyst Andy Brickley as the Master of Ceremonies, general manager Peter Chiarelli, head coach Claude Julien, vice president Cam Neely, executive vice president Charlie Jacobs and team owner Jeremy Jacobs. Two Bruins defensemen joined them in Aaron Ward and team captain Zdeno Chara.

Whether or not this latest alternate jersey will be a hit with the fans remains to be seen, but those that did not like what they refer to as the gold "Pooh bear" jersey were relieved to see it discontinued after the 2005-2006 season. Basically if you like black, two of the three the Bruins wear are now that color. The away jersey is predominantly white.

Before I discuss it on the day of its upcoming unveiling, there is one information nugget off the rumor mill that is worth addressing. Normally I prefer to stay away from speculation on things like this, but it appears that a photo showing the design of the Buffalo Sabres' new alternate jersey had been leaked. Chris Smith first brought it up in his blog on Monday and then followed it up about 90 minutes ago. John Vogl of the Buffalo News confirms in his Sabres Edge blog entry that the jersey Chris had posted about was the real thing. It is an updated version of the classic Sabres jersey, including the original primary logo back on the front. I will post in more detail after it is unveiled at the Puck Drop 2008 event on September 20th.