Sports Sunday, Balsillie, Maple Leafs, NBA Playoffs and Blue Jays

Happy Mother’s Day to all you mothers out there. Lots to get to it:

“”We were a little bit troubled to see three sweeps,” Kelly told the FAN 590 last week. “From our standpoint, from a business perspective … we like to see six- and seven-game series. “If the suggestion is somehow you’re telling players to blow games to extend series, number one we would never say that, we’re not saying that, and even if we did say that, players would ignore us. I mean, these guys are out to win,” Kelly said the other day. “I’m stating the obvious, which is, when we have large-market clubs in the playoffs and we have six- and seven-game series, it generates more revenue for us and particularly in a year like this one, that’s a good thing. I don’t think there’s anything controversial about it.” “If (the players’ association was conspiring to lengthen playoff series) you wouldn’t have had three sweeps in the first round,” said Kelly. “If you were ever going to do it, you would have done it in the first round – right? – when it was less of a gamble.”

Certainly strange comments from the NHLPA teamster, I mean boss. What exactly is Kelley saying? If he is stating the obvious, why say it? There must be something else he is getting at. He is really smart. He only makes comments for reasons. So what is he trying to say here?

Here is Damien’s latest on Hamilton:

“All in all, it sure sounds like Hamilton is being used again as it has been on countless occasions – remember Peter Pocklington’s threat to move the Edmonton Oilers to Hamilton? The chances of a team actually landing on the shores of Burlington Bay remain remote. Is that a bad thing? Joyce told the National Post in a weekend interview he doesn’t think the NHL could survive financially in Hamilton today and that he’s glad he didn’t get the team back in ’90.”

This isn’t a knock on Hamilton or those who live there. Does anyone else think that a second team for the GTA is different than a team in Hamilton? I think that a team in Hamilton will put more pressure on the Buffalo Sabres then on the Toronto Maple Leafs. I know lots of folks in the St. Catherines, Oakville areas who are Sabres season ticket holders. I suspect that all of them would line up to get tickets to a new team in Hamilton. I doubt that these folks would line up to get tickets to a second team in the GTA for the same reasons they don’t get leaf tickets. First would be price. You put a team in Vaughn or anywhere else in the GTA and you are going to be charging Maple Leaf prices. Why? Two easy reasons, you can and you have to. Teams charge what the market will bear, the Leafs have proved what the market will bear. Will it be entirely the same price? No, but it will be damn close. The owners would have to charge the same price because of the costs involved in securing a franchise in the GTA. They aren’t going to do it to lose money.

Back in Hamilton, who are going to be the corporate sponsors? Who is going to buy the luxury boxes? I am not being cynical, I am asking the question because I don’t have the answer. There is no question Hamilton is being used here. The difference is that in the past cities were used against cities that currently have teams. For example, Kansas City is clearly being used by the Islanders as a threat to the folks in NY. The owners are saying (indirectly) if you don’t help us with a new building, then we will move to Kansas City. In the Hamilton case, it’s more like pressure on the league. The league is desperate for new owners in multiple cities
The only ones around want to move those cities to areas where the owners think they can make money. Fans in Hamilton are being abused in that there are hopes are probably getting raised unnecessarily.

Not entirely new, but the Editors at the Toronto Sun want to give the commish the old heave ho:

” After 16 years in the job, it’s time Gary Bettman stepped down as NHL commissioner. The league needs a new public face, and a less polarizing figure, to take it to the next level of success. Someone who can look with a fresh and unbiased eye, for example, at whether BlackBerry billionaire Jim Balsillie’s $212.5 million US bid for the bankrupt Phoenix Coyotes –if he can move the team to southern Ontario — is in the best interests of NHL hockey and the fans. While it’s team owners who will ultimately make that decision, Bettman’s enormous influence as commissioner and his previous fierce and successful battles against Balsillie’s efforts to purchase and move the Nashville Predators in 2007 and Pittsburgh Penguins the year before, naturally raise questions about his objectivity. ”

It’s an opinion, and one that quite frankly means squat. To me you have to look at a combination of issues not just one before turfing someone after 16 years. Unless of course this is the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

” In his time, Bettman, a tough-as-nails New York lawyer, has been good for the game of hockey, dramatically raising revenues from $400 million a year when he became commissioner in February, 1993 to over $2.2 billion two years ago. He has done what the league’s owners hired him to do — presided over a substantial expansion of the game in the U.S. and negotiated a hard-won salary cap on players’ salaries, albeit at the cost of the entire 2004-05 season, along with a dramatically shortened one in 1994-95, due to another labour dispute.”

” Needless to say, Bettman’s repeated opposition to Balsillie’s attempts to bring a financially troubled U.S. team back to the Great White North, particularly Phoenix given its history, re-enforces the feelings of many that he has a bias against Canadian hockey. That said, don’t forget that Bettman was also instrumental in developing the plan which saw smaller market Canadian teams like Ottawa, Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary receive substantial financial assistance from the league, including teams in the U.S. Overall, Bettman’s tenure as league commissioner has been a success and he deserves the thanks of hockey fans. ”

Credit to the folks at the Sun for presenting the good, the bad and the ugly. There is no way this will result in Bettman’s demise though.

Bill Lanhkoff has a good piece in the Sun today about all things attendance in the GTA. For all Jays fans who have varying opinions on all things attendance with the Jays, here is the word form the head hauncho:

“The Yankees, the White Sox coming up on Victoria Day weekend and Boston, after that, it will be the measure of where we are,” Beeston says. “This week, we’d like to get three in the 30s (30,000 fans). If it were middle of summer, we’d like three in the 40s, but it’s still May, kids in school, people still not travelling. “But it’s going to be the litmus test. We’re playing well enough that that should happen.”

So there you have it. Big games at big times. 35,000 three times this week. Anyone think they will get it? OK, anyone not named Eye think they will get it? Anything under 30 any of the nights and it’s a disaster for the Jays.

It hasn’t been too often that I say this but Simmons is off base in his column this week:

“MLSEL, owners of the Maple Leafs, stand to be most affected by the possibility of another team in southern Ontario, yet it is mum on the subject. Not a word from blabbermouth CEO Richard Peddie. Not a call returned from chairman of the board, Larry Tanenbaum, who always returns calls. Even quiet from Brian Burke, who is never quiet. While the Leafs clearly don’t want company in the marketplace, the market does want competition. It wants available tickets. It wants more affordable tickets. It wants a playoff team. It wants an organization it can trust and believe in. By remaining silent, MLSEL comes off as arrogant and monopolistic. The Balsillie-Gary Bettman fight isn’t about the Maple Leafs, but it affects their business. Hockey fans want to hear from them.”

I don’t agree. The media wants to hear from them because what MLSE would say would make for excellent media fodder. Theressa Tedesco was on the radio with Doug Fairway the other day and said that the despite all the passion around this issue as it relates to the Maple Leafs, the powers that be there do have a business to run. Most businesses don’t publicize their business plans. That is why MLSE isn’t saying a word. If they were to come out and say we support another team in Southwestern Ontario, (which many a fan want them to do) the press would be calling them liars. If they said we will fight this to the bitter end, (which we all know they would do) then the media would call them greedy whores. So if you are MLSE, why bother? For once they are doing the right thing and keeping quiet. Just as they should.

“Another Bettman quickie: He insisted media people were guilty of “irresponsible reporting” when questioning the financial state of the Coyotes … A question for NHL owners: The league is the second largest secured creditor, at $35 million, in the Phoenix bankruptcy. So how does the commissioner explain to the owners he works for that he is fighting against getting the league’s money back?”

Two great points by Simmons. Bettman inc. are liars. They were lying then (as the media suggested) and are now caught in it. (precisely why MLSE should keep quiet). If this mess becomes Bettman’s undoing it will be for flushing good owners cash after bad. I guess teams like the Leafs won’t care as long as each team is sharing in the expenses. What’s a couple million here or there? Ask the owners of Tampa and Florida, to name a few how they like spending it.

“Another team certain to be against Balsillie’s bid to move a team to Hamilton — the Detroit Red Wings. The Wings, who want out of the Western Conference, would not agree to any team moving from West to East …”

One of Simmons colleagues this week wrote to me that one allay for Balsillie and his push is Mike Illitch. You know what they say about opinions….

Bruce Garrioch, Brady’s buddy has some interesting stuff today:

” ‘Those longer-term deals can hamstring you a lot as far as future planning goes,’ said Chiarelli. ‘It’s going to come down to this: Whose concept of a short-term will prevail? A player might think a four-year deal is short-term and a team may think a two- or three-year deal is a short-term.’ There aren’t a lot of teams with money to spend. Only seven franchises — Atlanta, Chicago, Montreal, Nashville, N.Y. Islanders, Phoenix and Vancouver — have committed less than $35 million in salaries next season. The Thrashers, Isles, Predators and Coyotes won’t spend to the cap.”

You mean those 7-10 year deals aren’t going to be the trend? 🙂 So three teams currently have lots of money to spend (about 10 million each at least).

” ‘Any time you’re a free agent, there is a degree of uncertainty,’ said Healy, a former NHL goalie. ‘The year I was a free agent, I wondered if I was going to have any offers and I had four teams bidding on me. Teams have to decide how they’re going to build their club. ‘The average difference between the top five (point-getters) last season and the bottom five (point-getters) is an average of $1.8 million. So, it’s not how you spend your money, it’s who you spend it on. Teams that are well managed will typically do well.”

Classic! it’s not how you spend your money , it who you spend it on???? What the fuck’s the difference???????

“TORONTO: $44.523 million to 18 players — $1 million to Darcy Tucker buyout; $733,000 to Andrew Raycroft buyout”

Garrioch has a list of both restricted and un-restricted free agents in today’s paper. In his second column he has these two gems:

” All eyes will be on Toronto GM Brian Burke. He has $44 million US committed in salaries next season, but the belief is he’ll either free up cash with trades or simply bury some players with the AHL’s Marlies to make room for the Sedin twins.”

” ‘The best team in hockey is the Detroit Red Wings. They get the cap number they want and they recognize the risks involved,’ said Glenn Healey, the director of player affairs for the NHLPA. ‘They make their choice because they owe it to their fans to give them their best team.’ ”

Let’s hope Burke is able to dump some JFJ and Cliffy decisions! I have been told from several folks that Mikhail Grabovsky is getting serious offers from the KHL. To be honest, don’t let the door hit him on the way out. If he can get $2m in Russia, go get it. The Healey comment is almost as moronic as the previous one. I have to wonder when Kelley will wake up and realize he has a clown for his spokesman. There are lots of teams who make their choices because they don’t owe it to their fans to give them their best team. Classic.

You all know I am a big Adrian Dater fan. So I am going to guess there is a technical issue and that this gem wasn’t yanked off his blog:

“I just tried watching 10-15 minutes of the Nuggets’ Game 3 against Dallas. That should about complete my NBA viewing quota for the year. Absolutely god awful.
There was a foul on, I’d say, 95 percent of the possessions I watched – a stretch in the third quarter. Every trip down the floor – a foul, followed by whining, followed by an out of bounds play or a free throw. The announcers were awful. Some female was doing the color. Sorry, I’m a chauvinist on this one. How many women play in the NBA? Zero you say? Oh. So why is a woman doing the color analysis for the game? I’ll stick with hockey, and every other sport in the universe over the NBAwful. Thanks, that’s all.”

I had 2 friends over last night. I asked them if they had watched 5 minutes of the NBA playoffs. Neither said they have watched very much. Me, not one minute. Dater’s post isn’t on his blog anymore…

Great piece in today’s NY Times on Jim Balsillie:

“But the clearest template for how Balsillie will handle the N.H.L. in court is provided by Research in Motion’s entanglement with NTP, a tiny intellectual-property holding company based in Virginia, which claimed that BlackBerry service violated its wireless e-mail patents. Many experts shared Research in Motion’s view that NTP should never have been granted wireless e-mail patents. Similarly, there was widespread sympathy about the apparent unfairness of the patent litigation system. Where analysts and others parted ways with Balsillie, however, was his scorched-earth approach. Despite repeated court defeats, Research in Motion rejected the idea of settling with NTP. That ultimately led to a point where BlackBerry service was in danger of being shut down by a court order. After spending millions on its legal defense, Research in Motion was ultimately forced to pay NTP $612.5 million to drop its suit. Foxcroft is among many in Canada who doubt that Balsillie, despite that bitter experience, will readily back down against any challenge from the N.H.L. “He’s the most dynamic, competitive sports guy in the world,” Foxcroft said.”

Happy Sunday, back at ya later. Here are your links:

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