Sunday, May 9, 2010

WRT's This 'n' That

A column of facts, opinions and an occasional rant from the Wild Road Tripper (WRT)

We haven't done 'This 'n' That' in a while. So, allow me to comment on some of the NHL stories of the day...

1. Anyone else surprised that the San Jose Sharks haven't collapsed yet?

The fact that 'Little Joe' Pavelski has more influence on Sharks' playoff chances that 'Jumbo Joe' Thornton (still the softest player in the NHL, IMO) has something to do with it. The other thing the Sharks have going for them, are three lines that can actually play havoc with the opposition's defense. After having been thumped Thursday night in Game 4 in Detroit, the Sharks came back in Game 5 and closed out the Red Wings, getting another 800-pound gorilla off their collective backs. The fact it only took five games to eliminate Detroit is a reminder that the Red Wings can actually be beaten in their own rink. (Minnesota Wild: Are you listening?)

2. The Vancouver Canucks and Roberto Luongo are made for each other.

Two of the biggest crybabies in pro sports -- the Vancouver Canucks, and goaltender Roberto Luongo -- will be in high whine tonight for Game 5 of their Western Conference series at the United Center, as the usual 22,000-plus will definitely be in full throat as the Chicago Blackhawks look to close out the Canucks at home. Vancouver thought that they could play their normal, dirty style of play and whine their way thru this series. Chicago has found that the key to beating Vancouver, is to let them go to the penalty box and not to retaliate, when Messrs. Burrows, Kesler, Edler, Sedin & Sedin, and Co., do the stupid things that they usually do. When will Luongo quit working the referees, trying to get penalties called against the much speedier Hawks, and worry about his own Swiss-cheese defense? Two Blackhawks (Dustin Byfuglien, Jonathan Toews) scored hat tricks in the last two games, both of which were played in Vancouver, where this blogger has observed firsthand the aftermath of Canuck losses.

The planning for the 2010 Stanley Cup Parade on Vancouver's Robson St., can now officially end.

3. The NHL is asking the City of Glendale, Arizona, to help subsidize the Phoenix Coyotes' $30 million annual losses. The City and Ice Edge Holdings are in an exclusive negotiation agreement; meanwhile, after the most successful season in 12 years, will the 'Yotes move back to Winnipeg in time for next fall's season start?

As for the subisdy, in uber-conservative Arizona, to subsidize anything is considered repulsive, conjuring up images of Barry Goldwater to back their point up. The fact of the matter is that the City of Glendale can't afford to subsidize anything, much less a pro sports franchise. In a state that doesn't even want to subsidize public transportation, with "Massive" immigration problems (if you listen to what the Governor says,) to subsidize any pro sports team directly -- especially a team which is currently owned and operated by the league in which they play in -- is sheer folly.

As for Ice Edge Holdings, they are willing to split the losses with the City, but they will want an out clause to move the team after as little as two seasons. They want the 'Yotes at a bargain-basement price, something the NHL is loathe to do. IEH would also play as many as 5 Coyotes games in Saskatoon, Sask., which would lead to the 'Where is this game tonight' syndrome which permeated the KC-Omaha Kings of the NBA in the late 1970's.

The NHL could just flat-out move the team back to Winnipeg, where they came from in 1995. The MTS Centre, a 15,200-seat arena (with plenty of room for expansion) might just be the best place for the wayward franchise; at least there are HOCKEY FANS in Winnipeg, and lots of 'em! The largest problem with Winnipeg, as a city, is the lack of large corporate presence, as no large Canadian corporations are based there. Ticket prices (the NHL is still a gate-driven league) would have to be carefully planned in order to keep the tickets within reach of Winnipeggers' budgets.

As for the planned move, what would it do to the schedule? The fact is that the NHL would want to keep as many Canadian franchises in the same division as possible; one rumored plan would be to move the 'Yotes to the Northwest Division, and move Colorado to the newly re-constituted 'Southwest' division, with Dallas, Anaheim, LA and San Jose.

The NHL has given IEH and the City until May 21 to negotiate an agreement; otherwise, the League's Board of Governors will take matters into their own hands. You have to ask yourself: how much money is the League willing to continue to lose, in order to keep a franchise in Phoenix? The annual losses over the last three seasons has dwarfed the $100 Million mark. When is enough really enough? With at least four other franchises (Atlanta, Florida, Nashville, Tampa Bay) in financial difficulty, how much of a drag on the sport has the Phoenix situation become?

Time to cut the losses. Move 'em back to Winnipeg. Welcome back the Jets. Plan the road trip to MTS Centre, Wild fans.

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