NHL Needs to Take It Back to the Streets

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With it being the dog-days of summer, wouldn’t this be the time for the NHL to revitalize an old thing they really sold hard during the summer in the mid-to-late ’90s?? With everything in the ’90s being hip again, this is the time to bring ’em back to not only kill the summer doldrums, but to maybe put life into hockey off-the-ice.

That’s right, I’m talking about the NHL Street program.

Now, for justification, the NHL still has the NHL Street Program which all 30 teams take part in and the NHL has programs in 50 markets total thanks to the help of the club teams. However, it doesn’t have the peak appeal that it did in the ’90s.

Granted, during that time– Nike had gotten very deep into the hockey landscape. They even created a shoe for it– the Nike Air Street Deke. They had a huge roll-out with Sergei Fedorov as the poster boy for the whole experiment (it’s not like L.A. Gear with Gretzky, but it was a start). I remember seeing these ads in the NHL Faceoff and USA Hockey magazines, though I didn’t really like the idea of Nike coming into hockey. That said, Nike did pump some money and advertisement into the NHL Street idea. Plus, the jerseys they made for the teams were very of the times in the fashion sense.


With Nike into the game, they also expanded their appeal with the now Nike/NHL Street program. Not only were the sunbelt areas catered to, since street hockey was probably the only kind of hockey most knew with the lack of ice rinks at the time; but urban areas as well. This was covered in the June/July 1995 issue of Vibe Magazine where Nike’s marketing manager just wanted to get hockey sticks into the hands of kids who may not have been able to afford the game prior, just for them to experience the game first hand, which could in-turn mean a lifelong fan of hockey.

Despite not having the big flair it once had, the NHL Street program still goes around school and community centers with the same ideal– getting hockey sticks into the hands of kids who may not have had the chance to experience it. Of course, there are other tournaments in Canada that have brought a big appeal, especially with Hockey Night in Canada having the “Play On” tournament across the Great White North.

So, why hasn’t the NHL decided to bring something like this back?? To have tournaments in all 24 NHL cities would be a nice thing for the club teams to do in the lag during the summer months and have their names out there in the community.  Hell, why not do an entire summer league of street hockey and have the team sponsor it?? Seems simple…so, to steal a line from the old sponsors….Gotta be the shoes….wait, no– just do it.

But that’s just the street hockey leg. There’s still plenty to tell about the roller side of things. Not only the NHL side of things, but the other leagues who did their best and succeeded for a time, but couldn’t maintain past the ’90s boom. More on that next time through.


Here’s the weekly dump from me about my podcasts

Face Off Hockey Show: The Jon and Scott show happens where we rambled about people not checking their DMs, the Carolina Hurricanes, and other ramblings.


The Soderstrom Bubble: Jen and I talk about the evolution of hockey equipment through the years. From skates to pads to sticks. We ramble on about it all.



In The Draft: Wilson and I talk about the big news about Dale Jr.’s replacement in the 88, what it means for the sports, the recap on New Hampshire and Eldora, plus what domino could be the first to fall in Silly Season.



Is Houston on the NHL Radar Now??


A story came out last night from KHOU in Houston about the possibility of Houston being in the running for a possible expansion or relocation for the NHL. With Les Alexander looking to selling the Houston Rockets and Toyota Center, it opens up the door to a hockey team moving in there, as Alexander was the biggest opponent to a hockey team being in the Toyota Center.

For this, you have to believe that Houston, if they can find an ownership group, moves almost to the front of the line for an expansion or relocation bid. Of course, this all depends on who buys the Toyota Center and what their look at hockey versus what they would want to deal with the Rockets sharing a building with hockey– but for a market that is the 10th biggest market in the US, the NHL would definitely want to go ahead and get into the ear of the new owner to think about considering the idea for pro hockey to get into the arena.

In KHOU’s story, many closed to the Rockets and Alexander stated that they thought that Alexander believed that any money not spent on the Rockets was money wasted. Hell, he had an inflated rent for the Houston Aeros when they were playing in the Toyota Center to the tune of $23,000 a game (or around $828,000 a year on just the regular season), which was part of why they moved to Des Moines in 2013. Of course, the Aeros were respectable when it came to attendance in the AHL, being in the top-ten in most seasons.

The Houston area does have a lineage when it comes to hockey, as the Aeros were a cornerstone of the WHA from 1972 until 1978 when they folded due to not having the funds for the WHA and weren’t in the running for the migration to the NHL. Then after the Apollos failed in the CHL, the Aeros came into town in 1994 with the IHL and then into the AHL, winning a Turner Cup and a Calder Cup in their 19 seasons in the area.

Instantly, you have to think that the rivalry will already be there between Houston and Dallas. Hell, the folks over at Defending Big D stumped for putting a hockey team in Houston two years ago when the NHL did expansion bids which brought about the Vegas Golden Knights. If the right owner is there and the lease is right– the Houston market could be solid for the NHL. The fans will show up for a pro team because it’s a pro team and the media market is ripe for the picking.

Whether it be a team relocating to the area or the NHL ditching Seattle and get on the Houston bandwagon for expansion, the area should be given a chance to hold up a hockey franchise. They just need the right ownership group to bring and keep the people in the building for the long haul. The NHL should be taking this thing seriously and maybe the pieces will fall into place for Houston to be a new NHL home sooner rather than later.

On the Topic Of Non-NHL Olympic Rostering


When it comes to Canada and their roster when it comes to the Olympics, they really need to look no further than to their Spengler Cup roster that they’ll send over to Davos at Christmas time. It seems to be the way that Hockey Canada is going when it comes to the exhibition games they’ll have to play beforehand.

Sure, the AHL is allowing their contracted players to be available for the Games, but when you’re a country like Canada who is all about hockey– having a team that has played together (at some point) is what they need for a tournament like this. This would be a bit of a leg-up on the competition, which is not what they had back in the ’80s when most every country had a dedicated national team playing exhibitions in the lead-up to the Games.

Would a team of AHLers be better than a Spengler Cup team?? Perhaps. Could there be some AHLers on the Spengler Cup team that could go to the Olympics?? Absolutely– as AHL players representing Canada in the Spengler is not unheard of in the least. But it’s time to let those guys who moved over to Europe to play hockey and know the bigger ice a little bit better, especially against countries who have players who use that ice surface all year long.

And let’s be honest– it’d be a huge chance for these guys to represent their country on a big stage; not just for Canada, but other countries as well.. Hell, even when it comes to the World Championships, the NHLers get the luster of coming over to play for that while the Canadians, Americans, Finnish players who play in Europe are left out in the cold. You don’t think those guys would be even hungrier to prove they belong at the Olympics and should be considered when representing their nation?? While it’s not the amateur idea that some people have in making the World Juniors as the Olympics every four years; it’s definitely something that has great storylines for the broadcasting companies to have a field day with.

Plus, let’s be honest– this is a one-and-done for the non-NHL players because we all know their coming back for Beijing in 2022. These will be the games to show the depth of each national team has. Sure, we know what they bring to the table on the NHL or even AHL side…but for the overall landscape of hockey, this will prove what they have.

(Of course, I am saying this assume there isn’t a secret schedule to save the NHL going to the Olympics and the NHL players who go rogue and play in the Olympics anyway.)

Doan, Iginla, and Veteran Value


There is value in veteran players. That goes without saying, However, when you look at what that veteran brings, you have to really think about what they are going after. Are they in it for the betterment of the team or are they doing it to finally fulfill a personal goal?? It’s a fine line and really in the eye of the beholder or what a fan or management deem as a solid reason to bring those kind of players on-board.

Where I’m coming from stems from what the NHL dot com put out this week in Shane Doan and Jarome Iginla still wanting to play, but contemplating retirement knowing their pickings could be slim. Now, these are two players who have contributed a lot in their journeys, especially Doan– who had stuck with the Winnipeg 1.0/Phoenix/Arizona franchise through thick and thin before getting the Kirk Van Houten treatment (and maybe rightfully so). For Iginla, he brought a lot to the table in Calgary, being the heart-and-soul for the Flames franchise when that team was in the dumps. Iginla brought life to the Flames team, culminating in the unforgettable 2004 Stanley Cup playoff run.

Yet, in their advanced age– both at 40– they both want to finally win the Stanley Cup. It’s a noble pursuit that the other 600 players in the NHL have, as well. Yet, it seems the other players know that there is a means to an end. If they are able to play their part in the team scheme, they’d be able to get there as a team. Most team’s managements know that you need to have people in it for the long haul to keep the window open for multiple years.

This is where the disconnect is when it comes to Iginla and Doan. While they may bring leadership, they’re good for maybe one season– if that– before they are moving on as they hear their Cup clock ticking towards the end of their careers. Iginla has at least chased the Cup and had his best chances in Pittsburgh and Boston a few seasons ago. Iginla’s time in Colorado was a stall and wasted some good years of his career. For Doan, he had chances to get out– but for one reason or another; he decided to do the noble thing and stay with the Coyotes…which really got him far with the whole loyalty thing this summer, huh??

Management can’t shake up the chemistry for a one-and-done kind of veteran. Someone like Patrick Marleau signing a three-year deal with Toronto is the kind of deal that helps for the three-year term and gives a very young team trying to find their identity. In a case like Doan and Iginla, they want to go to a place that has an identity, has the chemistry, and they almost want to ride on the coattails of the hard-work that team has created just to get something they feel would complete their NHL resume.

For the short-term, they are not an answer. They will not get the contracts they want and if they want to return to the NHL, they’ll have to take a lesser deal with a lesser team and then hope they perform enough to be a deadline pick-up and maybe get on the bandwagon for a Cup run at the end of the year. The question is whether or not they’re willing to take the lesser deal with the lesser team to maybe….MAYBE…get a sniff at the Cup. At this point in time, I doubt we will have an arena tour for their last ride, but they did leave a lasting impression on a lot of people throughout their career if it is the end.

Jaromir, the Everblades, and the Money of Minor League Hockey


With Jaromir Jagr still unsigned, which some people think is odd for a 45-year-old to be unsigned at this point in the free agency period, the shenanigans have begun. The Florida Everblades of the ECHL have made the first pitch to keep Jagr in North America and keep him in Florida, as well.

This is a kind of minor league gimmick we need, as the last time this has happened– I think– is when the Bakersfield Condors offered a contract to Justin Bieber. Sure, it won’t work, but to get the team some press (especially in the summer months) is a pretty smart marketing idea. Plus, it goes with a trend of Jagr signing in areas that are tax-free places to play during the season.

But….what if it did work?? What if Jagr goes, “You know….the hell with it, I’ll play in the ECHL, stay in America with my adoring fans, and really shove it up the asses of the NHL people who passed me by.” It would be something Jagr has never done, playing in the minors, and it could be something he would want to put on his bucket list and check off…but maybe a Spengler Cup would be one, as well, but that’d require him to go back to Europe for that.

Look, it’s the 30th season of the ECHL, which is a solid milestone for the AA-level league. You’d have to think that they would love to have someone like Jagr in their league for this noteworthy year. Yet, is there anything the league or the Everblades can do to get this done without violating the salary cap. For 2016-17, the ECHL salary cap was $12,600 with a rookie minimum of $445 and returning player minimum of $500. Some elite veteran players can make north of $1,000, but that comes at the expense of their teammates’ wallet.

Plus, you can’t expect the ECHL as a league to help out with Jagr’s contract when other teams don’t get afforded the same ability to get a superstar player or have help from the league to have and keep an elite player on their roster. You can’t expect the league to make an exceptional player clause for every team like the MLS does for one player to not have their salary against the salary cap.

Or can they?? It’s a slippery slope, especially for a league with a lot of independent owners with little to no NHL support coming back the other way…but it’s an interesting concept for a minor league to do in order to attract some players that may have some contract situations in the NHL or AHL or even over in Europe. Yet, you look at the IHL and what had happened to some teams who went the route of signing hold-out NHL talent– and it didn’t end well.

Not only that, but you can’t blame Jagr for balking at this, especially since he still believe he has more value than a minor league contract (no offense) and that he could just go over to the Czech Republic and play for the team he owns and get plenty of bank for returning and getting plenty of the gate receipts that go with it.

All of this depends on what Jagr wants to do with his career, what the ECHL wants to do for publicity, and what people want to do with their dollars should he do something like travel around the bus leagues and see cities he’s only flew over in charter flights.

That’s Enough, AHL; Even It Out


With the reveal of the AHL schedule today, it shows that the league which is the top developmental league in North American hockey is still keeping the schedule for six of the eight Pacific Division teams at eight games below everyone else.

That’s quite enough of that then.

Sure, it hasn’t benefited the Pacific Division when it comes to the playoffs as none of the teams have made it to the Calder Cup Finals by having fresher legs, but if that’s the case– why keep kowtowing to the NHL teams and actually have a business plan to keep all the teams at 76 games or all of them at 68. To have a different schedule for six of the teams is completely bush-league for a league that’s trying to be the top developmental league for the NHL.

I’m a broken record on this, mostly because I say it every year they come out. The ECHL doesn’t give a different schedule to Utah or Colorado or Rapid City– they didn’t give a different schedule to Alaska when they were in the league and they’re almost in Russia. So why, in their infinite wisdom, is the AHL doing this for a third straight year??

Look, I get it– the NHL teams moved their AHL teams so that the proximity was closer– great. However, shouldn’t they be worried more about actually game-play rather than having more practice time?? Hell, why even have games at all and just have controlled scrimmages. It seems to defeat the purpose if you’re going to have only one division in the entire league rely on points percentage (as the other divisions have an equal amount of games).

It’s almost as if the AHL should have called the original five teams’ bluff and let them break away and start their own league to see how much that could stayed afloat and how much that would have helped. The AHL was smart enough to allow the teams to move out west, but at the same time– they should have put their foot down and say, “Sure, you can move the markets who have been good to us over to the left coast, but you have to play the same amount of games as the rest of the league to make us not look stupid or walked over.”

As much as I love the AHL and all the things they have done, it just seems stupid that they’re still allowing six teams to rewrite the rules on how a schedule should be presented and how many games they should be playing versus the rest of the league.

I’ll leave with this– if the proposed move of the Colorado Eagles to the AHL happens, will they still stick with those seven teams playing a 68-game schedule?? Will that whole division be an island onto themselves?? Does that make them more or less prepared for the NHL because they don’t bother themselves with long road trips??

We’ll have to wait another 365 days or so for that to all play out.

Hedging Their Bets in DC


I had an outlook for the my beloved Washington Capitals this summer. It was a simple one that would get money off the books to sign key cogs back into the books. My list was:

  • Expose Brooks Orpik in the Expansion Draft
  • Create a side deal that had Vegas pick Orpik and trade Dmitry Orlov, a prospect, and a pick as incentive.
  • Re-sign TJ Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov.
  • Hope Karl Alzner would want to stay on to help defensively
  • ????
  • Profit

Only two of those things happened and much worse happened. The Caps did re-sign Oshie and Kuznetsov to very long-term deals, they lost one of their best skating defensemen in the Expansion Draft (Nate Schmidt), the traded Marcus Johansson, and lost Alzner to Montreal (which, Karl, they haven’t been out of the second round in the last three playoffs either, champ). All this on top of the fact Orpik is still under contract, they re-signed Brett Connolly, got Devante Smith-Pelly on a two-way deal, and still have to re-sign Andre Burakovsky and Philipp Grubauer.

The Caps sit at 15 rostered players and 38 contracts (of the 50 max) and have $8.5M left to fill it all out.

Now, there’s parts of me that understand the whole “blow up the team and trade Ovechkin mentality” and parts of me that understand the “what are you, stupid?? This team has won two consecutive Presidents Trophies.” Right now, I think the Caps management is hedging their bets that this team they’re assembling is still as elite as the last two teams and will make it further in the playoffs than those teams.

Some points that needed to be made from my point of view. First, you are playing Kuznetsov on potential. He’s only hit the 20-goal mark once and hasn’t gotten to the 80-point plateau, but he’s a second-liner; which many teams would take all day. Kuznetsov is the heir-apparent to Ovechkin as the face of the franchise, so you have to pay that potential.  Second, you had to trade Johansson while his value was high. Yes, MoJo was a big contributor to the Caps last year, but the sample size the Caps have with him show that he could have peaked after six seasons in DC– so why not get rid of him to clear space?? Oshie’s deal is a big one, taking him until he’s 38, but if he’s still contributing– why not do that deal?? He’s one of the best guys on the right-side the Caps have seen in a while and is someone who plays his role on the power play and on the top line very well to help with this offense.

Defensively, I’ve never been a fan of Orlov– I don’t know why, I just get overly nervous when he’s out there for a shift. I guess it’s another situation where you’re paying on a potential the Caps see in him, especially with the lack of development being seen in Hershey with the other blue-chip prospects. There’s not a market for Orpik– an aging defenseman with little to no foot speed. The best option was the make a deal with Vegas in order to get him off the books for the next two seasons or even a buyout– but the Caps held-steady.

It’s a weird period for the Caps and their fans. Their star is getting older, their window is pretty much a crack right now, and this is a team with some kind of mental block in the playoffs that they can’t seem to get over and no sports psychologist can figure out (assuming they go to a sports psychologist). Yes, there’s some potential in Hershey with Jakub Vrana, Nathan Walker, Riley Barber, Madison Bowey, as well as Shane Gersich at the University of North Dakota waiting for his time– so there’s hope. To hedge their bets like this and hope that an immediate rollover will be seamless with the new blood is a bit crazy– but I expect nothing less out of this teams after the years of wackiness that has transpired.