On the Topic Of Leagues Shutting Down

The SPHL is over. The ECHL is over. Given the CDC’s suggestion of two months being the earliest this dystopian, confined atmosphere can maybe move toward living normally again– we could probably see the AHL and possible NHL do the same thing.

For the lower minor leagues, it’s understandable with the uncertainty of the ever-changing guidelines in the face of this whole ordeal. Add that to players visas, travel of teams and players over the border, availability of arenas that they don’t own; it was a perfect storm for these leagues to get shuddered early.

ECHL players get their last paycheck today, which is on average $600 a payday. Players are obviously panicking for money like everyone else who has their places of business shut down or reduced hours. Teams are also going to have plenty of losses with home games being removed, thus lost revenues and all of that. It’s a bad time all around.

And in all honesty, I wouldn’t hate it if the NHL and AHL shut down for the year. Would it suck for no Cup to be awarded?? Absolutely. As a Caps fan, would it suck for Alex Ovechkin not getting 50 goals despite being so close?? Most definitely. But for the greater good and not to rush a season in a half in what amounts to a calendar year– losses should be cut and then move on from there as a people into the next season.

For the players and for the fans, it’s the best to end it now and not give false hope when there’s other things to be concerned with. It would give one less financial burden for fans to worry about, it wouldn’t rush the players back into an important game-state after a long layoff, and it would reset the clock with the Draft and then into free agency.

Like I’ve said prior, shit’s crazy right now. The hope and the hype is all over the place. Common sense fails all of us right now and while sports are a nice distraction from it all– the best way is to throw it all out and start anew in October. It’s not just the staying away from people portion, it’s the matter of money is going to be very tight and the last thing people need to worry about is paying for playoff tickets and the other items that come when you go to a game in an arena.

Step off the ledge, everyone; breathe, and let’s get back at ‘er sooner than later, but not too soon to set people back more.

Now Hear Me Out: NHL Playoffs…March Madness Style

The NHL is going through their pause with everything else on Earth. Now, the NBA said that they’ll be delayed at least 30 days, which you’d have to think the NHL would be in the same boat. That puts us into mid-April right when the playoffs were to start.

Most teams have played around 70 games, leaving 12 games or so to finish out the season. That puts us until about early to mid-May for playoffs. There’s really two options: play out the season and really delay the playoffs or end the season and start playoffs right then and there when the season comes back. The first option will have some complain that the season is too long and isn’t give player recovery time for next season. The second makes people who have teams in heavy playoff races mad because they could have gotten in with the last games of the season.

So, here me out– end the season as it is, but everyone makes the playoffs. The NHL does a March Madness style playoff. The first round will be a one-and-done game, the next rounds will be Best-of-Five until the Cup Final, which will be Best-of-Seven. Seed in the way of points percentage to balance it out better, with the top team getting a first round bye to make sure the brackets are even through the rest of the playoffs. Opening round– 2 vs. 31, 3 vs. 30 and so on to get the 15 winners, then reseed again as per usual.

We’re in pretty crazy times in the world, so why not make it a crazy playoff as well. Is it a bit unfair?? Sure, but it’s also a bit fun and unpredictable. Why not make this season a fun one and bring some hype to the game, while also not getting too far off the track on how things are done in the off-season and maybe ending the playoffs early to get players more rest going into next season.

Despite Good Press, NHL Looking to Change EBUG Status

You know, people didn’t this irate when Scott Foster came into the game for the Blackhawks, stopped seven shots thrown at him by the Winnipeg Jets, and was named first star for the Blackhawks that night. I guess it’s because the Maple Leafs couldn’t create offense against their minor-league Zamboni driver that makes the talking heads North of the Border all up in arms.

Thanks to the performance David Ayres had, to which he got the win over the Maple Leafs with eight saves– it seems that it got people in Toronto all butt-hurt and is now apparently going to be a talking point at the next round of GM Meetings next week. I guess, since it happened to the Leafs on National TV; there’s an issue with who can become an emergency back-up.

Honestly, though, you have to think there needs to be some kind of parameters to the EBUG situation. To have a 42-year-old slotted as the emergency goalie seems a bit odd. Especially in Toronto when there’s more goalies per capita than any other place in the world (don’t fact check it– I didn’t).

But where do the qualifications come from?? Any goalie who is trying to make it is already out there trying to make it elsewhere and won’t necessarily be available. You almost have to default to former goalies who have hung them up with the exception of beer league and maybe get seen by a coach or someone and gets some practice in with the NHL squad. In the past, some back-ups have come from the Canadian college ranks; but those were when a goalie was injured before the game was even close to starting.

The talent of the EBUG is something that should be hit or miss because you’d never fathom it to happen in a million years. In the past three seasons, we’ve had two come into play and hold their own. And, just like the NHL, there’s a brash overreaction to it despite all the positive press it has given the league since this happened. Not only that, but they’ll ahev to work with the NHLPA to figure out the requirements, to figure out how they can vet these goalies, and what needs to be done so that this doesn’t happen– whether if it’s expanding the roster to three goalies or putting an age limit on it– they’ll make sure that this is the last time we have a fun story of a goalie coming out of the crowd to win the game.

TEPID TAKE: All-Star Takeaways

Was the gap between the All-Star Game and regular season always that short?? I mean, day off and boom– we’re back. Anyway, the annual shinny game took place in St. Louis on Saturday night, following the skills competition on Friday. Boy, there were somethings.

SEND THE VIDEO BOARDS AND TRACKING SOFTWARE BACK TO R&D: It was bound to happen sooner or later, sure– but the fact that there was so much stuttering with the technology during the three-on-three, I can only imagine what’ll happen when the serious games happen. The New Amsterdam bottle cruising along the boards looked like a PSone loading screen, while the tracking system could be come a bit of a clusterfuck when everyone comes together. I like the idea of the player tracking, but for things like average speed, top acceleration, time with puck– the stuff that is better saved for a break in action and not in real time. Hopefully, there’s going to be some fine tuning before the full roll-out on the playoffs.

THE WOMEN’S GAME WAS A NICE BONUS: The exhibition between the US and Canadian women in the 3-on-3 Challenge was pretty dang good. It’s something that should be covered more with the PWHPA tour and be a reason why NWHL games are on a network as well as Twitch. Of course, the game was not without it’s interesting takes from the Sportsnet broadcast which made the NWHL have a retort— but it is what it is. Was this a first step in the NHL getting their own league?? According to past situations– they’ve said they won’t try if there’s already a viable league running— but you never know what tomorrow would bring.

TOP GOLF HOCKEY WAS MEH: Like some others, I was intrigued by the Shooting Stars Challenge. Then it happened. Again– concept was there, execution could have used some fine tuning. Many people comparing it to Top Golf is pretty much spot-on and putting the biggest points almost closest to the platform kind of killed the strategy because everyone was aiming for it. But, it was a fresh idea. Not the goalie races or end-to-end shooting we’ve seen in the past, but something fresh.

ST. LOUIS DID THE LEGENDS RIGHT: Al MacInnis with the hardest shot, Bernie Federko with the accuracy passing, Brett Hull with the Top Puck and being Brett Hull, Wayne Gretzky’s contractually obligated appearance– the Blues did it right for their legends and blending the old and new schools. It’s been a banner year for the Blues– literally– and they continue to put forth the effort to make sure their history isn’t forgotten.

BRING BACK BREAKABLE TARGETS: Those screens for the accuracy shooting were garbage. Honestly– I get they don’t want to be wasteful, but the whole moment was ruined with the lack of shattering plates or styrofoam or whatever. It just didn’t have the same pizzazz and probably wasn’t as responsive in some cases. Technology is great, being resourceful is great, but figured out a way to have physical things explode on the target shooting.

Things That Need To Happen: Mascot Royal Rumble

It’s NHL All-Star Weekend in St. Louis, which means that as a part of it– the NHL Mascot Showdown is going on at the FanFest. It’s an annual thing and something for the kids and mascot connoisseurs alike. But it’s also WWE Royal Rumble weekend…and the two seem to intersect all the time.

So…why not combine the two??

My partner-in-crime Jen Conway (aka NHL History Girl) is all for this kind of thing because…well, what’s better than doofy mascots duking it out in an over-the-top winner-takes-all kind of format?? Not much, I can say that. Plus, it’s something that’s a little bit far from the norm when it comes to these kinds of things…which is why the NHL won’t go for it.

Granted, there’s been times where the mascots have taken pratfalls and it came off as cute and endearing. Then, there’s times teams have try to pull this off and then got a little bit of heat from it due to the “violence” factor. Sadly, that last part in this world of knee-jerk reactions will be the reason we can’t have the mascots duel in a over-the-top rope show.

Yet, think about it– who would be the one who could come out on top?? Right off the hop, you have to think in wrestling terms– the bigger they are, the harder they are to get out. Right there– Carlton the Bear, IceBurgh, Stormy, Stinger, Victor E. Green, and Gritty would be the top picks due to their bulk. That said, leaner mascots could have an endurance factor like Howler, Stanley C. Panther, Blades, Bailey, and Tommy Hawk. Then there’s the intimidation factor of Hunter and Gnash just to be tenacious.

The downside would be the mascots will the gimmicks and things to hold onto since it’s no-holds barred. Sparky, Moose, and Slapshot have wings, antlers, and feathers respectively, so they’d have a lot more area to be latched onto and thrown over– though the Moose could use those to ram people with. Then there’s Al, who would be great due to the low center of gravity, but Al doesn’t actually exist in mascot form. And let’s not forget Harvey the Hound’s tongue, which Craig MacTavish defeated many years ago.

Objectively, Youppi! would probably be my pick. Youppi! has the size, is somewhat agile, and has been able to overcome the most dire of situations like the Loria family moving Youppi!’s actual team to DC– leaving the orange furball abandoned until the Canadiens picked him and the rest of the Expos legacy up off the ground.

There’s probably a thousand reasons I’m wrong, but we’ll never know until it actually happens. We’d be able to see who the jobber is, who’s getting a big push from the league, and we’d all question, “Who’s booking this shit??” when it all goes sideways at the end.

Maybe Pause the Stadium Series…and Not Just Because of the Jerseys

Look– I’m all for bullshit cash-grabs and if I could find a way to make it happen in my life more– I would. On an unrelated note, I have a Patreon. But the Stadium Series and most of the outdoor games are getting too much for too little a payoff and too much ridicule for the optics.

Essentially, the NHL has made the Stadium Series game their version of MLB’s Turn-Ahead-The-Clock and it’s embarassing. A week or so ago, the Avalanche’s jerseys leaked and last night– Icethetics got the Kings uniform design. And boy…are they terrible.

But much more than the horrific jerseys, the legs on outdoor games seemed to have tapered off. Outside of the place hosting the event, the luster around the league’s fanbases have been dampened from the boom of the mid-10s of all the outdoor games possible. While I do enjoy the Winter Classic game, I’m still in the camp that the All-Star Game should be the outdoor game, as it would rotate a lot more and more areas would want to bid for it since they wouldn’t need an updated arena, while also having all the stars of the league being able to be out on the ice in the shiny game they talk about in interviews leading up to the event.

Plus, we all know that the NHL is the one who sets these prices, they set the venues, and rather than pull from two fan bases, you’d think they’d want to pull from more for a special event and make it even more special for the fans who come from far and wide to enjoy the All-Star Weekend. The idea of a game like this being for points has always been odd given the sometimes less than ideal situations Mother Nature brings to the game, but in the ASG; that’s not an issue at all.

The fact that we have three outdoor games this year is amazing– especially considering I didn’t hear much about the game in Regina, the Winter Classic has some buzz to it, but we’ll have to see how it goes as we get closer to New Year’s Day; while this game has had some fanfare with the game being held properly inside Air Force Academy, but who knows how much people will care once game day shows up.

Wu-Tang said it best when they said, “Cash Rules Everything Around Me, CREAM get the money; dolla, dolla bills y’all.” It’s a statement that I’m sure the NHL executives use as a mantra when planning out these games and locations, but there’s time where you have to step back, realize the golden goose may need some retooling and time to rejuvenate itself, and go back to the drawing board with this whole idea.

That said, the jersey market will be booming in 20 years– much like the Kings’ “Burger King” jersey, the Ducks’ “Wild Wing” jersey, and the Islanders’ “Fisherman” jersey— when people want this tackiness back en vogue.

Make It Happen, NHL; You Cowards: Women’s Hockey Edition

Huge preface as I know nothing of the inner workings of the NHL or the NWHL, but I do have an idea what would turn casual women’s hockey fan to an appointment fan.

Beyond the Olympics and World Championships, you need to have some kind of league to display these great athletes in their field. I’ve said it before on a podcast and on this blog that the women never to do a year-long tour to major cities to get people to know these athletes more (check with the Dream Gap Tour) and then they need the NHL to be involved somehow in a league in order to take off.

Elliotte Friedman mentioned on Hockey Night in Canada that The Athletic’s Hailey Salvian transcribed with her emphasis being a big reason for this post. Salvian also pointed out that Katie Strang wrote something in May about a WNHL for The Athletic, but the Friedman stamp is one that shows there’s some progress to it.

“If the time ever becomes necessary” and “in case” are interesting buzz words. The fact there’s this secret contingency plan that the NHL is holding onto seems like something that shouldn’t be a contingency plan at all. They tout Hockey is for Everyone and tout this Female Hockey Advisory Committee, but still hasn’t pulled the trigger on this league under the NHL banner?? What are you waiting for, you cowards!?

There will be a blow-back because people inherently think the way the NHL runs things isn’t the most ideal– but if the independent entities for women’s pro hockey hasn’t been able to make it profitable yet, you need to have the NHL’s back behind it– if for nothing else but to build a better business structure to make the players profitable and the league a boom for professional sports. Then, once things get good and there’s some semblance of structure on the higher end of things; the NHL stops taking full reign and more and more independence of the NHL happens, though it has the marketing and media backing behind it.

All due respect, but the NWHL being on Twitch isn’t going to be something that casual people will surf to when they’re looked for “Fortnite” streams. That’s a place where people who have appointments for the games go to, but you get it on NBCSN or even the NHL Network– it’s a big bump in eyes to the programs. The inability to have an accessible television coverage of the games is the downfall of pro hockey for the female side of it. The main stream coverage is needed because what happens after the Olympics if people can’t readily find the feed on their television or streaming service?? They’ll lose interest and move along until the next four years roll around.

If the NHL wants to do it and FOR SOME UNGODLY REASON is just holding onto it until the vibe is right…there’s no better time than now to do something like this than now; hell, even two years ago was the right time to do this. As much respect as I have for the DIY attitude of the people running the women’s professional leagues– there’s a time where you need to have the establishment to help back you up and get you on your feet before you really start to run away with things.

Take the exposure, take the business structure, and run with it. Don’t let the NHL shuffle their feet more than it has on this and push them to get involved in creating a league that’ll be stable and will have more mainstream media exposure and create more people into regular fans rather than when it’s national competitions.

ITPST: October 10th, 2019

IF THE PLAYOFFS STARTED TODAY….we’d all be confused because we’re only a week and a day into the regular season. HOWEVER, this what the playoffs would look like if the playoffs started….RIGHT NOW!!

The Atlantic would have the Sabres take the top spot with seven points on the year (3-0-1), with the ultimate match-up between the Bruins (3-0-0) and Maple Leafs (2-1-1) go at it for yet another chapter to their wonderful tale of playoff enjoyment. In the Metro, Carolina and their eight points (4-0-0) would take the top spot, while the Caps (2-0-2) would be second, with the Rangers (2-0-0) being third over the Flyers (2-0-0) thanks to goals-for. The Flyers, however, would get the Wild Card along with Detroit (2-1-0).

Thus, the East Playoffs would be Sabres and Flyers, Leafs and Bruins, Canes and Red Wings, and Caps and Rangers.

Out west in the Central, the Blues will get top spot in the divison (2-0-1) with the Avalanche (2-0-0) and Predators (2-1-0) going second and third. The Pacific would have Connor McDavid and the Oilers take the top spot, edging out the Ducks on goals-for since both are at 3-0-0. Vegas would continue their playoff streak with a third place showing in the Pacific (2-1-0). The Wild Card would be the Jets in the first spot (2-2-0) and the Flames (1-1-1) would hold the second part.

Meaning– the Oilers would take on the Flames in another Battle of Alberta, Avs and Preds, Blues and Jets, finishing up with the Ducks and Vegas.

There you have it– the first installment of ITPST and we’ll try to do this every Thursday until the end of the season.

Quickly Thrown Together 2019-20 NHL Preview

You’ve seen the best– now it’s time for the rest. Let’s go:

THIRD TIME FOR FIRST TIME??: There’s 11 teams who haven’t won a Stanley Cup yet: Arizona, Buffalo, Columbus, Florida, Ottawa, Minnesota, Nashville, San Jose, Vancouver, Vegas, Winnipeg. Of those 11, you’d have to say that maybe four have a chance in Nashville, San Jose, Vegas, and Winnipeg; but the window is closing if it’s not already shut. Of course, they said that about the Caps two years back and they lifted the Stanley Cup.

HUNT FOR 50: Will Alex Ovechkin hit the 50-goal mark for the ninth time?? Odds are pretty good given he has four of the last five 50-goal season, including last year. And let’s be completely honest– Wayne Gretzky’s goal-record is out of reach for Ovechkin. Even as a Caps fan, it’s not something I think is attainable. However, tying the mark for most 50-goal campaigns in a career with Gretzky and Mike Bossy?? Much more than attainable.

YOUNG GUNS ON THE HUDSON: You could argue that with Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko; the Devils and Rangers could be the best rivalry coming back– akin to Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby pumping new life in to a Caps-Pens rivalry that was fading into obscurity. Two young talents, ready to take over the New York Market in a big way, which the media there will undoubtedly eat up, overanalyze, and do their best to be like Toronto sports media figures.

McPLAYOFFS: Depending on what you believe, there’s frustration with Connor McDavid and the Oilers not making it to the playoffs but once in his tenure there. It’s a tough pill to swallow when you have one of the best players in the league not being on the biggest stage for the biggest trophy every year. Will that help with Mike Smith and James Neal coming from Calgary while Milan Lucic went south on the QE2?? The Neal part may help a little, but I’m not a believer in the defense and goaltending for Edmonton one bit.

RETOOLING EARLIER DYNASTIES: Both the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks had less than desirable finishes, with both teams looking to retool heading into this season. With both playing in divisions that may be tougher than they look, it might be an uphill battle. I wouldn’t put too much money down on either of them making it too far if they do make the playoffs.

WORTH THE WAIT??: A lot of restricted free agents waiting until the 11th hour to sign, but is it something that their teams will be happy about or upset about should they not perform to the contract they were dealt?? Let’s be honest, I’m shocked Patrik Laine didn’t burn the bridges in the locker room already with what he said and it’s probably awkward as hell right now. The Mitch Marner deal looks like an overpayment when you look at other RFAs signing for a bit less than retail, but in the market space. That said, regardless of the price– Marner and Laine will be on the hot seat regardless of what their contracts were since they’re on teams that are supposed to be contenders.

SUNBELT RISING??: We all know what the Tampa Bay Lightning are– but do we really know what the Arizona Coyotes and Florida Panthers are outside of their team financials?? I would venture to guess that both teams are on the upswing, with Arizona getting Phil Kessel, Nick Schmaltz being healthy, and the possibility for solid defense. All the while, the Panthers have their goalie in Sergei Bobrovsky, young guns primed to really break out and put teams on notice, all while maybe trying to snatch a wild card spot away from others in the strong Atlantic Division.

NHL Going Retro with Green Day Pick-up

In a summer of bridge deals, the NHL signed one of their own– as they signed Green Day to a two-year deal with an AAV of three-chords. I used that joke on Twitter and it moderately killed.

I’m glad the NHL is bringing in the Broadway performers and producers into the fold and will be using a song of theirs for NBC Wednesday Night Hockey. And honestly– since Green Day missed out on the Wednesday Night Wrestling Wars that are starting up, the NHL is probably a nice medal for their collection. They can collect a paycheck for royalties and promote their apparently upcoming album.

Two great quotes from the press release were:

“Green Day is the perfect band for the NHL. Their music fits so perfectly with the energy, speed and power that we witness on the ice and each and every night. We are so excited to start this partnership with the NBC Sports open. It was so much fun to shoot and we think our fans will love it.” -NHL Chief Content Officer and Executive Vice President Steve Mayer.

“This NHL season is hereby known as LOUD season…where the toughest athletes to ever lace up a pair of skates meet the baddest rock band on the planet. So turn up the volume on your TV sets, fire, ready, aim and enjoy the ride.” -Green Day’s try-hard-to-connect PR staff

You know…forget about all the other bands who have closer ties to hockey– Green Day is the hottest act when the NHL was super popular: 1994. What better way to capitalize than right now?? Forget bands like PUP or Motionless in White or even the X Ambassadors for christ sakes– bands that were actually on the NHL20 by EA Sports soundtrack. The NHL needs Green Day….not bands that are on the scene now and actually have some popularity.

When all is said and done…it’s much better than the NASCAR on NBC’s annoying cover of “Runnin’ Down a Dream” by ZZ Ward that has been used for the past two seasons. It’ll bring some kind of energy to start and then soon wain in popularity. There’s some people who like Green Day still or remember how they liked them in high school and will be amped for this. That said, I don’t think there needs to be a band that is the opener for the event. It seems outdated and a little bit hokey to try and force synergy like this. Of course, that’s why I’m not the one making the decisions and just taking about them.