A special Saturday edition. Why? Because I feel like it.
--> It's an absolute joke that I have to watch the NHL Draft unfold on the internet. While I would love to sit here and work over ESPN for this, it's the NHL's mistake. ESPN doesn't get a free pass, though. They knew a month ago that this deal was coming and that the league had targeted today (July 30) for their draft. Instead of looking into the possibility of televising the draft, they went ahead with fishing (yeah, I said "fishing"), the WNBA, a rerun of the U.S. Open of Competitive Eating (I wish I were making that up...not only are they showing it, but they already showed it once!), and whatever else they're putting on TV today instead of the draft. From the sounds of it, our local Fox Sports Net affiliate (North) isn't picking it up, either, so I'm left in the dark (belated kudos, by the way, to FSN North for airing the draft lottery, even though I didn't know it was coming). I'll follow it online, but I wish it were on television.
That said, the NHL is also partially to blame. They've been dragging their feet on a cable TV deal, which should have been done this week. I don't know if they're reluctant to take the table scraps ESPN is offering, or if they're waiting to see if Comcast is serious about developing a cable sports network. Part of that cable deal could/should have been the rights to the draft. For fans trying to regain their passion for the game, and for fans that never lost that passion despite the lockout, this is a slap in the face. It's another example of a missed marketing opportunity for Gary Bettman's minions.
--> As for the draft itself, look for some kid named Sidney Crosby to go first overall to Pittsburgh. If you don't follow hockey, you may not have heard that name before. Think about the hype given to LeBron James before he was drafted by Cleveland. Well, Crosby has gotten similar pre-draft hype. He could be a franchise-saver in Pittsburgh. 18-year-old American Jack Johnson should go second overall, though my boy Eklund is now saying a trade could be in the works where the Anaheim Mighty Ducks take New Jersey native Bobby Ryan second overall, while Philadelphia moves into the third spot to take Johnson. The two would then somehow swap picks, because the Flyers really like Ryan (Philly, by the way, picks 20th, so they would have to move up), and the Ducks really like Johnson, who projects as a Scott Stevens-type defenseman. The Minnesota Wild pick fourth. The Wild are tight-lipped, but say they know who they want. Conventional wisdom suggests that the Wild would want either Johnson or Ryan, but it's uncertain what they would do if both players went off the board in the first three picks. I'll post more on the draft as it happens, and I'll also talk about the local/regional talents that come off the board this weekend.
--> In a move that surprised almost everyone, Green Bay WR Javon Walker reported to training camp on time Wednesday, and he took part in the first workouts of camp yesterday. The Packers didn't expect Walker to show up, given that he and his slimeball agent Drew Rosenhaus spent the bulk of the offseason threatening to hold out over Walker's desire for a new contract. In the end, it sounds like common sense won out, with Walker telling the assembled media Friday afternoon that he decided he was better off reporting to camp and letting things work themselves out. In other words, Walker believed he had no chance of getting his new deal done anytime soon, and holding out would only make his situation worse, as he could be fined $6,000 a day for every day he missed. When you "only" make $515,000, that $6K a day starts to add up in a hurry.
--> No matter the motivation, I'm glad Walker showed up. I'm also glad he appears to have worked out any potential differences with QB Brett Favre. Favre had taken a couple of direct shots at Walker and (especially) Rosenhaus through the offseason, saying that it was wrong to hold out when you have a signed contract. Favre and Walker spoke after Walker arrived at camp, and both said that any differences had been worked out. Favre made it clear that he never said anything personal against Walker (he didn't), and said he was thrilled to have Walker in camp. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that the overall reception for Walker was positive. It will remain positive as long as Walker is giving the necessary effort, and I don't doubt that Walker will do that throughout the season.
--> The Vikings are underway with practice as of today. I wanted to take a moment to give a belated tip of the cap of new owner Zygi Wilf. When the morons in Mankato that run this training camp theme park thing decided that an admission fee would be required to get into practice, the fans were incensed. And they should have been. Not only is it incredibly stupid to charge an admission fee to watch practice, but in doing so, the morons in Mankato were inviting scouts of other NFL teams to watch those practices. As long as practices are free, scouts cannot attend them. But if teams choose to charge admission to practice, scouts can attend on their own free will. Wilf saw this, realized the potential implications, and unlike the insincere jerk who owned this team before Wilf, Zygi did something about it. The first major move of Zygi's regime was to tell the morons in Mankato that he would pick up the tab for training camp, paying them the money they were expecting to get from admissions so fans could attend for free. It might be a small gesture, but Wilf has now done more in the few weeks he's owned the team than Red McCombs did in seven years. It must be a good feeling for Vikings fans to know that they may now have someone geniune at the top of the organization.