Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Rosenhaus Working With Florida Panthers

We all know Drew Rosenhaus' abilities as a sports agent. He does his job, and he does it well, taking media heat off his more controversial clients while making sure they're as well-compensated as possible.

He's also a hell of an actor.

Now, we're about to find out his ability to negotiate on behalf of the fans. While acting.

Sort of.

Rosenhaus has apparently signed on with the NHL's Florida Panthers, and will be taking part in a brilliant marketing campaign. The details first began to surface Tuesday morning on Rosenhaus' Twitter page.
I have been hired by the fans of the NHL's Florida Panthers to negotiate lower season ticket prices. I will keep you posted on the outcome.
As the day wore on, it became more and more obvious that he wasn't hired by the season-ticket holders, but instead by the team itself.
"It sounded like it wouldn't take too much of my time, and we were able to work it around my schedule," Rosenhaus said. "I was happy to play along, and shed a little light on the fact that agents and teams can sometimes work together for a good cause."

He said the proceeds he's receiving for the gig are going to the Diabetes Research Foundation, and the team is also providing Panthers tickets to his clients.
I'm all for this. In fact, I think it's brilliant.

As NHL teams in warm-weather markets struggle to survive, the biggest struggle they face is to remain relevant in their home cities. Finding ways to stay relevant can be difficult, because there are only so many big-name free agents you can sign without risking salary cap hell. The other good way to remain in the minds of your potential ticket-buyers is through marketing.

Whether you like him or not, there are few people you can hire for a marketing campaign who are as recognizable as Drew Rosenhaus. This is especially true in his home base of south Florida, and in a market (Miami) that is home to many of his clients (albeit in other sports).

Don't overlook the idea of the Panthers giving tickets to Rosenhaus clients here. The team is probably banking on guys like Terrell Owens and Edgerrin James (among many, many others) getting their faces on television, and thus making Panther hockey look like a happening thing. It's likely worth the investment, given that Florida isn't opposed to giving away tickets when they think it can help them in marketing.

U.S. Soccer Earns Worldwide Respect

I know it's hard to swallow.

Those who don't follow soccer religiously are probably conditioned to think that blowing a 2-0 halftime lead is a massive choke.

They aren't going to see it any other way, no matter the facts of the story.

In this case, it's not your normal "2-0 lead to 3-2 loss". The United States experienced this Sunday in the FIFA Confederations Cup final against Brazil.

It would be one thing if the Americans had blown a 2-0 lead against, say, Mexico. It might be the death of soccer in this country, with the sport barely having a pulse in many ways already.

This isn't disrespect toward Mexico, no matter how much they deserve it. Instead, it's a nod to how freaking good Brazil is.

After all, we could have been up 4-0 at halftime and still lost. They're just that good.

It brings to mind a major question: Is it choking when you lose a match to someone who is infinitely better than you are?

My answer is "No". The odds of the Americans slowing down the likes of Fabiano and Kaka for 90 minutes were about the same as the odds of Adam Sandler winning an Oscar for Best Actor after shooting a remake of Citizen Kane.

Brazil was too good for the "play defense and pray" mantra the United States used to hold off Spain in the semifinals. They were too fast to be allowed to attack relentlessly for over an hour of game time.

No matter what Team USA did, they were doomed. Their only shot was to get lucky and net a couple more goals, hoping that would be enough to get Brazil to give up. As long as they smelled blood, we were in trouble.

What does this mean for the World Cup? It means that there is real evidence -- not just conjecture -- that we can play with anyone in the world. A contending team is not too much to ask for next year in South Africa.

In fact, anything less than that will be a(nother) monumental disappointment.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Blackhawks Draft UMD Recruit DeLisle

Evidently, the Chicago Blackhawks like UMD recruits.

After taking Camrose Kodiak defenseman and UMD signee Dylan Olsen with their first round pick Friday night, the Blackhawks have tapped the list of 2009 UMD freshmen for another draft pick.

In the third round Saturday, the 'Hawks picked up former Totino-Grace captain Dan DeLisle, who is making the leap from high school to college hockey this fall.

Like Olsen, DeLisle should spend at least a couple years honing his craft at UMD. He's a huge kid, but needs to be more consistent against top competition. Playing with and against older guys in the WCHA should help him immensely. I remember seeing him walk around the DECC last year after he had committed, and since I'm not exactly a small guy, it was odd seeing a future UMD player who happens to be taller than me. He also looked like he could break me in half if he so desired.

He also has a strong family background. Uncle Joe was a captain at UMD, and Dan DeLisle could fill that role if he stays long enough.

MN HS Superstar Drafted by Penguins

It would be impossible to keep up with all the players who get picked in the NHL Draft on Saturday. They're absolutely flying, with the second round barely taking a half hour to complete.

However, there will be notable picks made throughout the day, and one of them was at the top of the third round.

At the 63rd overall selection, the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins dipped their toes back into the water of Minnesota high school hockey.

Defenseman Alex Goligoski (Grand Rapids) has turned into a pretty good young player for the Penguins, and now Pittsburgh has picked up the most prolific goal scorer in the history of prep hockey in this great state.

Little Falls star Ben Hanowski didn't win Mr. Hockey. His Flyers team was thwarted by Breck in their effort to win a state title. But Hanowski still made plenty of headlines in his senior season. He picked up 135 points, including an incredible five-goal performance against Virginia/MIB in the opening round of the state tournament.

For the Penguins, it's a pick worth watching. Hanowski heads to St. Cloud State this fall, and he'll get a chance to develop his game at the college level. He is likely at least a two- or three-year college player, and there is no reason to think the Penguins would try to rush his development by signing him earlier than this.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Dylan Olsen Goes in First Round

For the second time ever, a UMD hockey recruit has been drafted in the first round.

This time, it's Camrose defenseman Dylan Olsen, who was selected mere moments ago by the Chicago Blackhawks.

The 28th overall pick signed with UMD recently, and is part of the 2009 freshman class. Despite Pierre McGuire's unprofessional assertion on TSN, Olsen is expected to play college hockey, and not follow the McGuire Preferred Path to Hockey Greatness, which involves major junior and only major junior.

You know, I'm mad at Chuck Fletcher for passing on Jordan Schroeder, but I'm really glad the Wild didn't hire that jerk (McGuire) to be their general manager.

Congratulations to Olsen, who should be a stalwart on UMD's blue line for a year or two before joining the Blackhawks.

Unless that bald-headed slimeball gets his way.

Chuck's First Draft Pick


Way to go, Chuck?

Wild take Jordan Schroeder.

John Moore.

Er, wait.

Nick Leddy?

Way to go, Chuck?

Bemidji State, Nebraska-Omaha to WCHA

A story that has been festering for a long time finally has a conclusion.

It's been a few years now since a fledgling hockey conference called College Hockey America began to sputter. While the league was able to boast an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, there was little appeal to joining the league, as its large geographic boundaries led to teams running up ridiculous expenses for travel.

As the league of now four teams prepares for its final curtain call in the spring of 2010, it's good to know that three of those four teams have landed in new conferences.

Niagara and Robert Morris had already joined the Atlantic Hockey Association. Bemidji State now has its home.

The Beavers will join an expanded 12-team Western Collegiate Hockey Association beginning in the 2010 season, according to veteran Duluth News Tribune writer Kevin Pates, who has never been known for posting blind speculation, even on his blog.

Pates says it will be announced Friday that Nebraska-Omaha will join Bemidji State in the WCHA.

While there were some hoping Alaska-Fairbanks (or "Alaska", if you will) would get a good look from the WCHA, it appeared that UNO was the target for a long time. The installation of athletic director Trev Alberts, who immediately started talking about the need for UNO to maximize the revenue potential of its men's hockey program, seemed to really get the ball rolling in this direction. Alberts admitted from the start that he was not a hockey guy, but it looked like he had a good understanding of the potential that comes along with WCHA membership.

While this marriage is, above all, a business arrangement, it's also a move that is in the best interest of college hockey. Assuming Alabama-Huntsville gains admission into the CCHA to put that league back to 12 teams (while you can set up a conference schedule for an 11-team league, it's going to be a mess, so the CCHA getting to 12 teams seems like a foregone conclusion), Division I will keep its 58 teams.

The one thing that is damaged severely is the growth potential for Division I hockey. Only having five leagues, and having four of those five leagues at 12 teams each, means that anyone who wants to come in will have to slave away as an independent, probably for a long time. That's not desirable when every other program in the country can dangle their conference's autobid as a carrot to keep kids away from the indies.

That said, this is a win for the WCHA, and a win for college hockey. Even more than that, it's a win for Bemidji State and Nebraska-Omaha.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

More Favre Humor

Maybe "Brett Favre Humor" can become a weekly feature.

If I do that, do you think he'll retire for real?

Anyway, here's the masterful Stephen Colbert on Favre.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Sport Report - Soccer, Tennis & Brett Favre
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorMark Sanford

He's the gift that keeps on giving.

(Favre, not Colbert.)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


You may be wondering why a story about a high school football coach is such huge news. There are a couple different reasons.

For starters, this particular coach was shot by a "young assailant" in his school's weight room.

Also, the coach is Ed Thomas, a former NFL High School Coach of the Year from Parkersburg, Iowa. If the town of Parkersburg sounds familiar, it's probably because of a tornado that destroyed a large part of the town last year.

The Des Moines Register and MSNBC are both reporting that Thomas has died.

Thomas coached at Parkersburg for over 30 years. He tutored guys who would move on to the college football and beyond, including four active NFL players. Packer Aaron Kampman is among them, and he was one of the first in line to help last year after the tornado.
"There's so much devastation, you can't look at the big picture," said Kampman, a native of nearby Kesley. "You've got to look at the small victories. That's been (the residents') rallying cry." After being overjoyed that his extended family was spared from true peril --- Claas Kampman, 71, is stabilizing in a Waterloo hospital after being "injured pretty good" --- Aaron Kampman feels compelled to help others who were far less fortunate in this ravaged area. "The Packers are going to do something (to fund raise)," said Kampman, a 1998 Aplington-Parkersburg graduate, speaking late Tuesday in a phone interview while traveling to Green Bay. "This is an opportunity," Kampman added, "to get as much help (from) all the different circles of influence that people like myself have found themselves in."
Thomas is credited with helping lead the town back after the tornado. Part of that was an effort he undertook to restore the school's football field for the 2008 season, in the face of the fact his own house was destroyed in the storm.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


The NBA Draft is Thursday night.



The Bucks and Timberwolves have apparently decided that they're not going to just sit around and suck anymore. They're making some moves aimed at getting the teams to be better.

Well, in the Bucks' case, sucking for one more year is tolerable, but they appear set to embark on the road to an NBA title in 2010. Either that, or they think they can sign LeBron when he goes free agent that summer.

Milwaukee traded Richard Jefferson -- a rare good player for them -- and got very, very little in return.
A high-ranking Bucks source has confirmed the team has traded forward Richard Jefferson to the San Antonio Spurs for forwards Bruce Bowen, Kurt Thomas and Fabricio Oberto.
Ouch. Bowen is 37 and suffers from DSS (Diminishing Skills Syndrome). It's doubtful that he'll make a big impact on the 2009 Bucks.

Jefferson, meanwhile, still has plenty of hop left in his legs, and he could become a key piece of a restructured Spurs team.

Meanwhile, the Timberwolves have evidently decided that three first-round picks just won't get the job done. Perhaps new general manager David Kahn won't rest until he has all 30 first-rounders.
SI.com just reported what I’ve been working for the last 30 minutes to confirm: The Wolves and Wizards have struck a deal that will bring the No. 5 pick, Etan Thomas, Darius Songaila and Oleksiy Pecherov to Minnesota for Randy Foye and Mike Miller.
This is an interesting deal. Miller did virtually nothing in his one Minnesota season, while Foye has been a disappointment since the Wolves drafted him drafted Brandon Roy and traded him for Foye.

(No wonder McHale got fired.)

If Kahn wants, he can move up for Ricky Rubio. If Kahn wants, he can take some extra picks and stock the bench with promising young talent. The new guy has the world at his fingertips now.


Before his illustrious career in the National Hockey League, Brett Hull played two seasons at UMD, basically re-writing the Bulldogs' record book while he was there.

Yes, Hull will be remembered primarily for his 741 career NHL goals, trailing only Wayne Gretzky and Gordie Howe on the all-time list.

Before any NHL team did it, UMD retired Hull's jersey in front of a capacity crowd at the DECC.

Now, Hull joins his father, Bobby, and other all-time greats, as he will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto later this year.

Here is the official release from the Hall.
TORONTO (June 23, 2009) — Bill Hay, Chairman of the Hockey Hall of Fame's Board of Directors and Jim Gregory and Pat Quinn, Co-Chairmen of the Hockey Hall of Fame's Selection Committee, announced today that Brett Hull, Brian Leetch, Luc Robitaille and Steve Yzerman have been elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in the Player Category and Lou Lamoriello has been elected in the Builder Category. The vote took place today at the annual meeting of the Selection Committee in Toronto.

"The Hockey Hall of Fame is proud to welcome these five hockey legends as Honoured Members," said Jim Gregory. "Their contributions to the game of hockey are well documented and their election to the Hockey Hall of Fame is richly deserved."

A native of Belleville, Ontario, Brett Hull played college hockey for two seasons at the University of Minnesota-Duluth before embarking on a professional career in 1986. Hull played 19 NHL seasons, earning First Team All-Star selection on three occasions and winning Stanley Cups with Detroit and Dallas. Along with his father Bobby, the duo is the only NHL father and son to each record 600 goals and 1,000 career points.

"It is hard to put into words what this means to me, especially since I'm joining my father in the Hockey Hall of Fame," said Hull. "Simply getting to the NHL was a challenge for me, and I would like to thank all of my supporters who made many sacrifices on my behalf."

Brian Leetch played his collegiate hockey at Boston College and was drafted in the first round (9th overall) in 1986. He turned pro with the Rangers in 1987 and went on to play 18 NHL seasons, winning the James Norris trophy twice. Leetch was a key member of the Rangers' 1993-94 Stanley Cup-winning team and became the first U.S.-born player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the NHL's playoff MVP.

"I am humbled and excited by this honour, particularly since for me it is difficult to think of myself as a member of the Hall of Fame," said Leetch. "My hockey career has been a long and enjoyable process. I am appreciative of all those who have helped me. From my father, as my youth coach, to Mark Messier who helped me out so much - both on and off the ice surface."

Luc Robitaille played his Junior hockey in Hull, Quebec under the tutelage of Pat Burns. A late selection (9th round) of the Los Angeles Kings in 1984, he went on to win the Calder Trophy in his rookie season in 1986-87. He played 19 NHL seasons, ranking 10th amongst NHLers all time in scoring. His eight 40+-goal seasons are surpassed only by Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy.

"My goal was always just to play in the NHL and I never dreamed of anything beyond that," said Robitaille. "To be honoured in the same room as The Rocket, Guy Lafleur and Wayne Gretzky is a tremendous honour."

Steve Yzerman was selected 4th overall by the Detroit Red Wings in the 1983 Entry Draft and went on to play 22 seasons for the Wings. The longest-serving team captain in Red Wings history (1986 to 2006), Yzerman holds numerous team records, led the team to three Stanley Cups and was a member of Canada's gold-medal winning Olympic team in 2002.

"It is a tremendous honour to receive this news," said Steve Yzerman. "I want to thank the Selection Committee for recognizing my contributions — I truly had chills down my spine when I got the news."

In the Builder Category, long-time New Jersey Devils General Manager, Lou Lamoriello was honoured for his over 40 years of contributions to the game — both at the collegiate and NHL levels. Under his leadership the Devils have won three Stanley Cups: in 1995, 2000 and 2003.

"This award is completely unexpected," said Lamoriello. "Over my career I have been fortunate to have been associated with great players and coaches, and this award recognizes their contributions to my career."

The 2009 Induction Celebration will be held on Monday, November 9th at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.

Established in 1943, the Hockey Hall of Fame is a museum and place of entertainment offering state-of-the-art multimedia presentations and exhibits from its premises at Brookfield Place, Toronto, Canada. Its mandate is to recognize and honour the achievements of individuals who bring special distinction to the game of hockey, and to collect and preserve objects, images and resource materials connected with the game as it is played in Canada and throughout the world.
Brett and Bobby will be the first father-son tandem to have both gained Hall enshrinement.

It's also worth noting that both Brett Hull and Brian Leetch turned pro after playing college hockey. While I refuse to say that college hockey is the only way to make yourself into a successful player at the next level (that would be taking my obvious biases too far and crossing over into complete stupidity), it's nice to know that the college game is capable of churning out all-time greats.


Well, at least that's what a reasonable human being can ascertain.

My mother taught me to never assume anything because it just makes an ass out of female sheep, but I've never been one to follow rules.

Plus, this one seems so obvious that it's hard to avoid making the connection.

Over in Germany, a hockey player has gotten himself in trouble over a very poor choice he made. This poor choice has nothing to do with drugs or gambling, and instead has to do with (allegedly) a romp in the sack.
A German national hockey player was banned for two years after refusing to take a doping test for several hours because he was relaxing at home with his girlfriend.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport banned Florian Busch on Tuesday because he declined to immediately give a sample when German anti-doping officials arrived unannounced in March 2008.

"Florian Busch refused to submit to doping control," the court said in a statement.

Despite testing negative, he can't suit up for the Polar Bears Berlin again until February 2011.

Germany coach Uwe Krupp said Busch was sharing "a private moment" with his girlfriend when the testing team arrived.
While some, more naive, people may think that Busch was simply having a nice candlelight dinner with his significant other, I'm pretty sure the rest of us know better.

I hope whatever they were doing was fun for Busch. It's cost him two years of his hockey career, and the shelf life of a hockey player doesn't always last as long as it has for Chris Chelios.

On the bright side, it will be a long time before an athlete chooses intimacy over a drug test.

Monday, June 22, 2009


It might seem like a total ripoff of the highly successful "Hockey Day Canada" event that CBC puts on every year, but Fox Sports North has hit a home run with Hockey Day Minnesota.

The fourth annual event will have a decidedly local feel to it on January 23, 2010. Here is the release from Fox Sports North:
Fox Sports North, in conjunction with the National Hockey League’s Minnesota Wild, announced today a cooperative effort to celebrate the Fourth Annual Hockey Day Minnesota with a full day of hockey programming, including five telecasts of games taking place at three separate locations on Saturday, January 23, 2010. The announcement was made this morning at Hermantown High School.

Hockey Day Minnesota 2010 on Fox Sports North will include over 16 hours of local hockey-related programming designed as a celebration of the game from peewees to pros. The city of Hermantown will serve as the background for the three high school games featured in the Hockey Day Minnesota 2010 line up.

Hockey Day Minnesota coverage will also include a Minnesota Wild game from Xcel Energy Center, as well as the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers against the St. Cloud State Huskies. A complete list of games and programming schedule will be released at a later date.

Outdoor Games at Hermantown High School
10:00 a.m.​Eden Prairie/Hermantown (boys)
1:30 p.m.​Hopkins/Duluth-Marshall (boys)
4:30 p.m.​Duluth/Hermantown (girls)

According to Nielsen Media Research, FOX Sports North received top ratings for their coverage of Hockey Day Minnesota 2009, including record-breaking ratings during the first hour of Hockey Day programming and their highest-rated high school hockey and Gopher game of the season. The day-long event included over 20 hours of hockey-related programming, seven games from five locations and required over 100 FOX Sports North employees. The regional network balanced three production trucks stationed at Phalen Park, Xcel Energy Center and the National Hockey Center in St. Cloud, a total of 20 cameras, seven on-air reporters and ten play-by-play/game analyst duos throughout the day.

FOX Sports North reaches more than 2 million homes throughout Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and North and South Dakota and telecasts nearly 2,600 hours of locally produced programming per year. The Emmy Award-winning regional sports network provides comprehensive coverage of the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves, MLB’s Minnesota Twins, the NHL’s Minnesota Wild, the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings, the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx as well as the University of Minnesota athletic events.

The Minnesota Wild is in its ninth NHL season after bringing hockey at its highest-level back to Minnesota for the 2000-01 campaign. The Wild claimed its first-ever Northwest Division title in 2007-08 and has sold out all 365 games played at Xcel Energy Center in franchise history.
Surely, it will be a bit on the corny side, as Hockey Day Canada usually is. However, this is an awesome idea, Fox Sports North does a super job promoting and carrying it, and you can't really go wrong with a day devoted to hockey.

For the locals, it should be noted that UMD's men's team will host Bemidji State at the DECC that night at 7pm. If you're not a Gopher fan (and why the hell would you be?), this sounds like a great way to cap off the day.

Nonetheless, this is awesome news, and great promotion for this wonderful sport.

Is it hockey season yet?

(NOTE: The Duluth News Tribune reports that the boys' games are flipped around from what you see above.)

Friday, June 19, 2009



Seemed like it took forever, even though I don't think we're quite halfway through the offseason yet.

UMD is set to open defense of their WCHA playoff title October 3 at the DECC, and they unveiled the full 2009-2010 schedule Friday.

Here she be.

10/3/2009 British Columbia (Exhib.) Duluth, MN 7:07 pm
10/9/2009 Lake Superior State Duluth, MN 7:07 pm Note
10/11/2009 Northern Michigan Duluth, MN 7:07 pm Note
10/16/2009 Minnesota State-Mankato* Duluth, MN 7:07 pm
10/17/2009 Minnesota State-Mankato* Duluth, MN 7:07 pm
10/23/2009 St. Cloud State* St. Cloud, MN 7:07 pm
10/24/2009 St. Cloud State* St. Cloud, MN 7:37 pm
10/30/2009 Clarkson Duluth, MN 7:07 pm
10/31/2009 Clarkson Duluth, MN 7:07 pm
11/6/2009 Colorado College* Colorado Springs, CO 8:37 pm
11/7/2009 Colorado College* Colorado Springs, CO 8:00 pm
11/13/2009 Michigan Tech* Duluth, MN 7:07 pm
11/14/2009 Michigan Tech* Duluth, MN 7:07 pm
11/20/2009 Minnesota* Minneapolis, MN 7:07 pm
11/21/2009 Minnesota* Minneapolis, MN 7:07 pm
12/4/2009 North Dakota* Duluth, MN 7:07 pm
12/5/2009 North Dakota* Duluth, MN 7:07 pm
12/11/2009 Denver* Duluth, MN 7:07 pm
12/12/2009 Denver* Duluth, MN 7:07 pm
1/2/2010 Sheraton/TD Banknorth Catamount Cup Burlington, VT 3:00 pm./6:00 pm
1/3/2010 Sheraton/TD Banknorth Catamount Cup Burlington, VT 3:00 pm/6:00 pm
1/8/2010 Colorado College* Duluth, MN 7:07 pm
1/9/2010 Colorado College* Duluth, MN 7:07 pm
1/15/2010 Minnesota State-Mankato* Mankato, MN 7:37 pm
1/16/2010 Minnesota State-Mankato* Mankato, MN 7:07 pm
1/22/2010 Bemidji State Bemidji, MN 7:37 pm
1/23/2010 Bemidji State Duluth, MN 7:07 pm
1/29/2010 Wisconsin* Duluth, MN 7:07 pm
1/30/2010 Wisconsin* Duluth, MN 7:07 pm
2/5/2010 Michigan Tech* Houghton, MI 6:07 pm
2/6/2010 Michigan Tech* Houghton, MI 4:07 pm
2/19/2010 North Dakota* Grand Forks, ND 7:37 pm
2/20/2010 North Dakota* Grand Forks, ND 7:07 pm
2/26/2010 Minnesota* Duluth, MN 7:07 pm
2/27/2010 Minnesota* Duluth, MN 7:07 pm
3/5/2010 Alaska Anchorage* Anchorage, AK 10:07 pm
3/6/2010 Alaska Anchorage* Anchorage, AK 10:07 pm

I have no idea who is joining UMD and Vermont in the Sheraton Tournament January 2-3. Please drop me a line if you are aware of anyone else taking part.


One of the interesting aspects of college hockey has to be the different dimensions that you see at various rinks.

While most college rinks are NHL-sized (200 feet long by 85 wide), some facilities have Olympic-sized surfaces (200 by 100), and others -- like the current DECC -- are even smaller than the NHL standard.

It's like going to a baseball stadium. You adjust your play for the size of the field. You are more apt to swing for the fences when the wind is blowing out at Wrigley than you are at any time when hitting in San Diego or at the Mets' new yard.

One of the more well-known Olympic-sized rinks in college hockey is Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis, the home of the Gophers.

Well, it's Olympic-sized for now. There is talk of potentially shrinking the ice surface and adding seats.
While no time frame or budget number was included in the the Faculty, Staff, and Student Affairs Committee's report to to the board of regents, the men's hockey staff did express an interest in using fund raising dollars to reduce the size of the ice surface at Mariucci Arena by moving the dasher boards in and adding one row of seats to the seating bowl. They noted this would provide for a more exciting game and generate additional departmental revenues.
It's an interesting concept.

From the sounds of it, this isn't a concept driven by revenue. Instead, someone thinks this is going to make the hockey better.

You never would have heard this type of talk ten years ago, which shows you how the game has progressed.

Frankly, I don't mind the oddly-sized surfaces. I think it adds a bit of flavor and character to certain rinks.

No matter what happens, let it be known that the best game ever played in that facility didn't involve the Gophers.

(WARNING: Gratuitous YouTube posting ahead!)

OK. Maybe this wasn't the best ever at Mariucci. It's the best one I ever saw in that building, though, and that should count for something.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


You've set yourself a standard, Bulldogs. Now, people are beginning to notice.

After a 15-0 run gave UMD their first taste of football glory, a team that could end up being totally different is set to take on all challengers in defense of their national championship.

(For what it's worth, I still pull my "Division II National Champions" hoody over my head with amazement. It's not that I didn't think UMD had a chance, but instead jubilation over the fact they were able to pull off such an great achievement.)

Last year's run was so much fun, in part because the Bulldogs were such a fun team to watch, and in part because of how they came from practically nowhere to get the job done.

This year, half of that equation is not going to happen, because this Bulldog team won't be coming out of nowhere.
According to at least one national sports publication, the University of Minnesota Duluth will again be one of the teams to beat in NCAA Division II football this fall as the The Sporting News slotted the defending NCAA Division II national champion Bulldogs third in its 2009 preseason poll.

In addition, three Bulldogs -- junior running back Isaac Odim, senior cornerback Cole Strilzuk and senior offensive tackle Sam Whitney -- were named to the Sporting News Division II Preseason All-American Team. Odim, a 2008 Football Gazette All-American (third team), established Bulldog single season records for both rushing touchdowns (26) and per carry average (7.3 yards) as a sophomore and also finished as the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference's leading ground gainer. Strilzuk, responded to his first year of starting duty in 2008 by pacing the Bulldogs in interceptions (six) en route to receiving All-NSIC recognition (second team) while Whitney, who also made his starting debut last year, was an All-NSIC honoree (honorable mention) as well.

UMD, which will enter the 2009 season sporting a 16-game winning streak, retains the services of 49 lettermen from last year's 15-0 club, including six starters on offense and five on defense. The Bulldogs will face just one team which landed in the Sporting News Preseason Poll -- No. 10 Central Washington University -- in a nationally televised home game on Sept. 3.

UMD defeated both of the poll's top two-ranked clubs -- Grand Valley State University (No. 1) and Northwest Missouri State University (No. 2) -- on its way to the 2008 NCAA II championship.
UMD opens defense of their 2008 Division II national championship with a home game against Concordia-St. Paul August 29.

The aforementioned date with Central Washington is UMD's only non-conference game in 2009, and it should be a doozy.


Finally, the Timberwolves found a job Kevin McHale could do, since he royally sucked in the front office.

(Insert "Head Janitor" jokes here.)

He can coach.

Just not for the Timberwolves.


New team president David Kahn will announce officially Wednesday that McHale is out of the organization after 15 years. Since Kahn is a sports executive, he's a man of his word, and that means McHale is not hurt by this.
Ever since he was hired, Kahn pledged to handle the decision on McHale's coaching status with professionalism and respect. "Kevin has a long history here and a relationship with the owner that I respect and trust," Kahn said at his introductory press conference. "I will not hurt Kevin McHale. I will not."
There are some obvious questions here.

The most obvious thing we have to find out is where Kahn will go to find a head coach who will be better than the guy he had in place.

After all, McHale may have only coached a 20-43 finish out of the team after he took over, but he had them playing some really good ball before Al Jefferson got hurt, and the team continued to respond to his positive message after Jefferson was lost.

Youngster Kevin Love doesn't seem pleased, at least according to his Twitter feed.
In an update posted early Wednesday, Love tweeted, "Today is a sad day ... Kevin McHale will NOT be back as head coach this season."

Upon seeing the posting, a person in the league was told McHale sent a text message to Love indicating he was not coming back. The person requested anonymity because no official announcement has been made.

... McHale and Love grew very close during the rookie's first season in Minnesota, especially after McHale left his front office position to take over as coach in December.
It took 14 years to find something notable that McHale could do well for this team, and they get rid of him after they figure it out.

Sometimes, things don't make any sense at all.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


In light of impending reality, this shall be a quiet day.

I have to lift the knife from my back.

Monday, June 15, 2009


Normally, we hear about the heated on-ice rivalry between Alaska-Anchorage and Alaska-Fairbanks. It's a really good one, and the atmosphere in both cities is awesome when the two play each other.

However, being that they are both in Alaska and share many problems while playing in different Division I leagues (UAA in the WCHA, UAF in the CCHA), the two also have an everlasting bond.

Nowhere is that bond more evident than the always-interesting UAA Hockey Fan Blog. The guy who runs it, Donald Dunlop, is a pretty neat guy. Had a chance to meet him (finally!) last year when UMD played in Anchorage.

He has posted a few times on the prospects of UAF (officially, they're called "Alaska") joining the WCHA as the 12th team. While the prospects seem dim, Donald isn't giving up hope. He posted at length Sunday about the situation.

Let's start by saying I agree that Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Dakota generally put more butts into seats than any other league opponent. However, "winning" always wins out, so to speak. UMD, for example, might always fill their building when they play the Gophers, Badgers, or Sioux, but if they put a winning product on the ice, they'll fill it when they play Colorado College, too.
I still believe the bottom line is the primary vote maker in this situation. So let's look at the split from the Final Five pie first. Those revenues are spread between 10 teams today. In the future they'll be spread between 12 teams. I don't have the figures unfortunately. so I'll just plug in an arbitrary number that is easy to divide in my head. So for example; if we assume that it's a million dollars. A ten team split obviously equals $100K each; a 12 team split equals $8333.33.
Obviously, Donald meant $83,333.33 at the end, so we'll assume and move on.

If the bottom line were the only deciding factor, it's unlikely the league would expand at all. The Final Five is their primary revenue-making machine. Why mess with the format by adding an extra game that likely won't be well-attended (tickets certainly won't be pricey for it)? You're likely not going to make enough money from that game to recover the difference in splitting the pie 12 ways instead of ten.

Reality is that the bottom line is a factor, but it's not the only factor, and while it may matter for some schools more than others, it's far from the most important thing for everyone who gets a vote on this.
The next thing to consider is any potential revenue increases that would offset those losses. Playing a hockey game against the host team in Alaska provides an exemption for the visiting team against their maximum limit of 34 regular season games. This means that such visiting teams can host an additional home game. As it stands, 7 WCHA teams each season receive 2 exemptions each year. With UAF in the league all the other WCHA teams would be able to receive the 2 exemptions each year.
I am unsure of any limit attached to Alaska travel. However, there are problems with the logic here.

Not every team will receive the "benefit" of two trips to Alaska in a season. After all, the only tangible benefit for the hockey team is the ability to play two extra non-conference games, presumably at home. However, with every team in the CCHA losing their Alaska exemption, and Atlantic Hockey expanding to 12 teams, it's only going to become more difficult to find non-conference games.

With demand lower for these opponents, the ones that exist can up the ante, requiring return visits in order for a contract to be done.

It's just not an automatic that every team in the league that gets the two extra games is going to fill them desirably.

And, no, I don't see WCHA teams scheduling each other for non-conference games, outside of the occasional special event (Hall of Fame Game, outdoor game, etc.).
Time to travel? DU and CC would face an 8+ hour bus ride to Omaha. Flying time from Denver to Fairbanks? Less than 7 hours. If DU and CC wanted to fly to Omaha; will UNO pay for 25 of their tickets? Similar story for the Gophers and Bucky. 380/370 miles to Omaha. 6 hours on a bus? Or 7 hours in an airplane? Duluth? 529 miles. 8+ hours on a bus for them. It seems to be almost a push. Though it is easier to get on and off a bus with your gear than it is with all the airport rig-a-ma-roll that you have to go through. Travel to either place certainly has it's downside. But no doubt, for a majority of WCHA schools UNO is objectively a more convenient destination. I could argue otherwise subjectively ... but I won't.
Under no circumstances have I ever seen a situation where flying was preferable to bussing. As Donald mentions, there is a lot of "rig-a-ma-roll" that you have to go through when flying. That's not even the half of it.

The six-hour flight from Minneapolis to Anchorage is a grueling trip, even for a broadcaster. It can take quite a toll on an athlete. Asking them to either stay there an extra week (so they can play UAF while they're up there) or go back later in the season is probably asking more than you should.

There's a reason that league coaches have long debated the best way to handle the Alaska trip, and some still haven't totally figured out the most effective way to get their kids ready to play.
So if it's a choice between adding a school that will increase your bottom line significantly or adding a school that is a little easier to get to ... UAF is clearly the better choice. The relative inconvenience is not significant compared to the potential revenue. $200,000+ (or so) year to offset the $25,000 (or so) loss of going to 12 teams? I think the expansion decision at each WCHA institution would take that number into account. One choice is expand and lose 25K a year or expand and make 180K+ a year ... come on. It's got to be a "slam dunk" eh, Ciskie? That pays for 2 assistant coaches. Or a skating treadmill. Or an upgraded weight room. Or on and on and on ...
There is a flaw in this logic, Donald.

Is there potential for more revenue if the WCHA adds UAF? Yes. However, there is a chance that teams could struggle to schedule their two extra games. There's also the chance other Division I leagues could whine to the NCAA about WCHA teams getting all the exemptions.

Oh, and there's the undeniable fact that Nebraska-Omaha holds much more upside as a revenue-producing school in the league. After all, Omaha is a city of over 400,000, while Fairbanks currently contains less than ten percent of that total.

If the league is concerned about making money, they're much better off with Omaha as a potential host for a playoff series than Fairbanks.

Not only that, but UNO just picked up one of the top coaches in WCHA history in Dean Blais. Don't think for one second that his decision won't factor into the perception of UNO as a viable WCHA team.

Bottom line is that I'd love to have a ready-made excuse to visit Fairbanks. I think they'd make a nice addition to the WCHA.

I don't think it has a snowball's chance in hell of happening at this point. The only shot UAF has is that UNO gets a nasty case of cold feet and stays put. If that happens, the WCHA will gladly accept UAF and its mix of benefits and headaches.

After all, no candidate is perfect (certainly, one with a history of playing games in a half-empty building isn't perfect). No one in this bunch (Bemidji, UNO, or UAF) can claim they are.

There are benefits and burdens to having two Alaska teams in one league.

Based on what I've heard, the WCHA has chosen UNO. If UNO chooses them, everything will fall into place from there. However, I do believe UAF has a good case. It's not a slam-dunk (neither is UNO at this point, as the school is still coy about their desire to join in the first place), but it's a good case.

Before summer is out, we should have our answer.

Friday, June 12, 2009


Well, this makes that whole UNO/WCHA thing a lot more interesting, doesn't it?

Saw first on College Hockey News, by the way. Sounds like it's for real, and it's a huge coup for Nebraska-Omaha. Not that their program had been legit in the past, but it really will be now.
Dean Blais has resigned as head coach of the Fargo Force and is expected to be named head coach of the University of Nebraska-Omaha at a press conference at 2 p.m. today.

Blais, who led UND to national championships in 1997 and 2000, will be returning to the college game after five years away.

He left UND in 2004 to take a position as the associate coach of the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets. He later was assigned to a player development role with the organization.

Last season, he coached the startup Fargo Force in the United States Hockey League, leading them to the Clark Cup Finals during their expansion season.
With Blais in the fold, speculation about Omaha heading to the WCHA with Bemidji State is only going to heat up. This is especially true if athletic director Trev Alberts and new right-hand man (and former coach) Mike Kemp do as indicated, and let the new coach have input over UNO's conference future.

I'm not going to call this a wonderful hire, but it's not a slam at Alberts. It is a necessary hire. When a guy like Dean Blais expresses interest in your job, and you have the money to pay him, you hire him with no other questions asked.


Obviously, as excitement continues to build for Friday's deciding game of the Stanley Cup Finals, plenty is being written on the ol' internet to get ready for the big night.

Below, find a few things that are definitely worth checking out as the clock winds toward 8pm Eastern/7pm Central/6pm Mountain/5pm Pacific/4pm Alaska.

NHL FanHouse: Game Seven Video Collage
NHL FanHouse: Who Will Be Second To Lift Stanley?
NHL FanHouse: Pressure is on Everyone
Puck Daddy: Bylsma Gets Lucky Burrito To Go
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Nothing Left To Say
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Red Wings Business-Like
MLive.com: Rafalski Has Game 7 Experience
MLive.com: Hossa Stays Relaxed
ESPN.com: Crosby Looks For First-Ever Photo With Stanley
ESPN.com: Series Difficult To Predict
NHL.com: Game 7 Factoids

Thursday, June 11, 2009


Nothing drives me crazier than fake outrage. In this particular case, the Republican establishment is lining up outside CBS headquarters with their torches.

Sometimes, it goes the other way.

You see, everyone out there gets mad for no reason at least once in their lives. Remember the "lipstick on a pig" bit? People were really mad over it, even though it obviously had nothing to do with Sarah Palin.

Palin's return to the news comes courtesy of a David Letterman Top Ten list. Enjoy.

The "slutty flight attendant" line was a 500-foot home run to dead-center field.

Palin got pissed. Big shock.
But the diciest joke centered on the family attending a Yankees baseball game.

Letterman said "an awkward moment" occurred for Palin when, "during the seventh inning, her daughter was knocked up by (Yankee third baseman) Alex Rodriguez."

Without naming her, the joke seemed to refer to Palin's 18-year-old daughter Bristol, an unwed mother.

But it was 14-year-old daughter Willow, not Bristol, who had been at the game.

Todd Palin issued a statement that said "any 'jokes' about raping my 14-year-old are despicable."

And Sarah Palin charged Letterman with "sexually perverted comments made by a 62-year-old male celebrity."
Letterman responded Wednesday night.

Perfectly played, sir. That's why Letterman rules late night.

Let's make a list of things David Letterman did NOT do in these jokes.

1. Call Sarah Palin a slut.
2. Joke about ARod "knocking up" her 14-year-old daughter

If you're incapable of understanding these jokes and their proper context, you shouldn't be watching Letterman. In fact, it would probably help you to not watch any television or read anything on the internet.

Maybe Palin will someday understand this while she stares at Russia from the big window in the governor's mansion.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Better late than never, eh?

We already knew about three of them, but the university Wednesday announced a 2009 freshman class of seven players.

The seven range a bit in how highly they're touted, and probably in how much they'll play with UMD this upcoming season.

No surprises here, but here is the information from the university.
Wade Bergman (5-7, 150, Defense) -- Made his hockey home in Olds, Alberta the past two seasons ... placed second among Olds Grizzly defensemen in regular season scoring in 2008-09 with 30 points on 10 goals and 20 assists in 44 outings ... added another six points (two goals and four assists) during the Grizzlies 15-game run in the Alberta Junior Hockey League playoffs ... suited up for the South Division at last January's AJHL All-Star Game in Calgary where he was teammate of fellow UMD rookie pointman Dylan Olsen ... was chosen the AJHL Rookie of the Year the previous winter after finishing the regular season as Olds' top point producing blueliner (13 goals and 22 assists in 52 regular season outings) ... is the third Grizzly alum to sign on with the Bulldogs in recent years, joining left winger Tyler Bros (2001-05) and defenseman Jay Rosehill (2004-05).

Dan DeLisle (6-4, 230, Forward) -- Drew the curtain on a prosperous three-year playing career at Totino-Grace High School this spring ... placed first on the Eagles scoring charts in each of his final two seasons, including 2008-09 when he amassed 33 goals and 29 assists for 62 points in 28 games ... secured All-North Suburban Conference status three times and was a 2008-09 Associated Press All-State honorable mention honoree ... captained the Eagles as a senior ... set a Totino-Grace High School single-season record for point by sophomore (53) ... exited the Eagle hockey program with 167 career points to his credit ... also was an all-conference performer in baseball (pitcher/first base) and as a starting goalkeeper, backstopped the soccer Eagles to a third-place finish at the 2006 Minnesota State High School Class A Tournament ... was tabbed the 138th best draft eligible North American skater by the NHL Central Scouting Service in its final rankings this year .. is the nephew of former Bulldog right winger and 1987-88 team captain Joe DeLisle.

Keegan Flaherty (6-1, 195, Forward) -- Will come back to his old hockey haunt -- the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center -- this fall after a two-year leave of absence in the United States Hockey League ... wrapped up the 2008-09 regular season holding down the No. 8 position on the Fargo Force scoring charts with 14 goals and nine assists for 23 points while going a plus-12 in 47 games ... went pointless in nine postseason contests as Fargo advanced to the Clark Club finals (USHL playoff championships) ... served as an assistant team captain with the Force and accrued an ample amount of ice time on both their power play and penalty killing units ... strutted his stuff at the 2009 USHL Prospects/All-Star Game as a member of the West Division squad ... spent all of 2007-08 and the 2008-09 preseason with the Green Bay Gamblers before being acquired in a trade by the Force in late September ... mustered four points -- all goals -- in 47 regular season games during his debut USHL season .. helped lead the U.S. to a bronze medal at the 2007 World Junior A Challenge in Trail, British Columbia ... bypassed his senior year at Duluth East High School to enlist with the Gamblers ... skated a regular shift for three seasons with the Duluth East Greyhounds and also gained plenty of notice on the prep gridiron where he was an all-conference defensive back ,,, was slotted 109th among North American prospects in the NHL Central Scouting Service's final rankings.

Jake Hendrickson (5-10, 170, Forward) -- Engaged in one season of United States Hockey League warfare before signing on with the Bulldogs ... suited up in 50 regular season games for the Sioux City Musketeers in 2008-09 and had 16 points (four goals and 12 assists) to show for it ... starred for three years at Burnsville High School -- established a Blaze single-season record for goals (26) and points (71) as a junior and helped Burnsville secure its first Minnesota Class AA State Tournament berth for the first time in 16 years ... paced the Blaze in assists (31) the ensuing year and finished second on the team scoring charts (47 points) .... was a 2007-08 Associated Press All-State selection and a two-time All-Lake Conference pick (2006-07 and 2007-08).

Pictured above, right--> Dylan Olsen (6-2, 200, Defense) -- Seldom was his name mentioned in the Alberta Junior Hockey League circles without the word "impact" in the same sentence ... is the latest in a classy line of Camrose Kodiak products who have continued their education at UMD, following the likes of sophomore-to-be Mike Connolly, and departed Bulldogs Mason Raymond, MacGregor Sharp, Matt McKnight and Evan Oberg ... finished second among 2008-09 Kodiak defensemen in scoring (and was fourth on the team overall) with 29 points in 57 regular season outings en route to landing a spot on the South Division All-Star Team .... was also one of nine finalists for the Royal Bank Cup Canadian Junior Hockey Player of the Year Award in 2008-09 ... served as a Camrose team captain last season ... laced up his skates for the South Division at the 2009 AJHL All-Star Game, for Canada West at the 2008 World Junior A Challenge, and for Canada at the 2009 IIHF World Under-18 Championship (he was the only Junior A player on the Canadian roster) ... made his AJHL debut in 2007-08 and wound up with eight goals and 16 assists for 24 points during the regular season before helping Camrose place second at the Royal Bank Cup (Canadian Junior A Championships) later that spring ... received the Kodiak's Rookie of the Year award for his spirited play ... the NHL Central Scouting Service labeled him the 27th best draft-eligible North American in its final rankings for 2008-09 ... his father, Darryl Olsen, was a fixture on the Northern Michigan University blueline for four years (1985-89).

Drew Olson (5-11, 215, Defense) -- Holds the distinction of being the first member of the Bulldogs' incoming freshmen class to be drafted -- was selected in the fourth round (118th pick overall) by the Columbus Bluejackets in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft ... manned the point for one year with the Omaha Lancers of the United States Hockey League prior to signing with UMD ... completed the 2008-09 regular season with eight points on two goals and six assists in 39 games and was a plus-3 to boot ... missed a sizeable portion of the year while nursing a leg injury ... was a three-year puck standout at Brainerd High School where he landed All-Central Lakes Conference recognition on a pair of occasions (2006-07 and 2007-08) in addition to being named a finalist for Minnesota's Mr. Hockey Award as a senior in 2007-08 ... also was an Associated Press All-State second team honoree that season after collecting 20 goals and 16 assists in 27 outings ... played one year of football (linebacker) and baseball (outfielder) with the Warriors as well.

Mike Seidel (5-10, 175, Forward) -- Saved his best hockey for last as a third-year United States Hockey League veteran in 2008-09 ... established a career high for regular season points with 73, a number unsurpassed by any Cedar Rapids RoughRider and only three other USHL combatants ... also ranked first on the club in goals (29), assists (44), shorthanded tallies (three), game winners (five) and shots (211) ...was aptly rewarded with a selection to the All-USHL second team ... also represented the East Division at the 2009 USHL Prospects/All-Star Game ...followed up a 47-point rookie year in Cedar Rapids by chipping in 16 goals and 27 assists during the 2007-08 regular season ... is the fourth Illinois native to make his way to the UMD.
No, Mike Seidel isn't thought to be related to Mike Seidel of Weather Channel fame, though that would be funny.

All in all, an impressive class, likely highlighted by Olsen, who could be a first-round pick in the NHL Draft June 26.


It's all up for grabs on Friday.

Plenty of coverage at FanHouse, as you would expect.

Anyone who listened to me on the radio for years knows I don't predict the outcome of a Game 7. They're to be enjoyed, not prognosticated.

Plus, all bets are off.

Monday, June 08, 2009


As I grew into a hockey fan during the 1990s, there were two voices that became synonymous with the game.

One of them is still doing a great job calling NHL games.

The other is now the play-by-play voice of the Baltimore Orioles.

Seems a bit unfair, eh?

Gary Thorne has spent many, many years at ABC/ESPN, and he's kept on as the good soldier even as the Disney properties have decided to virtually ignore his favorite sport. Now, the only hockey he gets is the Frozen Four, which amounts to three games a year.

FanHouse colleague Susan Slusser writes about the Oakland A's as her "real job", and she had a chance to chat with Thorne over the weekend, as the A's hosted the Baltimore Orioles.

"I miss the hell out of it," he told FanHouse when the Orioles visited Oakland to play the A's this weekend. "There's nothing like it, a month and a half of the last man standing."

Not only does he miss it, but it misses him. I love Mike Emrick, the other benchmark of hockey play-by-play. He's fantastic, and I wouldn't trade him for virtually anyone. However, if there was a person living today that I'd trade Emrick for, it would be Thorne.

To me, it would be akin to being a football general manager and dealing Peyton Manning for Tom Brady. How could you screw that up?

For those who may be unfamiliar, here are some of Thorne's greatest calls, starting with the biggest goal legendary Red Wing Steve Yzerman may have ever scored.

Who can forget Mark Messier Guarantee Night in 1994?

Thorne also called the last game before the season-cancelling NHL lockout: Game 7 of the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals.

More recently, Thorne had the honor of calling the Frozen Four final between Boston University and Miami.

Someone get this guy a hockey job, for crying out loud.


Some of you may remember former major-league pitcher Rob Dibble.

The fiery reliever spent seven seasons in the bigs, and has been able to cultivate a career for himself in broadcasting.

While co-hosting the old Dan Patrick Show (the one that used to be on ESPN, that is), Dibble made a name for himself by blasting anyone who dared share an opinion about baseball without having played the game at a high level.

Since he got canned at ESPN, I haven't had the misfortune of hearing much from him.

When the baseball season started in April, my free preview of MLB Extra Innings allowed me to discover Dibble working Nationals games. Not surprisingly, he is still a jackass.

ESPN.com columnist Rob Neyer, who was a many-times guest and great friend of my old radio show, noted Dibble's displeasure with a called third strike during Randy Johnson's 300th win last week, which came against the Nationals.
Really, I just wanted an excuse to write about Rob Dibble. For years, I was less than a fan of his work at various networks. So you can imagine my shock, when I realized that I sort of like him in his current role with the Nationals. Yes, he's still a blowhard who believes that if you didn't play the game, you don't know anything about it. But he's got a good voice, he's quite a bit smarter than you probably think, and he's not been pulling his punches while the Nationals have become the biggest joke in the game.
Hardly a cheap shot. In fact, everything Neyer wrote about Dibble and wonderfully competent partner Bob Carpenter was accurate.

Dibble, naturally, went off. He did it on Twitter, as noted by The Big Lead.

I'll admit some bias in this case. Neyer was great to me for a number of years.

However, anyone who knows anything about baseball media also knows that Neyer has been around the pro game longer than Dibble has, and he's written more really good stuff about the game than Dibble could ever hope to read (assuming, of course, that Dibble bothers to read stuff other people write about baseball).

Oh, and most people also know that Rob Dibble is a richard. Always has been, and always will be.

I've never bought into the elitist argument that you have to play a sport at a high level to know anything about it. The fact that one of the best managers in baseball is former journeyman player Terry Francona -- and former small-college player Bill Belichick is one of the most accomplished coaches in all of the NFL -- should help you understand how this works.

Dibble can continue to wage a useless war against good people if he wants to, but since he works for the Nationals now, it's doubtful anyone will pay attention.


The Minnesota State High School League met Monday to go over some potential rules changes. One of the more interesting rules they have decided to inact puts severe limits on the ability of sports teams to travel for games or scrimmages.

The gist: No out-of-state travel (except to a bordering state) that covers more than 600 miles round-trip unless you ask the state league first.

John Millea of the Star Tribune, who is braving the boredom of these meetings, has more on the move.
The travel limit does include spring break trips. Families can still go anywhere they want, obviously, but school teams will not be allowed to travel (other than to states and provinces bordering Minnesota) unless it’s a round trip of no more than 600 miles from the school. Makes no difference if they’re only going to hold scrimmages.
Honestly, I'm not sure I like this one.

You're telling spring sports teams they can't go to Florida or California to pick up games, even if they pick up the costs themselves and don't miss any school time.

I understand the desire to avoid having a team from, say, Duluth, having to travel to Michigan to play a game, and missing school time to make it happen. That's fine with me, and I'd endorse such a change.

However, a blanket rule -- even with this strange "without approval from the MSHSL" caveat -- doesn't really accomplish much.

Not only that, but teams in northern states absolutely need to be able to travel to play games in the spring. Until softball and baseball can be reasonably played in mud and snow, this just a part of life. It's especially true once the Metrodome is (thankfully) blowed up.


After dominating a long stretch of NASCAR Nationwide Series races and getting zero wins to show for it, Kyle Busch finally cashed in on his run of great racing Saturday night.

When he did, he decided that he didn't like the trophy -- a Gibson guitar -- very much. Or so it seemed.

Busch's smashing stunt made for some more controversy around the sport, as pundits weighed in on his celebration.

It seemed that Busch didn't have a lot of allies in the media. He was asked Sunday on pit road about this "controversy", and he seemed genuinely surprised that there was any talk about it.

Busch said the Gibson people seemed to get a kick out of it, and he (Busch) ordered two more guitars -- one for him and one for crew chief Jason Ratliff. He said the broken guitar was going to be chopped up, with pieces given to all the crew members. Busch noted that the crew doesn't get to share in a celebration like that normally, so he wanted them to have a piece of the trophy.

Wow. What an enormous jerk he is for doing something like that.

I apologize if I'm supposed to fake outrage over Busch's actions. I get that he's the spawn of Satan, put on this Earth just to torture NASCAR fans, especially those of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. That, however, doesn't mean that Busch is wrong in everything he does, or that Junior is always right.

In this case, Busch found a rather unique way to celebrate a race win. While he may have been doing it to be a "HEY LOOK AT ME!" kind of guy at the time, he found a way to spin it into a positive.

Not only that, but I'm sure guys like Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson appreciate the diverted attention.


There's no better cure for a guy who wants the spotlight than the spotlight.

If you're hooked on attention, and you know you can get attention by floating your name into the media like a trial balloon, wouldn't you do it constantly?

That's really all that Brett Favre is doing right now. He's testing us. He wants to know how many times the media will fawn over him like he's Miley Cyrus, just because there's a report he might have done something.

The latest? Favre evidently had shoulder surgery last month in Alabama. After all, he needed to do that in order to come back, and while he hasn't made a decision about coming back, he figured he'd keep his options open.

Now, there's a real gem on ESPN.com.
Minnesota Vikings coach Brad Childress has imposed a deadline of this week for Brett Favre to decide whether he will be the team's quarterback for the upcoming season, according to two sources.
Yeah, right.

This is almost as believeable as a Brett Favre retirement.

You're telling me the Minnesota Vikings would turn down a chance to sign Brett Favre because he wanted to wait until July 1, or even August 1?

I'll believe it only when the Walking Narcissist isn't the Vikin'gs' Week 1 starter. Until then, there's no reason to dismiss anything, regardless of what anyone says publicly or behind the veil of "sources".

Thursday, June 04, 2009


It's always a good day when Phil Steele's College Football Preview arrives in the ol' mailbox.

It goes on sale nationally on Tuesday, but Phil was kind enough to send me an advance copy (thanks, Phil!).

Without giving the whole thing away (just go buy it, seriously!), here are some pointers from one of the sport's best prognosticators.

  • Mississippi, like many others. Phil loves the recruiting that was done by Orgeron. Now Houston Nutt gets to look good as a result.
  • Notre Dame. Phil is all over the Irish's cake schedule, and he says Jimmy Clausen has a top-rated line and the best receivers in the country. This would take Chuck Weis off the hot seat.
  • UCLA. Again, there will be many picking the Bruins to rise, but Phil makes a good case surrounding the return of 16 starters.
  • Northwestern. While Phil thinks they could go bowling, he says the heavy losses on offense will be tough to overcome.
  • Missouri. Sorry, Tiger fans. Chase Daniel and Jeremy Maclin only head the list of departures. It's a lot to ask for Missouri to be a contender.
  • Maryland. Phil ranks the offensive and defensive lines near the bottom of the ACC and calls it a "rebuilding" year for The Fridge.
More to come. Just like last year, I'll fight my way through a mountain of information and present my previews later in the summer.

For now, go buy Phil's magazine, or order it here.


I have no magical potion to figure out what will happen in this series, though I think the Lakers will win.

I do, however, feel pretty strongly about a few statements, and the result of the series won't change my mind.

For a basketball fan, this isn't a bad series at all.

I heard Colin Cowherd on ESPN Radio talking about this. He made -- hark! -- a really good point. The idea here is that the Cleveland-San Antonio series a couple years ago was a bad matchup for the league. It was a one-man team against a heavy favorite that lacked a serious personality. Remember, the media was so hell-bent on finding a storyline with that Spurs team that they were screaming every five minutes about Bruce Bowen being a dirty player. That's all they could come up with.

There is likely no shortage of entertaining basketball coming in this year's Finals. The Lakers can run the floor with the best of them, and Orlando will push the tempo and take a lot of shots.

There are superstars on both teams, with Kobe for the Lakers and Dwight Howard for Orlando. Not only that, but for Howard, this is a chance to make some noise as a mainstream star, something that hasn't really happened because everyone is too busy fellating LeBron he plays in Orlando.

Orlando has a chance.

Any team that has beaten the likes of Boston and Cleveland has to be given a real shot to win a best-of-seven. You know they'll have at least one game where they shoot lights-out and can't be stopped. That leaves them to get three wins in six games, and I believe this Orlando team is good enough to go 3-3 against anyone in the league.

That said, it's too hard to pick a team like Orlando to win. They don't have the talent to match up with Los Angeles, and they have to rely on the sly coaching of Stan Van Gundy and their long-range shooters.

Oh, and they have to hope the refs don't screw them. There, I said it.

If nothing else, the Van Gundy storyline adds intrigue.

My background in broadcasting makes me naturally interested in something like this. I thought Bob Griese was borderline terrible when he called his son's games at Michigan. Almost like he was trying too hard to hide what everyone knew.

Jeff Van Gundy offered to be taken off the ABC broadcasts of the NBA Finals when Orlando made it. He thinks he can fairly call games coached by his brother, but he didn't want anyone to think he was pushing an agenda.

ABC declined, trusting he would be a professional. While I think he will do a good job, the bottom line is that Jeff Van Gundy is a human being. His presence has helped ABC immensely, and I think it will help them in these Finals, as people will be waiting for him to slip up and start cheering from press row.

The Magic don't need Jameer Nelson.

Don't get me wrong. I'm sure they'd love to have him. But putting a player who is rusty and possibly not 100 percent on the floor isn't going to help you beat a team like the Lakers. Stan Van Gundy has set a rotation, and he's worked it well during his team's playoff run.

The last thing they should do right now is mess with that rotation to put an injured player on the floor. Yes, Nelson could help the Magic. He also could hinder them, and it's not at all worth the risk involved.

I won't be watching very much.

It doesn't help that I'm not an NBA fan. It also doesn't help that I get up for work early in the morning. 8pm Central time starts just don't agree with my schedule.

But I know I don't matter to the NBA. Neither does anyone in the Eastern time zone. Instead, they set a start time that caters to -- of all things -- the West Coast.

It's one thing that the NHL does more right than the NBA. It might be only one thing, but for the NHL, it has to be considered a start.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009


This one is all about numbers.

Good news for the NHL and its cable television partner, Versus.

Even though the network continues to find ways to piss off hockey fans who are generally just happy to have the game on in HD, ratings records are falling. We're far from saying the NHL can be satisfied with its television audience, but we're moving the needle in the right direction.

Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals, aired by Versus, allowed the network to blow away a days-old record for the most-watched hockey game on their air.
VERSUS, the exclusive cable television home of the National Hockey League (NHL), garnered a 2.6 national HH rating and averaged 2,955,348 viewers for its Game 3 telecast of the 2009 Stanley Cup Final on Tuesday, June 2, with the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 4-2 defeat over the Detroit Red Wings at Mellon Arena. The game, which peaked at a 3.5 HH rating between 10:15 and 10:30 p.m., was the highest-rated and most-watched Stanley Cup Final game on cable since 2002. VERSUS, for the 8:00-10:45 p.m. time period, was the most-viewed cable network in the country and the top-rated network overall (broadcast and cable) among all key male demos.

The 2.6 national HH rating is the best rating ever in the history of the network, beating both Lance Armstrong's final ride (7/24/05) and Game 5 between the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks in the Conference Finals (5/27/09) which both earned a 2.1 HH rating. Among average viewers, the Game 3 telecast topped the network's previous high set during Game 2 of the 2008 Stanley Cup Final (2,608,371). VERSUS' Game 3 telecast showed a 37-percent increase in HH rating (2.6 vs 1.9) and 19-percent growth (2,955,348 vs 2,479,977) in average viewership over the average of Games 1 and 2 of the 2008 Stanley Cup Final between the Red Wings and Penguins.

Locally, VERSUS garnered a 15.1 HH rating in Detroit and a 26.1 HH rating in Pittsburgh, making VERSUS the top-rated network (broadcast and cable) for the time period in both markets. VERSUS was also a top 5 cable network for the time period in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Washington, DC and Philadelphia, among others.

VERSUS entered the 2009 Stanley Cup Final with tremendous momentum based on ratings and viewership gains in the regular season and through each round of the playoffs. The network's coverage of the 2009 Conference Final round was the highest-rated third round on cable since 1998 with HH ratings up 25 percent and average viewership up 30 percent from 2008. The third-round growth came on the heels of VERSUS airing the highest-rated Conference Semifinals on cable since 1997 and seeing 32-percent viewership growth in that round, 22-percent viewership growth in the Conference Quarterfinals and a 21-percent increase in viewership during the regular season.
This only represents mild progress. NBC's numbers for the first two games were pretty good, and now the league is guaranteed at least one more game on NBC.

The bottom line is that David Stern and Bud Selig still cackle at the NHL's television audience. It's still not a serious threat to them in any way. However, the NHL has gone from being fairly compared to MLS to a spot where they don't have to hide from their ratings any longer. There's still a ton of room for improvement, but the news has been pretty much all good so far in the 2009 playoffs, with the trend continuing in the Finals.

(By the way, about the link near the top of the post. Versus tried to take advantage of their much-larger-than-normal audience by airing a special episode of "Sports Soup" after the end of the game and before the postgame show. During that 30-minute gap, incensed hockey fans either shut off their TVs, turned on ESPNEWS, or found the NHL Network if they have it. I understand the desire to showcase an original show, no matter how crappy it is -- and "Sports Soup" is crap. But all Versus did was invite people to find postgame coverage elsewhere. Had the game ended at 9pm Eastern, I would have been fine with the move. By 10:30pm, however, people were not going to willingly wait a half hour for postgame coverage. After all, most people have jobs, including the idiots who run Versus.)